Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Paul Linford Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Paul Linford Columnist

Article excerpt


SINCE the last general election, the argument between the two main parties has revolved around the question of whether the Coalition's economic policies were helping or hindering the prospect of recovery.

Labour's essential line of attack has been that the spending cuts introduced from autumn 2010 onwards had choked off what had seemed to be an improving economic picture in the early months of that year.

For a while, this seemed to be self-evidently true, as the economy plunged into the double-dip recession of 2011-12 and unemployment climbed above 2.5m. But now, at long last, the fabled green shoots have started to appear, Labour's lead in the opinion polls has started to slip, and the Tories have started to sense a possible path to outright victory in 2015.

Like most big picture political narratives, however, this is an essentially London-centric view of what is happening in the world.

In the North East, the economic picture is very different - as this week's unemployment figures showed.

Nationally, the number of people out of work fell by 24,000 in the period from May to July, leading to a drop in the national jobless rate from 7.8% to 7.7%.

However in the North East, there was a slight increase in joblessness of 5,000, with the regional rate now standing at 10.4%.

Now this is nothing terribly new. Back in the mid-1990s when the rest of the economy was steadily recovering from the aftermath of Black Wednesday, the North East regularly saw its own jobless figure rise in contrast to the national trend.

It also happened once or twice during a period of interest rate rises in the late 90s, prompting the famous admission from the Governor of the Bank of England in 1998 that lost North jobs were an acceptable price to pay for controlling inflation.

With the current Governor, Mark Carney, having pledged to keep rates at rock bottom at least until unemployment falls below 7% nationally, that is not likely to be an issue for the time being. …

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