MINISTER LASHES OUT AT BBC STAR IN JOBS ROW; He Accuses Stephanie Flanders of 'Peeing All over British Industry'; IDS Fury at 'Carping and Moaning' BBC as Report Casts Doubt on Jobs Boost
Byline: Simon Walters POLITICAL EDITOR
A MAJOR row erupted last night after a Cabinet Minister accused BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders of showing a pro-Labour bias by undermining the Government's jobs claims.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has made a formal complaint to the BBC about its 'carping and moaning'.
He singled out Ms Flanders over her coverage of figures that showed unemployment and welfare handouts are falling in spite of the slump. In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, he claimed that the BBC backs the economic stance of Labour leader Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and seizes every chance to 'dump on the Government'.
And he accused influential Ms Flanders of 'pouring cold water' over the rise in employment and 'peeing all over' British business.
He said the BBC had 'set up' an interview with a self-employed nurse who agreed when Ms Flanders suggested that she was among the 'hidden unemployed'.
Last week's recession-defying leap in jobs in the three months to June surprised experts.
Mr Duncan Smith claimed it was evidence that Government policies are working.
He was furious when Ms Flanders questioned the figures in the BBC Six O'Clock and Ten O'Clock TV news on Wednesday - and did not screen an interview with him proclaiming the Coalition's success.
On screen, she said: 'Britain's jobs numbers are a puzzle which keeps getting harder to solve. Of course it's good news. .. but it is not necessarily good news for us or the Chancellor if we are needing more people as a country to make less stuff.'
Ms Flanders claimed 'hidden unemployment' could be 'lurking behind the statistics'. She interviewed nurse Jacqui Connell, who was made redundant last year and is now self-employed, taking her off the dole register. Ms Connell agreed: 'I do think I'm a hidden figure.'
Ms Flanders added that 'many in the City' expected dole queues to rise over the coming months.
She was echoed by BBC2 Newsnight economics editor Paul Mason, who said Britain had 'recoveryless jobs' that were 'great for those who got them' but 'not so great for digging ourselves out of this mess'.
The BBC returned to the issue yesterday on the Radio 4 Today programme. Presenter Sarah Montague said: 'When the economy gets smaller, you would expect unemployment to go up. But something strange is going on.'
Mr Duncan Smith told this newspaper: 'The BBC is locked to the reading of the economy that is run out of Ed Miliband and Ed Balls' office. They think if only you spend and borrow more money you can create growth everywhere. This is the general tenor of everything that comes out of the BBC.
'They expected the [employment] figures to be flatlining. They convinced themselves youth unemployment would continue to rise, but when it fell they were in a complete quandary.
'Stephanie Flanders poured cold water over the whole thing. She said, "Of course this is good news, but it could be because we aren't productive enough."
'Then she got a woman who was set up as a health worker who has gone self-employed - as though being self-employed is not legitimate - and she [Flanders] said, "This is all hidden unemployment because they are self-employed."
'Guess what the self-employed person said? "I could be some of the hidden unemployment figures."
'They had popped those words into her mouth. They had come in and said "let's just sit on this and flatten it". If the unemployment figures had gone up, we would have been on the BBC TV News at Six and Ten and would have got the blame.'
Mr Duncan Smith claimed the coverage was part of a pattern.
'When the news is good, the BBC view is "get the Government out of the picture quickly, don't allow them to say anything about it". When the news is bad, [it's] "let's all dump on the Government",' he went on. …