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Picking up the slack: Labour's economic doomsayers are proved wrong, again

By Mark Wallace
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Labour holesThere's always been something of the religious mantra about the Left's refusal to believe that the British private sector was capable of picking up the slack by creating jobs to replace those lost in the public sector.

Perhaps it's a lack of imagination which leaves them unable to conceive of jobs being created through mechanisms which they don't understand. Perhaps it's egotism, driving a belief that their actions in government will always be more effective than anything the private sector could do. Perhaps it's simply a desperate hope that economic suffering will help them to prosper politically.

Consider the following six quotes, from senior figures in the Labour Party, prominent commentators and Ed Miliband:

Ed Balls, Hansard, 12 October 2011:

"We were also told that public sector job cuts would be more than outweighed by the rise in private sector jobs, but I am afraid that employment is falling because the private sector has been unable to deliver the recovery we were promised. It has been a complete fantasy."

Ed Miliband's "predistribution" speech, 6 September 2012:

"I'm afraid the Government believed its own propaganda – that they could cut as far and as fast as they liked and the private sector would pick up the slack."

Alan Johnson's first speech as Shadow Chancellor, 18 October 2010:

"...in the current climate there's nothing inevitable about the private sector picking up the slack, when the public sector starts laying people off." 

 SImon Jenkins, The Guardian, 27 October 2010:

"David Cameron and business leaders claimed in unison that the private sector would "take up the slack" of some half a million workers ejected from the public sector. They cheered, but nobody could illustrate how that would happen."

Westminster Digested, The Guardian's "satirical" take on politics, 1 December 2011:

 "Cameron:...Only a moron would have imagined the private sector would suddenly pick up the slack in the worst depression since the 30s!"

David Blanchflower, in the New Statesman, 16 March 2012:

"The private sector isn't picking up the slack"

Then consider the new figures released today by the ONS, which show that:

"Private sector employment has jumped by 1.3million to a record high of 24.1million under the Coalition Government – while public sector employment has fallen by 423,000. But last year the increase in private sector jobs was almost five times the fall in public sector work."

So despite Ed Balls' fervent hopes, it turns out the private sector could and did take up the slack - and then some.

To paraphrase a great Norwegian: Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Keir Hardie, Gordon Brown, Eddie Izzard, Len McCluskey...can you hear me, Polly Toynbee? Your boys took one hell of a beating.