Priti Patel is an elected Member of the Conservative Party Board, the 1922 Committee’s Executive and the Public Administration Select Committee. She is also a member of the Party’s Policy Board and MP for Witham.
This time next year, the general election will be just days away and Conservative candidates, activists and supporters will be campaigning hard on the doorstep, persuading the public to vote. If the economy carries on growing strongly at the 2.9 per cent recently predicted by the IMF in their upgraded forecast, and jobs continue to be created at record levels, then this positive news will help us as we fight to win the extra votes we need to become a majority Conservative Government.
Already since 2010, over 1.7 million new jobs have been created in the economy with new recruitment into the private sector far exceeding the posts lost in the public sector. Over one million of these jobs are full time posts. When we first set about helping business to create more jobs to offset cuts in the public sector, Labour and their trade union paymasters went around claiming that this would not be possible. As far as they were concerned, economic growth would only be possible by increasing public spending and the number of public sector jobs. While we cut corporation tax rates, national insurance contributions, and fuel duty, and embarked on a deregulatory programme to slash the costs of red tape to help business, Labour remained wedded to their dogmatic statist agenda. With every new job that is now being created in the private sector, their ignorant claims are well and truly blown out of the water, and their ‘too far and too fast’ mantra about cuts seems even more ridiculous.
The record pace at which new jobs are being created is very encouraging. In the last year, about 700,000 more people found work and, with confidence in the economy rising, companies are planning to intensify their recruitment. We should celebrate the fact that businesses up and down Britain were creating new jobs at a rate of around 1,900 a day last year, which is the equivalent of a new job being created every 45 seconds, and are ambitiously planning to carry on recruiting. The number of vacancies advertised by companies was up by 21 per cent in the first quarter this year compared to last year. Importantly, growth in job numbers in SMEs is expected to be very strong this year as well as in large firms. A study from GE Capital showed that UK SMEs are planning to recruit 660,000 new employees this year, and that confidence was stronger in SMEs in this country than elsewhere in Europe.
Crucially, the new jobs that are being created in the economy are benefiting diverse sections of society. The proportion of women in work now stands at a record 67.6 per cent, the numbers of unemployed young people is falling and long term unemployment is down by 93,000 on last year. The policies that have been spearheaded by Iain Duncan Smith to get more people off of benefits and into work are also proving successful. Last year, the number of people claiming incapacity benefits fell by 76,200 to 2.4 million, while the number of people classed as economically inactive fell to 8.8 million. This is lower than the more than nine million inherited from Labour.
The broad based nature of the new jobs being created and the types of people finding work is incredibly positive news, and is in complete contrast to the employment record of the last Labour Government. Under Gordon Brown, who was advised by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, the overwhelming majority of new jobs in the UK economy went to immigrants, including large numbers of people from Eastern Europe. At the same time, the number of youth unemployed soared to more than a million, and Labour preferred to shunt people onto sickness and incapacity benefits rather than give them meaningful help to find employment.
Under Labour, large benefits bills, high levels of welfare dependency and a growth in the number of people classed as economically inactive was a price worth paying effectively to fiddle unemployment figures. The fact that Labour was prepared to abandon so many people should be hung round their neck, and is a damning indictment of not only their record in government, but their cynical and failed approach to jobs and welfare.
Conservatives should therefore be proud that our policies are helping those who were let down, neglected and betrayed by Labour to fulfil their potential and secure employment. Our approach and the commitment by employers is transforming lives as we make sure that people are better off in work than on benefits. This means our job creation record has fairness at its heart.
Furthermore, the growth in the economy and in job numbers is now leading to average increases in salaries being above the rate of inflation. Along with the cut in income tax bills from the personal tax-free allowance reaching £10,000, working families have more to spend.
The cap on benefits, our programme of welfare reform and support for people seeking work and measures to support business growth, which include tax cuts, are the most comprehensive package ever put together by a Government to stimulate the economy and job creation. This effective combination of measures, alongside the ingenuity, dynamism and entrepreneurship of the private sector, will help fulfill the ambition announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the UK should have the fullest levels of employment and highest employment rates in the world. With a record 30.4 million people in the UK being in employment and unemployment dropping below seven per cent, we are moving closer to meeting that target every day. While Labour has been pledging to introduce an unfunded statist jobs guarantee scheme, we are actually delivering many more new jobs with the private sector than Labour could ever afford to provide.
In fact, not only are Conservatives in Government doing more to create jobs than Labour, but our strong record has also shattered every single claim that Labour made about our economic policies. Miliband and Balls deliberately scaremongered on unemployment, but the record rates of job creation have shown them to be wrong. They used to claim that the cuts were too far and too fast, but the fact that job creation in the private sector is vastly higher than the rate of public sector reductions has exposed the flaws in Labour’s dogmatic socialist thinking. Now Labour politicians complain that borrowing is higher than predicted. But this is nothing more than the typical barefaced cheek and rank hypocrisy from a Party whose policies are wedded to excessive levels of public spending, borrowing and debt.
As jobs continue to be created and growth gets stronger, we should praise the private sector for their contribution in growing and rebuilding our economy. Our economic plan is being proven to work while Labour’s economic credibility is left shot to pieces. We went into the last General Election campaign in 2010 promising to turn the economy around and by keeping this promise we’re helping hundreds of thousands of people to provide for themselves and their families. We should now be proud that we will be going into the next General Election campaign as the Party that has presided over the creation of record numbers of jobs, and be vocal that all this would be put at risk by a discredited Labour Party, wedded to its dogmatic manta of high tax, more borrowing and unsustainable levels of public spending.