Look Left – Unemployment, Osborne’s missing billions and surprising attitudes to welfare

James Bloodworth looks back at the week’s politics, including our progressive, regressive and evidence of the week.

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The government received a boost on Wednesday when labour market data was released showing that unemployment had fallen by 14,000 in the final quarter of 2012.

Underneath the headline figure, however, there were some worrying signs, with youth unemployment up and a continued squeeze on wages.

Rather than economic recovery, the UK’s economic picture at the end of 2012 was one of falling real wages, volatile employment growth and falling productivity.

Left Foot Forward reported on the figures but we also analysed the worrying data beneath the headlines.

• The chancellor George Osborne was dealt another blow on Wednesday by the sale of 4G mobile broadband spectrum, which raised £2.34 billion rather than the £3.5 billion predicted by the treasury.

The treasury is now facing a £1.2 billion shortfall as a consequence of failing to secure the expected amount, with Labour accusing Osborne of manipulating public borrowing figures by taking account of 4G spectrum money before the auction had taken place.

This week Left Foot Forward looked at how the failure to secure the predicted money from the sale of 4G is yet another blot on the government’s attempts to reduce spiraling government borrowing.

• A majority of the public want to maintain current welfare spending or see it increased, according to a poll by ComRes for ITV which came out on Monday.

Seventy one per cent of those questioned also said spending on the NHS should increase between now and 2015, with 54 per cent saying more should be spent on education during the same period.

Left Foot Forward was first out of the blocks with the figures, and we also looked at how progressives can win the debate on welfare.

Progressive of the Week:

Guy Shrubsole, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth, has taken to Twitter to try to keep politicians to their promises on the 2030 Carbon Target.

Lib Dem and Conservative MPs are being whipped to oppose the amendment to the Energy Bill that would require the secretary of state to set a 2030 decarbonisation target by 1 April 2014.

Guy has been tweeting MPs the photos they had taken when they originally pledged their support for the amendment, to try to ensure they stick to their promises.

Regressive of the week:

Network Rail was criticised this week for presiding over a service which has ‘further deteriorated’ and was ‘well adrift’ of punctuality targets.

This, despite rail passengers potentially facing six more years of above-inflation fare rises and chief executive David Higgins receiving an annual salary of half a million pounds.

Evidence of the Week:

Most British people want cannabis legalised or decriminalised and a majority of Labour and Conservative supporters want a full review of drug policy options, according to a poll by Ipsos MORI.

Almost half (45%) of mid-market newspaper readers (including readers of the Daily Mail and the Express) support the legalisation of cannabis, and 61% of Daily Mail readers want a full review of drug policy.

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