The prime minister’s promise to create 100,000 new jobs in a latterday New Deal is being treated with the suspicion it deserves.
In an interview in yesterday’s Observer, Gordon Brown said he would use public money to get people in work through new rail links, school repairs and other infrastructure projects – and also through building a “new low-carbon economy for the future”.
It is not just the 100,000 figure which seems fishy – we have written here before about the PM’s fondness for round numbers.
Leave aside the fact that – even if it was a genuine estimate – the number is a fraction of the million-plus workers expected to lose their jobs in the next year or two.
Where does the number come from? Is there a breakdown anywhere? Will the extra money (if there is any) compensate for the difficulties in the PFI market? Were most of these infrastructure projects happening anyway? How many of them will be built within the next decade (impossible for big rail projects, for example)?
And does Mr Brown himself believe the “green economy” talk?
Listening to the rhetoric, you could be forgiven for thinking that Britain was a pioneer in renewable energy. In fact we are at the back of the class – behind every EU country bar Belgium, Malta and Cyprus. Given that the UK has more wind and waves than any other state in Europe this is an abysmal failure.
(Incidentally, the 100,000 figure is lower than some of those touted in previous months by the PM. Only last summer he made the prediction of 160,000 jobs in green energy alone. In June he said that there could be a million jobs in the wider environmental sector; albeit within two decades. And by September he was talking generally about a million green jobs*. Why has the number fallen?)
* “I am asking the climate change committee to report by October on the case for, by 2050 not a 60% reduction in our carbon emissions, but an 80% cut and I want British companies and British workers to seize the opportunity and lead the world in the transformation to a low carbon economy and I believe that we can create in modern green manufacturing and service one million new jobs.”
Separately, the Observer also reported that Mr Brown was studying a scheme at Nissan whereby the car company is moving staff on to part-time working with the remainder of their time spent in training schemes.
Corus, the steel giant, has also approached the government for this kind of help. This morning, however, No 10 were playing down the idea, suggesting that it’s more of an idea than a firm policy.