The FT’s story today about foreign migrants in the British labour market tells us an intriguing thing about Gordon Brown’s Britain: the UK’s new economy seems to be better suited to foreigners than to the local workforce.
As we report, the British economy is generating plenty of jobs – 270,000 net new posts over the last two years – yet at the same time the number of British nationals in work has fallen by exactly the same amount.
The 540,000 difference between the jobs vacated by Brits and the new jobs created has been filled entirely by workers from the European Union and – to a lesser extent – migrants from outside the bloc.
It is not entirely clear why this should be. The government says the indigenous population of working age fell during the last two years. But that does not get round the fact that Gordon Brown frets about the level of economic inactivity among local workers, hence his promise to find "a British job for every British worker".
The truth is that there are jobs there if you want them, as the migrant workers have shown. It is just that it seems many Brits would rather not do them, or that they are being forced out of the market by the recent arrivals from abroad. Simon Briscoe, our statistics editor, reckons the latter factor may be important.
That was "a bit more like it", sighed one relieved Brownite, after the prime minister returned to Commons form with a confident question time performance.
After the disaster of last week’s PMQs – when he floundered like an ageing heavyweight pinned against the ropes – Gordon Brown had the material and the jokes to breeze through what could have been another awkward session. Read more
Why doesn’t Gordon Brown just say it? There won’t be a referendum on the EU reform treaty. He might as well make it crystal clear, because there are some – like the Daily Telegraph – that cling to the idea the prime minister might still put the text to the people, if he doesn’t secure all his negotiating "red lines".
On Monday the PM said that if all his red lines were not met when the treaty is finalised next week at an EU summit in Lisbon "we will veto it or say there has to be a referendum". Read more
Gordon Brown has set a lot of store on giving Britain more time to see his vision for the future before he holds a general election.
This has obviously left him open to mockery from David Cameron, who ridiculed Mr Brown’s suggestion that this vision was so important that even the prospect of a 100-seat Commons majority would not have persuaded him to hold an election next month. Read more
FIrst off, I was wrong. I couldn’t see how Gordon Brown could back out of a November election without inflicting serious self-harm. It would have been a gamble, but in my view the bigger gamble was to wait, especially since a delay would hand the Tories a propaganda victory and deal his own reputation a heavy blow.
But having cranked up the election hype for weeks (make no mistake, this was not a media creation), Mr Brown’s decision to delay a poll – probably until 2009 – has fundamentally changed the terms of political trade. Read more
Having stuck my neck out and predicted a November election yesterday (while some of my colleagues were saying the opposite), there’s no point backing away now.
I don’t think the headline opinion polls taken in the immediate aftermath of David Cameron’s speech to the Tory conference will make much difference to Gordon Brown as he spends the weekend deciding whether to go to the polls. One of his colleagues tells me he would be "mad" to take much notice of them. Read more
The body politic is showing signs of advanced election fever. Of course there may not be an election on November 1 or November 8 – Gordon Brown is said by colleagues to be still undecided – but the symptoms are everywhere.
Take George Osborne’s plan to tax wealthy non-domiciled residents £25,000 a year: first came Labour’s rebuttal, then the Tory counter-rebuttal, then Labour’s rebuttal of the counter-rebuttal and – finally – the Tory reply to that. That kind of intense politics only ever happens during an election campaign. Read more
There is a scenario for next week’s Tory conference in Blackpool which sees the party unite in the face of an imminent election, rally behind David Cameron and defy the media and Labour ministers preparing for a bloodbath.
It is a scenario to which I subscribe. The Conservatives may be in a depressed state, but are they suicidal? On balance, I think the answer is that most of them are not. But Mr Cameron will be living on his nerves for three long conference days and nights before he makes one of the most important speeches of his life on Wednesday. Read more
It was a most unusual pre-election speech. For the first time I can remember, a party leader addressed his annual conference without even bothering to attack or mock any of his political rivals.
This was Gordon Brown in full "new politics" mode. Since he governs for the whole country, there is no need to even acknowledge the existence of other parties. Neither David Cameron nor the Conservatives (let alone the Liberal Democrats) were mentioned in his Bournemouth speech. Read more
Has the Northern Rock crisis delivered a serious blow to Gordon Brown’s reputation as the dependable helmsman of Britain’s economy?
On the face of it the answer should be Yes. The sight of queues of panicking savers in the High Street will linger in the memory and the Conservatives have assembled a compelling political line that the whole affair is symptomatic of an unstable economy built on "a mountain of debt". Read more