Yesterday at the beginning of the Prime Minister Questions Boris Johnson made a very clear statement that was brief but completely ignored the reality for people and he needs to be challenged. He stated that the Labour Party when it was in Government since 1945 had “left office with unemployment higher than when they came in. That is because only Conservatives can be trusted to deliver on the economy” Now to be clear there is public information from the Government agency called the Office of National Statistics which lists the unemployment data on a monthly basis since February 1971. There may well be evidence from the period before then but if we focus on the ONS data this is what can be seen. It is certainly true that based on the two Labour Government periods that have existed in the last 51 years that there has been a higher unemployment at the end of those Government periods than at the beginning. However the level of unemployment across the period and indeed one of the two Conservative periods increased the unemployment at the end and indeed the first may have done so as well.
The ONS began to supply monthly data for unemployment in our nation from February 1971, seven months after Edward Heath had become Prime Minister. At that stage the level was 3.8% and indeed across the his time as Prime Minister the average percentage of the unemployment in our nation was 4.03%. By the end of 1971 the unemployment had actually risen to 4.5% and although it reduced from May 1972 and indeed by November 1973 it was reduced down to 3.4% but it then rose to 3.6% by the end of the period at February 1974.
At the end of February 1974 Harold Wilson took over as Prime Minister and Labour was Government until the beginning of May 1979. Throughout his time the average unemployment was 5%. However the peak was in the middle of 1977 at 5.7% and after that it reduced down to 5.3% by the time the Labour Party ended so it was an increase from 3.6% to 5.3%.
The next period involved Margaret Thatcher and John Major from the beginning of May 1979 to the beginning of May 1997 and the average unemployment in that period was 9.33% across the 18 years so it was a very high increase. In addition to that average, at the end of their period the level was 7.2% which had risen from 5.3% so just like the two Labour periods, the Thatcher and Major period ended with far higher numbers than they began with.
The second Labour period ran from May 1997 to May 2010 and during that period the average unemployment was 5.68% so it was higher than either Heath or Wilson but much lower than the period involving Thatcher and Major. However it did end following the 2008 challenge at 7.9% so it was a modest increase of 0.7%.
Since May 2010 the Conservatives have been back in control and with the data up until September 2021 the average has been 5.75% over the last 11 years so the average level is the second highest period which is obviously significantly lower than the Tory Ministry led by Thatcher and Major but slightly higher than the Labour period of 13 years as well as higher of both the Heath and Wilson period.
So let us go back to the comment made by Johnson yesterday
It is not just Labour’s record in London or in Wales: every Labour Government in history since the second world war has left office with unemployment higher than when they came in. That is because only Conservatives can be trusted to deliver on the economy and on the people’s priorities, which is why, thanks to the policies that we have pursued, this country now has the fastest economic growth in the G7.
We clearly need him to be challenged for using such information when he appears to not understand the full situation that he is supposed to be focused on as our Nations Prime Minister. He mentioned the theme later in the discussion when he stated
what I would tell the House and the country is that Labour incompetence has ruined this country time and time again. There has never been a Labour Government that have left office with unemployment lower than when they came in.
It is vital that he is reminded that only one Conservative Government has left the office with lower unemployment so far.