The Guardian plays ‘fantasy politics’ with Stoke

I spotted a recent letter in the left-wing Guardian newspaper, from someone who comes across as an extreme leftist of some sort…

“As a working-class male who taught in an area of Stoke–on-Trent with an unemployment rate of 80% and a life expectancy among males of 45…”

There may have been such an “area” of Stoke for a brief time, although I must say that I’ve never heard of it. Even Middleport, where I lived for many years, wasn’t that bad. When the steelworks and the mines shut, a great many working men moved rather than stay put and claim the dole. Frankly I have to doubt that the letter’s statistics are correct, unless perhaps they refer a tiny ‘special case’ electoral ward in some especially neglected bit of Normacot in the 1980s.

But the effect of the use of such statistics in The Guardian, in this age of speed-reading and drive-by politics, is to unfairly malign and misrepresent the whole city by elision. The real facts, from the 1980s to the 2000s, are quite quite easily found and are quite different for the city…

   “… in spite of the general decline in the manufacturing sector in the UK economy, the unemployment rate locally [in Stoke-on-Trent] is roughly at the national average, and has been falling both in absolute terms and relative to the average within the UK economy over the relevant period.” — from a detailed paper on Stoke-on-Trent and unemployment in the 1980s, included the major academic book On the Mysteries of Unemployment: Causes, Consequences and Policies, Springer, 2013.

   “… the unemployment rate [for Stoke-on-Trent] in 2006, at 5.1%, lay marginally below the regional (5.5%) and national (5.3%) levels” — report of the House of Lords, Select Committee on Economic Affairs, 2007-8.

   “Male life expectancy at birth in Stoke-on-Trent increased from 76.5 years in 2009-2011 to 76.7 years in 2010-2012.” — Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Earlier male life expectancy figures are given in this graph from another Stoke-on-Trent City Council research document…

lifeexp

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