sidewalk social scientist don’t get no satisfaction..

So I said you could hide a million-strong dole queue with enough bogus hairdressing and then it totally like happened.

Discussion follows. Fortunately it’s possible to answer this question with data and that’s precisely what Anjum Klair of the TUC policy division’s fine blog did. There’s a lot of detail there, but let’s focus on chart 2.


The green bars represent part-time self-employment, the red ones full-time self-employment. The blue line is the total. Earlier in the second recession, part-time self-employment is driving the total, up to about June 2012. Full-time is flat at this point. The first major uptick is the end of May or beginning of June, 2013. Then there’s a brief dip at the end of August. And then it takes off.

This is crucial, both because it matches Faisal Islam’s chart very closely in point of time, but also, as Anjum Klair points out, it accounts for 82% of the net increase in employment over that period.

So what happened in the spring of 2013? Back on the 3rd of March, 2013, I blogged on a variety of evidence that more or less fictitious self-employment was an emerging survival plan for the unemployed and for badgered Jobcentre Plus staff alike, as well as being a way for chancers like A4e to juice their billings to the government. I called this the bogus hairdresser phenomenon for reasons set out in the post.

I also pointed to this fine post of Voidy’s on the Universal Credit regulations and their tendency to encourage the self-employed to declare more hours.

Basically, declaring self-employment permits you to stop the abuse, permits the Work Programme chancer to bill the government, permits the Jobcentre Plus caseworker to close the file and therefore happy their manager up, and lets you claim Working Tax Credit. If you have kids, you also get additional tax credits in respect of this, which means that you may actually be better off than on JSA. The regulations sort-of get this, giving the DWP the power to bother you to do more hours – therefore pushing you to declare full-time.

So when did the regulations come into force? The 29th of April, 2013. Give them a month to spread through the bureaucracy and for all parties to learn about the new setup, and I think we’ve got a suspect. By October, other people using other methods had also noticed a rapidly growing gap between claimant-count and survey-based measures of unemployment and of underemployment.

Oh, and you were wondering about this? Wonder no more.

Your chance to meet Create Streets.

So, it’s well known that I’m an obsessive about Create Streets, the flaky Tory wanktank that wants a whole succession of gimmes for developers who are in no sense their mates, except when they are.

Single Aspect notes that the Urban Design Group is having a thing on Wednesday the 23rd of April, i.e next week, 6.20pm, The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ to discuss “estate regeneration”, with an architect and none other than Create Streets identity Nicholas Boys Smith, Peter Lilley’s old bag-carrier.

I would totally go to this, but I’m out of town until the next day.

TYR open newslist, the second

So last week I asked readers to take a view on what I might blog, swinging off an idea of Andrew Gelman‘s. The post was here. The lucky winners got a piece on Ukraine, the proliferation of SIGINT technology, and Ed Snowden, and a joint review of two books about Russia, plus a lot of other stuff in response to events (Osborne, Heartbleed) or else out of sheer self indulgence (music).

As usual, materials for TYR are here and for AFOE are here. I’ll update this with ideas as I have them.

Minor supplementary point

I saw someone like “Guy Wankey” from Policy Exchange on the telly today about solar power. He was very keen to say that it doesn’t make up very much of the grid today. This is apparently a reason not to use it tomorrow, in much the same way as the tiny numbers of computers in use in 1946 were a great reason to ignore information technology. Hilariously, given time, he would certainly have argued that the inexorable march of technical progress was a great reason to do nothing about the climate.

He also said that “cost reductions had been promised” in solar.

screen shot 2014-04-10 at 9.56.09 am

Some promise! (from here.)

Isn’t the point of a thinktank that it ought to be glued to things like the gap between solar and gas power? But of course it’s not one; it’s a wanktank just trying, like the rest of the political class, to make it not even to the end of the news cycle but to the end of the sentence.

Siobhan Sharpe rides again

W1A has been a bit of a disappointment for me. It’s not so much the BBC self-regard, a notorious turnoff, but rather the lack of a plot driver. Twenty Twelve worked because it spoke to the steadily rising national dread before Operation Big Sportsday, something which nobody remembers now. This was wired into the show’s structure, as it was written not long ahead of time.

In fact, Twenty Twelve had what every joke needs, a punchline: the Olympics were a success. The police didn’t shoot anyone. Nothing fell down. I got out of town in advance, and don’t I remember my astonishment via Twitter at how people seemed to care. Coming back, I remember that Heathrow worked bizarrely well, and the landlord of my local pub explained it all: everyone he knew had at last got a job.

W1A doesn’t have the time-factor, and hence the tension. As a result it relies too much on cheap laughs, like mocking interns who are all idiots and therefore OK to abuse, BBC injokes, and too many celebrity cameos.

That said, it is a very rare example of the BBC standing up for itself rather than being whacked around a greasy carpark by indistinguishable lobbies. The last episode is about money, which raises a good point.

If you want the BBC run by people who do it for a pension, you’ve got to take its independence seriously. If you want to be able to sack everyone at whim, like all politicians and media participants do, you’ve got to pay them enough that they can take the risk of being zapped to please newspaper Z at any time. Otherwise it will turn into RAI or worse. (It’s as if that’s what the political elite would like!)

But you can’t have BBC independence, sack-the-board politics, and civil service salary scales all at once. You have to pick which requirement you’re willing to let go. Independence plus cheap is a combination that requires a high trust society, which we ain’t no more. Independence and sack the board, mitigated by money, is a compromise suited to what we are now.

Coughlin 2.0

So it looks like we’ve identified the new Con Coughlin. Here’s a piece in the Torygraph that blames everything SIS might have done wrong in the Bush years on Tony Blair, built entirely on a single SIS source. When I first saw it, it weirdly didn’t have a byline, although it since acquired that of Peter Foster, writing oddly from Washington.

On the same day, Foster also dropped this turd:

Up on Capitol Hill, one aide agreed that Anglo-American relations had survived the Syria “no” vote, but also noted that “it did catch many here by surprise”, unlike the supportive statements by the French that had been “especially well received”.

Not, apparently, that our MPs appeared to detect any such misgivings, or the corrosive effect on the strategic relationship from defence cuts that see Britain being downgraded to what some in the US military describe as “niche status”.

Even on intelligence matters, Britain’s worth has shrunk since the Cameron government told Scotland Yard to investigate MI6’s role in the CIA’s kidnap and torture programme – a move that has curtailed cooperation and spooked the spooks at Langley.

This surge of activity was of course inspired by the coming news that yes, we let them do it at Diego Garcia.

Check the meetings register in a month’s time

We refer of course to this Daily Hell story, in which best mate of Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, David Cameron, is supposedly astonished and deeply shocked to hear the word sex. So is Joanna Shields, ex-Googler, born 1962.

I find this deeply unconvincing to say the least. As Stian points out, it was probably published so the Hell could enjoy it. But I would go further. Did the meeting ever happen? I’m basically blogging this to remind myself to check the register.


The UsVsTh3m crowd really gave me the horrors with this app, at least when it was returning UK No.1s. Mine has a fast start – Odyssey, in July 1980 – but then plunges into two Spice Girls tracks and, Christ!, Wet Wet Wet. And Frankie Knuckles has left the building. This of course was an excuse to Listen To All The Things.

Here he is (thanks to Les Inrocks) in 1977.

The amazing thing here is that even then, when there were no conventions for this sort of thing, it’s all already there. It even sounds pretty fresh.

Here he is on the radio in 1986.

And live in 2012:

I saw him play in November that year at XOYO. I had flown back that morning from Dubai; I probably wouldn’t have done that for many other artists. He projected; DJs are infamous for hiding behind the machinery, and either making a virtue of being a faceless technical force or else trying to escape it and looking like a twat. But he seemed to host the night in a real sense, projecting welcome and acceptance. I also remember that he didn’t play much of his own stuff. Nothing could have been easier than running through a conventional, conservative set of the classics, but he wasn’t going to do that.


even if I prefer this version: