Labour leader promises wheel of change for the young jobless

Election Countdown
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The Independent Online
Tony Blair wielded a spanner yesterday as Labour's election machine turned its attention to young people, training and jobs.

On a visit to a vehicle mechanics' training workshop in the marginal Birmingham seat of Yardley, the Labour leader said lower unemployment figures were the result of changes in the way the statistics were calculated.

"I don't think most people believe these statistics are a true reflection of the situation. Some people are not able to claim unemployment benefit but are still basically unemployed," he said.

Mr Blair said he had chosen to visit Birmingham Automotive Technology, which has about 800 part-time and full-time trainees learning car mechanics, bodywork repairs and parts distribution, to show how training, skills and technology could get the unemployed back to work. Labour has promised to find work for 250,000 under-25s who are currently on benefit.

The Labour leader chatted with young trainees at the centre and even looked for a moment as if he were about to muck in and change a wheel before he changed his mind and headed for the canteen.

Among the trainees who met Mr Blair was 17-year-old Clare Ameson, who has been made the centre's student of the year for her high performance, good attendance and positive attitude.

Ms Ameson, who works at Bridge Cross Volvo in Stourbridge and is studying on day release for a Btec qualification, said she was impressed with Mr Blair.

"I would vote Labour if I were able to vote, because of the opportunities he is trying to create for young people. He seemed really nice and he was interested in what we were doing," she said.