Clare Short, the International Development Secretary, represents the constituency with the worst unemployment in the UK, according to figures issued last week by the House of Commons library.
The figures suggest that inner-city unemployment in Birmingham is worse even than in the traditional black spots on Merseyside and Tyneside and in Belfast.
The figures, compiled by Commons researchers, follow criticism of the methods used by the Office for National Statistics. Specialists suspected that the ONS had been put under pressure to skew its figures to give the impression that unemployment is roughly level across the country, in support of government initiatives to bring jobs to the inner cities and Tony Blair's much disputed claim that the north-south divide is a myth.
The official figures ignored the fact that in most inner cities the best jobs are held by commuters from the surrounding countryside. Using its method, the ONS arrived at an unemployment rate of 3.7 per cent for Ms Short's seat of Birmingham Ladywood.
But by discounting people who commuted in, the House of Commons library researchers calculated the real unemployment rate in her constituency was 13.2 per cent.
The figures will increase pressure on the ONS to change its methodology. This could be stunting recovery in the areas affected, because EU development grants are awarded on the basis of local unemployment figures.
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