A quick one from the archive: we cast our eye back over some of the most dubious statements made by politicians of all kinds last year, as debunked by FactCheck.
“What I can’t do, which is what some are asking me to do but the judge did not, is to grant every Gurkha since the 1940s and their families access to this country because that would be up to 100,000 people.”
Immigration minister Phil Woolas, Channel 4 News, 24 April 2009
Joanna Lumley led the campaign to allow more Gurkha veterans to settle in the UK, but how many Gurkhas would be affected? To get 100,000, you’d have to overestimate the number of eligible Gurkha pensioners by nearly 10,000, and assume they would all move to Britain, with two dependents apiece in tow. Which Phil Woolas apparently did.
The secret budget
“Labour’s secret spending plans, which Gordon Brown never wanted to make public, appear to reveal an income tax bombshell.”
George Osborne MP, Conservative shadow chancellor, 20 September 2009
Oops. Not only was there no apparent bombshell, the “secret spending plans” were also figures set out five months earlier in that not-exactly-secret published document, the budget.
“The profiles of over three-quarters of young black men between the ages of 18 and 35 are recorded [on the national DNA database]”.
Professor Jonathan Montgomery, Chair of the Human Genetics Commission, foreword to Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Fear? Report published 24 November 2009
So claimed the strongly worded intro to a report by a government advisory body. But strangely, the report itself contained no hard data to back the claim up – or perhaps not so strangely, given it hasn’t been collected, and could only be made to add up with some decidedly shonky use of statistics.
Close to The Wire?
“The Wire used to be just a work of fiction for British viewers. But under this government, in many parts of British cities, The Wire has become a part of real life in this country too.”
Chris Grayling, Conservative shadow home secretary, 25 August 2009
Frankly, it was asking for trouble: politician channels gritty US TV drama to illustrate the pitfalls of real British life. But Chris Grayling’s claims would be laughable, did they not perpetuate such a potentially damaging stereotype, we were told by a researcher on the ground.
Cutting the truth…
“The only party that’s proposing a cut in public spending is the Conservative party.”
Gordon Brown, prime minister’s questions, 10 June 2009
Just. Not. True. The Tories acknowledged there would have to be spending cuts after the election, and that if, as they promised, NHS spending was protected, the cuts would be deeper elsewhere. But their figures were based firmly on Labour’s own spending plans, which had spending on public services set to fall after the recession.
..and spinning the spend
“I did ask [BBC political editor Nick Robinson] recently when exactly the prime minister had defined this as simply and crudely as Labour investment versus Tory cuts and Nick was unable to put his finger on any such quote.”
Peter Mandelson, Today, BBC Radio 4, 14 September 2009
And on a related note, a few months later the deputy-PM-in-all-but-name claimed his boss had never set Labour investment up as the choice against Tory cuts. We were spoilt for quotes which suggested otherwise.
Paying for Selly telly?
“Young British soldiers with no legs in Selly Oak hospital – some of them black, some of them white – they charge them to watch television.”
Nick Griffin MEP, Channel 4 News, 21 October 2009
Why is the British Legion not campaigning to stop the travesty of wounded soldiers paying to watch television at Selly Oak military hospital, BNP leader Nick Griffin wanted to know. Probably because it’s not true. Someone has to pay, but it’s certainly not the soldiers.
Poor on poverty
“Poverty and inequality have got worse, despite Labour’s massive expansion of the state.”
Conservative leader David Cameron MP, Hugo Young lecture, 10 November 2009
The number of people in poverty, particularly children and pensioners, has reduced since Labour came to power. And had Labour kept the same system of taxes and benefits they’d inherited in 1997, things would be a lot worse today.
Unlicensing free TV?
“David Cameron and George Osborne would cut this year’s £60 cash boost for Norwich pensioners while threatening to do away with free TV licences and free bus passes for the elderly.”
Labour Party leaflet, Norwich
It was a by-election claim that blew up nationally, but the threat to scrap TV licences and bus passes was based on little more than a non-committal quote from Ken Clarke. We checked with the Tories, who said they had categorically no plans to take away the freebies.
The workless five million
“The latest census data shows two million people in this country have never had a job. Almost three million people have not worked under this Labour government.”
Theresa May, shadow work and pensions secretary, 27 August 2009
The latest census data did show five million people hadn’t worked since 1997 – or at least, they hadn’t in 2001, when the census was carried out. However, more recent data suggested the Tories’ five million number wasn’t bang out of line, but it’s arguable how useful it is, given around half of them are still at, or have only recently left, college or university.