So another year of spin, spurious flights of fancy and shameless porkies draws to an end. Here at FactCheck HQ, apart from wishing you a very Merry Christmas, we thought you might like to know what’s got your goat and tickled our fancy this year. So, we’ve come up with our very own Christmas chart (and much as we love ’em, the military wives don’t feature). Economic errors loom large, but some eye-popping claims on everything from schools to AV have kept us all busy. And then there was THAT cat. So enjoy perusing FactCheck’s greatest hits, and do alert us to anything factually dodgy on your radar next year. Heck, it could even be your New Year’s resolution.
While the unions struggled to make any headway with the government over public sector PENSIONS, FactCheck took it upon itself to arbitrate. Not easy, particularly when the issue generates such sound and fury – not least from readers – particularly when we proved David Cameron right.
We had an exclusive on the potential losers in Danny Alexander’s pensions shake up in June, but it was Mr Alexander’s more recent claim over the generosity of the pensions deal that topped our chart, winning the Most Read gong of the year. To find out who triumphed in the pensions battle in the end – the unions or the government – read our Q&A on the new pensions deal.
Ministers have been spinning like tops over the ECONOMY – from George Osborne blaming the GDP shock on the weather at the start of the year, to Nick Clegg’s well-worn claim that three million UK jobs rely on our EU membership. FactCheck even found itself defending Britain against French spin last week, measuring our economy up against France’s.
We recommended a few re-sits for the Cabinet on EDUCATION this year – catching Michael Gove out on the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and warning that university tuition fees would run riot under the new rules. We also sent ministers to stand in the corner over the government’s Free Schools plan, and gave Nick Clegg a black mark for his claim that not one Lib Dem council was planning to shut a Sure Start centre.
During the AV CAMPAIGN it was quite frankly hard to keep pace with the porkies. We did a round-up of the AV claims that worried you the most, including if AV would help the BNP, or if it would have curbed Margaret Thatcher’s power, click here to read more.
David Cameron has repeatedly quoted EMPLOYMENT figures to the House of Commons which we believe are misleading – prompting Ed Miliband to demand a retraction. Mr Cameron has now tempered the claim somewhat, but we’ll keep an eye on that one.
Who could forget the immediate outcry over Theresa May’s CATGATE? FactCheck was at the Conservative Party Conference and couldn’t resist her challenge: “I am not making this up”. Er, yes she was.
Meanwhile, Chris Grayling pinged through a press release listing “the top 10 most bizarre HEALTH AND SAFETY bans” – more than half of them turned out to be flights of fancy.
And a debate over CIRCUS ANIMALS came to town one afternoon, with FactCheck probing genuine monkey business at Downing Street.
Not much gets past FactCheck, but some spin can be super sneaky – such as the time David Willetts promised 10,000 extra university places that already existed. And then there was the Lib Dems’ claim that they’d pulled off most of their manifesto policies.
FactCheck also didn’t think much of Chris Grayling’s claim that there are 90,000 new jobs advertised every week at the JobCentre.
ONES TO WATCH IN 2012?
We won’t take our eye off the ECONOMY– even if the politicians do. We’ll be looking out for more of those debt vs deficit debates, as well as UNEMPLOYMENT whoppers. And though he’s faced FactCheck fire before, BORIS may come under a more sustained barrage during his re-election campaign. And as the country prepares for the OLYMPICS next year, we’ll be keeping track on that too.
These are just some of the topics on our watch list, but many of our best FactChecks have been prompted by our Twitter followers; so please keep the suggestions coming in @FactCheck – and let’s see how many more dodgy claims we can shoot down in 2012. You can also tweet me directly @cathynewman.
Happy New Year!