As the year comes to an end, we round up 10 of the dodgiest and daftest political utterances of the year – as debunked by Channel 4 News FactCheck with Cathy Newman.
Brown gets defensive about budgets
“The defence budget has been rising every year…. The only time the defence budget has been cut was in the 10 years before 1997.″
Gordon Brown MP, Prime Minister’s Questions, 10 March 2010
Gordon Brown had to correct himself both in parliament, and in evidence he gave to the Chilcot inquiry. Real-terms defence spending (once inflation is taken into account) was 10 per cent higher in 2010 than in 1997, but the year by year figures show the defence budget fell four times while Labour was in power.
Cameron’s Lexus takes a wrong turn
“I went to a Hull police station the other day. They had five different police cars, and they were just about to buy a £73,000 Lexus.”
David Cameron MP, Leaders debate, 15 April 2010
The other day? Eight months ago, more like. The police weren’t about to buy a Lexus – they already had one. And it didn’t cost anywhere near £73,000, but closer to £50,000.
Not the greatest political shake up since 1832
“The biggest shake up of our democracy since 1832, when the Great Reform Act redrew the boundaries of British democracy, for the first time extending the franchise beyond the landed classes.”
Nick Clegg MP, speech on constitutional reform, 19 May 2010
Clegg might have had a point were he referring to the introduction of secret ballots, giving women the right to vote or even Labour’s devolution of power to Scotland and Wales in 1998. But he wasn’t, and his plans to scrap identity cards and introduce fixed-term parliaments couldn’t really hold a candle to the 19th-century reforms which extended the vote beyond the landed gentry and abolished the rotten boroughs.
A muddle over migration
“Some people talk as if net inward migration is rising. In fact, it is falling – down from 237,000 in 2007, to 163,000 in 2008, to provisional figures of 147,000 last year.”
Gordon Brown MP, podcast on immigration, 26 March 2010
On the eve of the election campaign, the PM mixed up two different sets of figures to paint a more flattering portrait of immigration trends. The statistics he used for 2009 are an under-estimate, because they don’t include all migrants. The figures he used for 2007 and 2008, however, do. The comparable figure for 2009 wasn’t available when FactCheck highlighted Brown’s migration muddle in the spring. But last month the ONS confirmed that net migration had in fact increased to 198,000 – the opposite of Brown’s claim.
Research from the wrong continent
“Children from poor homes hear 616 words spoken an hour, on average, compared to 2,153 words an hour in richer homes. By the age of three, that amounts to a cumulative gap of 30 million words.”
Nick Clegg MP, “Putting a Premium on Fairness” speech, 15 October 2010
It was a speech about fairness in Britain today – so you might expect the above statistic to refer to the experience of children in this country in the past decade or so. But no: FactCheck established it was drawn from research on a sample of just 42 children, in the 1980s, in the USA.
Dodgy crime statistics
“Violent crime almost doubled under the last government.”
David Cameron MP, prime minister’s questions, 7 July 2010
The claim is based purely on one set of crime figures, which don’t take into account changes in the way offences are counted by the police. The more reliable set of figures for comparing long-term trends show violent crime has gone down, not up. Cameron was slapped down by the statistics watchdog for selective use of the figures. And as his shadow home secretary had already been ticked off for the same statistical shenanigan, he really had no excuse.
“All the part-time students and the demonstrators wouldn’t pay any upfront fees whatsoever.”
Nick Clegg MP, speaking to broadcasters, 9 December 2010
On the morning of the crucial vote on top-up fees, the Lib Dem leader talked up the last-ditch sweeteners, including the scrapping of upfront fees to part-time students. But contrary to his claim, only two thirds of part-time students were eligible for new fee loans – leaving 100,000 still saddled with stumping up the cash for their tuition.
Leaky talk on flood defences
“We protected flood defences because that is important.”
David Cameron MP, Prime Minister’s Questions, 17 November 2010
As heavy rains led to evacuations in Cornwall, the PM stood up in Westminster and denied that spending on flood defences had been cut. But the numbers showed an 11 per cent cut in the flood defence spend over the next four years – less of a cut than that made by some other departments, but a cut nonetheless.
Sure start, unsure future
“Sure Start services will be protected in cash terms, and the programme will be refocused on its original purpose.”
George Osborne MP, Spending Review statement, 20 October 2010
When he set out £81bn of spending cuts in October, George Osborne was clear that in cash terms - before inflation is taken into account - spending on the country’s network of Sure Start centres would be protected. But just weeks later, he announced the programme would have to take its chances alongside an array of other projects, and that the overall funding was being cut.
A stellar beer price?
“I think if what you’re trying to do is stop supermarkets from selling 20 tins of Stella for a fiver that’s what we’ve got to go after.”
David Cameron MP, interview with Manchester Evening News about a ban on cheap alcohol, 11 August 2010
Is there really such a good deal to be had on Stella? FactCheck got on the (beer) case, but found no evidence that the reassuringly expensive stuff could be bought as cheaply as the PM suggested. Although there’s nothing to stop a supermarket from selling it dirt cheap, our extensive pub crawl up and down the aisles couldn’t find such a bargain.
- Agree with our verdicts? Think we’ve missed a whopper? Let us know by leaving a comment below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Related reading: dodgy claims of 2009
Read more: CutsCheck: police cuts worse than expected