What politicians HAVEN’T talked about during the election campaign

3 July 2024 | Mark Frankel, Interim Head of Communications at Full Fact

Elections are often dominated by one issue.  2019 was the ‘Brexit election’, in 2017 Theresa May’s position on adult social care, the so-called ‘dementia tax’, became a big talking point on the campaign trail.  2024 is no exception and tax has once again dominated debate.

At Full Fact we’ve repeatedly called out misleading claims on tax from the main parties and when we deployed our AI tools to monitor nearly 700 hours of broadcasting across one week of the campaign, we detected over 60 repeated false claims on tax from both the Conservative and Labour parties.

However, just as one issue has dominated political discussion over the course of this election campaign, several others have barely registered.  Our AI analysis of a week of broadcasting during the campaign found 6574 mentions of Tax, 2292 mentions of the NHS and 1761 mentions of immigration but only 933 mentions of climate change, 922 mentions of housing and 777 mentions of crime.

Amongst our fact checking of several election pledges and claims made over the last six weeks our team has scrutinised crime statistics and what the parties have said on ‘net zero’ but it’s clear that politicians have had more to say about some subjects than others.

An examination of the Labour and Conservative party manifestos is even more revealing.  For Labour, crime is mentioned 30 times, climate 24 times and housing 16 times across nearly 25,000 words.  For the Conservatives, housing is mentioned 21 times, crime is mentioned 20 times and climate is mentioned 11 times in a manifesto of over 26,600 words.

Read: seven party manifestos fact checked

Of course, it’s hard for political parties to have something to say on every topic of concern to the public but it’s interesting how much they have sought to focus their time and energy on tax and public services.

The phrase ‘fully costed’ has been a repeated refrain over the last six weeks.  All of the main parties have sought to avoid making unaffordable pledges and promises in their manifestos. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has pointed out that many of their proposals are either too modest to affect real change or will require a greater commitment in tax and spending over time.  

If the principal reason for this lack of ambition is to avoid being held accountable, the public clearly deserves more.  It’s important for the electorate to have the opportunity to make an informed choice on 4th July.  This requires political parties to produce a broad diet of policy positions on a range of subjects.  Tax and public services are one important element but the public should also have had the opportunity to fully scrutinise the parties on more issues that affect us all.

Trust in politics has been a talking point throughout the election campaign.  A Savanta poll we commissioned during the campaign revealed that 54% of voters tend to ignore what parties and politicians say because they don’t know if they can be trusted.  Sadly, repeated false claims have done little to raise the quality of debate on important issues and a narrow focus on a small number of policy issues has been equally disappointing.   

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A new Parliament will have a sizable job to restore trust in politics.  This will require politicians to articulate policy positions with greater clarity and transparency, and to make sure they address a broader range of policy issues that resonate with the public.  This is not a simple task, but needs to be a priority for anyone who holds public office. 

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