1 week ago

The Queen: Not Dead

On Sunday night, the Queen was trending on Twitter. As one Twitter joke goes, a name trending is usually a sign of very bad news.

People were debating whether a screenshot from a WhatsApp group had announced the death of Queen Elizabeth II. 

The WhatsApp screenshots do not have a date on them, but were posted on Sunday evening and said that the Queen’s supposed death would be announced at 9.30 am tomorrow. Considering the calm with which Monday has passed, it feels safe to say that the Queen is not dead. If something had happened to her, it would be odd for royal social accounts to be sharing photos from her grandson’s trip to Kuwait.  

However, it felt for some all too appropriate that in an era of chaotic and unpredictable news cycles, a head of state’s death might be leaked via a lads WhatsApp group.

WhatsApp has long been a source of rumours and misinformation, with monitoring the claims that spread there an almost impossible task. It’s worth taking the information found there with a pinch of scepticism.

If you’re interested in what actually happens, protocol-wise, when a monarch dies, you can read about that here.

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1 week ago

Fact checking two seven-way debates

On Friday and Sunday nights, the BBC and ITV broadcast two televised seven-way debates between leaders and other representatives of the major parties running in Great Britain: the Conservatives, Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Brexit Party.

We checked the parties across topics, including Brexit, the NHS, criminal justice and immigration. You can read our fact check in full here. You can also see our live fact checking responses on our Twitter account. 

For more election coverage; including fact checks of debates, manifestos, and circling misinformation, head to our 2019 election page



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1 week, 3 days ago

Fact checking Boris Johnson on LBC

This morning Conservative party leader Boris Johnson took part in an audience phone-in with Nick Ferrari on LBC Radio. Full Fact was at LBC’s offices to fact check the claims the Prime Minister made. (LBC has also invited Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson to do similar phone-ins, and we will fact check them as well.)

Mr Johnson was asked about a number of topics from the NHS and social care, to police numbers and education funding. 

He was unable to provide a figure for the number of post-Brexit trade deals which have been concluded—there have been 18 ‘continuity deals’ with 48 countries, but while we’ve held preliminary discussions with some countries we can’t yet formally negotiate on ‘new’ deals. And when asked about the number of buildings which have had Grenfell-style aluminium cladding removed from them he was unable to give a figure—118 buildings have so far had work completed, with a further 318 identified as in need of work. 

He also seemed to extend a Conservative manifesto promise on tax, transforming it from a commitment to not increase the rate of income tax, national insurance and VAT, to a pledge not to increase these taxes at all. That’s something quite different.

You can read our full fact check of all Mr Johnson’s claims here.

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1 week, 4 days ago

Tree-mendous?

A Labour policy regarding the planting of more trees has ruffled a few leaves this morning.

Labour announced its “plan for nature” on Thursday morning, which included a pledge to plant two billion new trees by 2040.  The Conservatives and Lib Dems proposed similar plans, but with fewer trees.

As some have worked out, hitting this target would mean planting around 300,000 trees a day. This plan has received some criticism for the size of the proposed figure and the question of where space would be for these trees. 

The task of planting hundreds of thousands of trees a day isn’t an impossible idea; the BBC once lead an initiative which planted an estimated 230,000 trees in an hour in 2009, using mainly volunteers. In Turkey, over 300,000 were planted in an hour in 2019. 

It’s also debatable whether there would be enough space in England and Wales for the proposed billions of trees. Between 88% and 99.9% of the UK isn’t “developed”, but this doesn’t necessarily mean this is free land—we are unaware right now exactly where Labour would want to plant their new trees.

The plan would also be affected by what type of trees are planted, as, quite simply, some trees are bigger than others. As a *very* rough estimate, Labour’s plan would cover around 5% of current UK land. 

In May the Committee on Climate Change published a report setting out that around 30,000 hectares of woodland need to be added to the UK in each of the next thirty years in order to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Woodland Trust says that’s the equivalent of 1.5 billion trees by 2050. So Labour would need to plant at about twice that rate, to hit their target of 2 billion by 2040.

For scale, in 2018-2019, thirteen thousand hectares of new woodland were created in the UK. The Woodland Trust says a target of 32,000 hectares a year is “not an insurmountable challenge… but policy enablement and incentivisation are key and are in the hands of Government”

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1 week, 4 days ago

Lowering the bar

One of the big themes of this election campaign has been, somewhat surprisingly, bar charts. As a group of people who have been banging on about bad bar charts for a long time this has been pleasing to us, albeit in a bittersweet way, like when an obscure band you’ve loved for years suddenly gets used in a beer commercial.

Anyway here are two more bad bar charts we’ve seen.

The Gateshead Liberal Democrats have taken an innovative, but highly misleading, approach to trying to show that “it’s a 2 horse race” in Gateshead between Labour and the Lib Dems.

They’ve decided to use the results from the area’s recent Police and Crime Commissioner election, showing Labour on 41%, the Lib Dems on 27% and the Conservatives on 14%.

But using an election where less than 15% of the electorate turned out to vote is... not a very helpful way to gauge how people might vote in a general election. Turnout in Gateshead at the last general election was 65%. The role of police and crime commissioner is also quite different to that of MP: being responsible for policing in an area.

And on top of this, the graph is incomplete. As you might be able to tell from the percentages on view, there’s a missing candidate - an independent received 17.9% of the vote.More relevant to the decision voters are making in Gateshead is the result of the last general election, where it was very much not a two-horse race between Labour and the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems got only 4% of the vote in Gateshead, while Labour got 65%, the Conservatives got 24%, UKIP got 5%, and the Green party got 1%.

The YouGov MRP model released yesterday currently has the Lib Dems coming fourth in Gateshead, on 8%, behind Labour, the Conservatives and the Brexit Party.The affliction of misleading bar charts crosses the political spectrum. Via BBC journalist Joey D’Urso, we’ve also seen this amazing leaflet from the Labour Party candidate for Suffolk Coastal, Cameron Matthews.

It contains a non-annotated bar chart, which presumably is meant to show the results of the last general election vote in the constituency in 2017. It shows Labour receiving roughly 80% of the Conservatives’ vote share, and the Lib Dems receiving about 10%, with the message being “only Labour can beat the Tories”.

In reality, Labour was much further behind the Conservatives than chart suggests. It received 30.5% of the vote compared to the Conservatives’ 58.1%, and the Lib Dems’ 7%. That means Labour received just over 50% of the Conservative vote share—not 80%.

The thing that makes this stand out, though, is that Labour’s bar chart has also added an exciting new feature: a candy striped arrow on top of their vote share, labelled “2019”, which puts Labour above the Conservatives. 

This is presumably meant to indicate Labour’s ambition of winning the seat in 2019. It’s not strictly misleading to do this, but it’s something we (and, we imagine, most voters) haven’t seen before. As a result it makes a confused chart even more confusing.

For the record, YouGov currently thinks Labour will lose Suffolk Coastal by roughly the same margin as last time.

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