5 months, 4 weeks ago

Boris Johnson doesn’t know how many kids were born under his watch

In an interview with the Sunday Times today, Boris Johnson predicted that “Romance will bloom across the whole nation once we get Brexit done”, claiming that “There was [a baby boom] after the Olympics, as I prophesied in a speech in 2012, it was quite amazing. There was a big baby boom.”

Now we cannot pass comment on whether the planned departure from the EU (two weeks before Valentine’s Day, no less) will lead to a flurry of births come autumn. 

But we do know that Mr Johnson is wrong in saying there was a post-Olympics baby boom. In fact the exact opposite happened. 

In 2012 there were 730,000 births in England and Wales, which fell to 699,000 in 2013, down 4.3%. In London specifically, the fall was almost identical - 4.4%

This meant that the year after the Olympics, which Mr Johnson said saw a baby boom following all the expected summer 2012 amoureuse, actually saw the largest fall in the number of births in 38 years

So how has Mr Johnson got it so wrong? Well, back in 2012 when he was Mayor of London, Mr Johnson told his statisticians to model the number of London births to test his theory.

The statisticians results predicted a sizeable increase in births. This was then proved to be not the case when the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published actual birth statistics (not models) in 2014. 

As for why the birth rate dropped so significantly, various theories were proposed. The ONS suggested the precariousness of the jobs market and changes to benefits may have been factors. 

Professor of Geography at Oxford Danny Dorling suggested that the change is less to do with why the number fell in 2013, but rather why it grew through the 2000s. He suggests it was a result of more women choosing to have children later in life from the 1990s onwards.

But perhaps the fall in births is a direct consequence of the British public spending a summer watching marble-carved demigods run, leap, and twirl in flattering dappled sunlight, and so finding their own partners somehow wanting. We may never know.

6 months ago

Party political literature: always read the label

On our quest to find party political literature passing itself off as newspapers and magazines, our attention has been drawn to this pamphlet from the Conservatives. ‘You & your family’ bears more than a passing resemblance to real life mags like Pick me up and Chat, albeit with a political twist.

We wrote about political parties churning out fake local newspapers yesterday, and as with many of those examples, this pamphlet only seems to indicate that it originates from a political party in the small print at the bottom of the front page. And if they’re thinking of making this a regular feature, there is already a parenting magazine in the USA that shares the name.

Props to First Draft for finding this one. Please do tweet or email us at team@fullfact.org if you spot any more.

6 months ago

Sajid Javid on homelessness

This morning on Sky News, Sajid Javid claimed that homelessness had fallen by half following a 2008 peak under Labour.

This does not seem correct. Homelessness in England was about the same in 2017 as in 2008, and has risen since 2010, by the main measure.

We’ve asked the Conservatives whether Mr Javid was referring to something else.

We’ll publish a full fact check shortly.

6 months ago

Sign of the Times: Party political "newspapers"

As sure as night follows day, an election campaign leads to a flurry of dodgy graphs being printed on campaign leaflets. 

But another feature, which has been discussed less, is election campaign material which appears to be something else altogether. 

Consider this leaflet from the Liberal Democrats, which was spotted in Winchester, and is made up to look like a local newspaper. It includes a made up title, “Mid Hampshire Gazette”, and refers to itself as a “free newspaper”.

The front page of the newspaper sings the praises of Jo Swinson and local Lib Dem candidate Paula Ferguson, and it’s only in the small print in the top right hand corner that it’s clarified that this isn’t a genuine local newspaper, but party literature.

Katie French, who edits the nearby Basingstoke Gazette said: “This is a flagrant attempt to manipulate voters by presenting them an advertisement in the form of a front page news story. Frankly it is insulting to the public who deserve better from one of the leading political parties.”

It’s far from the only example this election. The Liberal Democrats did something very similar in Lambeth, circulating campaign material in the form of a “newspaper” they called“Lambeth News”. 

The Conservatives have circulated similar materials made to look like local newspapers in Pudsey, West Yorkshire and West Bromwich West. The Pudsey edition bears a passing resemblance to the Pudsey Times, a genuine local paper which previously circulated in the area.

The Conservatives have also circulated materials with the appearance of a lifestyle magazine and local newsletter, neither of which contained any party branding on the front and only stated in the smallprint at the bottom the names of the candidates they were printed on behalf of.

Another example of a campaign newspaper comes from the Brexit party, but it makes clear that “The Brexiteer” is “the newspaper of the Brexit party” and that the front page article is “by Nigel Farage”.

We’ve not seen any examples from the other parties so far, but may have missed them. Please send us any you spot by emailing team@fullfact.org.

6 months ago

Parliament didn't block the Queen's speech

On yesterday’s Andrew Marr show, Boris Johnson claimed that “one of the reasons we’re having this election is because we have a Queen’s Speech that was blocked by parliament”.

That’s incorrect. Parliament voted in favour of the government’s Queen’s Speech in October. The speech is put forward by the government, setting out its proposed policy agenda for the new session of parliament. Losing a vote on the speech has historically been considered as parliament showing it has lost confidence in the government.