Politics Live

Full Fact’s rolling blog of fact checks, commentary and analysis.

18 July 2024, 2.05pm

Labour has not committed to a timeframe for increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP

On Sky News this morning presenter Kay Burley claimed the government has said it would reach the target of spending 2.5% of GDP on defence by the end of the current parliament. 

This isn’t correct. While Labour has said it is committed to the target of spending 2.5% of GDP on defence, it hasn’t set out a specific timeframe for achieving this.

Ms Burley’s comments came during an interview with Conservative shadow defence secretary James Cartlidge MP, who said Labour hadn’t set out a timescale. To this, she replied that Labour had said they’d reach it “by 2030”, before saying “by the course of this parliament is what they’ve said, they’ve not said 2030, they’ve said by the course of this parliament, and actually this parliament ends in 2029.” 

Ms Burley subsequently clarified later in the programme: “they haven’t publicly said that, but privately that is what they have been saying. So maybe I’ve disclosed more than I should, but yes that is what Labour is hoping to achieve although they haven’t said it in a public forum.”

Earlier this week, the government launched its Strategic Defence Review, which it said “will set out a roadmap to achieving 2.5% of GDP on defence”.

We’ve written more about Labour’s defence spending plans in our recent explainer.

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17 July 2024, 4.49pm

Labour unveils first-year plans in King’s Speech

Earlier today King Charles delivered the first King’s Speech for the new government, unveiling Labour’s legislative plans for the next year in Parliament.

A total of 39 bills were announced in the speech, the contents of which will now be debated across a number of days by MPs. 

As teased in the days leading up to the State Opening of Parliament, much of the speech revolved around Labour’s plans for growth, which we’ve written more about here.

The speech confirmed plans to introduce a Planning and Infrastructure Bill, as well as bills to establish Great British Energy and the National Wealth Fund, both of which are intended to facilitate investment in energy and green infrastructure.

Also announced today were plans to renationalise the majority of rail services, new worker’s rights reforms and a Border Security, Asylum and Immigration Bill.

Some of the bills announced in today’s speech, such as the Tobacco and Vapes Bill, had been announced by the previous Conservative government, but did not pass through Parliament before the general election.

Full Fact will continue to monitor proceedings in the House of Commons and will update this live blog with our latest analysis and verdicts on claims made during the debates.

15 July 2024, 4.00pm

The King’s Speech: the new government sets out its plans

Amidst the pomp and pageantry of this Wednesday’s State Opening of Parliament, King Charles III will deliver the King’s Speech—Labour’s opportunity to set out its legislative plans for its first year of government.

This is the first State Opening of Parliament under a Labour government since November 2009.

In a press release ahead of the speech the Government has said it will “put economic growth at the heart of its legislative agenda”, and confirmed that departments are preparing “more than 35 bills”, or new laws, to be put before Parliament.

Newspapers are already reporting on a range of bills expected to be unveiled in the speech, including on housebuilding, devolution, worker’s rights and artificial intelligence.

Full Fact will be keeping an eye on proceedings, including the debates following the speech, and using our AI tools to help identify claims by and about politicians for further investigation. We will continue to bring you our analysis as the new parliament officially gets underway.

10 July 2024, 4.49pm

Did Labour win 411 or 412 seats in the 2024 general election?

You may have spotted a slight discrepancy in reports of the number of seats won by Labour in last week’s general election. 

Some sources, including the Telegraph, the House of Commons Library and the Institute for Government think tank, say that Labour won 411 seats. But according to others including the BBC, Guardian, ITV and Sky News, Labour actually won 412 seats. 

So what’s behind this one-seat discrepancy?

This difference is down to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle MP, who won the constituency of Chorley in Lancashire with 74% of the votes and was re-elected as Speaker by MPs at the first meeting of the new House of Commons on Tuesday.

Sir Lindsay was originally elected in Chorley as a Labour MP in 1997, and was affiliated with the party until 2019. But he was required to renounce his party allegiance when he was elected as Speaker in 2019, after being a Deputy Speaker to John Bercow since 2010. 

As Speaker, Sir Lindsay stood as a candidate without party affiliation in this year’s general election, and neither Labour nor the Conservatives fielded a candidate against him in his constituency. 

The Speaker is required to be politically impartial and non-partisan—they do not vote on legislation unless their vote is required to break a tied division. Deputy Speakers (of which there are usually three) also do not vote but, unlike the Speaker, retain their party affiliations. The four are typically split evenly between government and opposition, which means in this Parliament one deputy will be elected from Labour and two from the Conservatives. 

8 July 2024, 4.19pm

What does the Chancellor mean when she talks about ending ‘ban’ on onshore wind?

In a speech earlier today Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves said the government would end the “ban on new onshore wind in England”, and later spoke of there being a “moratorium” on onshore wind development.

Planning rules introduced by the Conservative government have often been described as a “de-facto ban” on onshore wind power development in England—though to be clear, onshore wind turbines were not formally banned.

Planning considerations for England introduced in 2015 provided that onshore wind turbines (not including small-scale domestic turbines) could only be built in areas already identified as suitable in a local or neighbourhood plan (documents setting out a framework for future development of a local area), and which had the “backing” of the local community. The following year, decision making powers for larger-scale onshore wind farms were put in the hands of local planning authorities (having previously required permission from the UK government).

The 2015 changes set out that what constituted “backing” was “a planning judgment for the local planning authority”. However the Conservative government acknowledged last year that the policy tests had “been applied in such a way that a very limited number of objections, and even at times objections of single individuals, have been taken as showing a lack of community backing.”

As a result there’s been a substantial decrease in the number of applications and approvals for onshore wind sites in England since 2015 (though a limited number have been built).

In 2023 the Conservative government amended the National Planning Policy Framework with the intent to speed up the identification of suitable sites. However some campaigners have said the changes did not have a meaningful impact.

The Labour government today announced that it was immediately amending the Framework to remove the two policy tests established in 2015 entirely, and that it would consult on proposals to reinstate larger scale onshore wind projects as nationally significant infrastructure projects.

5 July 2024, 3.13pm

How old is Reform UK?

At the time of writing, Reform UK has won four seats in the 2024 general election and a 14% share of the vote. And over the last few hours we’ve seen a number of different claims about how old—or how new—the party is.

David Bull, Reform UK’s deputy leader, said on the BBC’s election coverage last night: “We’re four years old, we’re an insurgent party, this has come out of nowhere." 

Some on social media have suggested the party is much younger than that however, with posts on X and Facebook apparently claiming that it is at most six weeks old.

In fact, the party officially changed its name to Reform UK about three and a half years ago in January 2021, and prior to that was called the Brexit Party. The Brexit Party was incorporated in November 2018 and registered with the Electoral Commission in February 2019

Reform UK had no MPs until March 2024, when Lee Anderson, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative party, defected to it after having the whip suspended.

When the 2024 general election was called, the current Reform UK leader Nigel Farage initially said he would not be standing. But on 3 June he announced he would be taking over from Richard Tice as the party’s leader and running in Clacton in Essex, a seat he has now won. Mr Farage becoming leader was followed by a surge in the polls for Reform UK, which may be the cause of some of the confusion around how long the party has existed. 

Prior to taking the reins back at Reform UK, and before that leading the Brexit Party, Mr Farage was the leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

UKIP was founded in 1993 to campaign for Britain's exit from the European Union and in 1999 won three seats in the European Parliamentary elections. Mr Farage was leader from 2006 to 2009 and again from 2010 to 2016.

5 July 2024, 12.52pm

Douglas Alexander misrepresents NHS waiting list data

Newly elected Labour MP Douglas Alexander claimed that “one in six of us in Scotland are on NHS waiting lists” on BBC One’s election coverage early this morning (1:49:50)—but this misrepresents the data we have to hand.

As we’ve said before about similar claims, this misrepresents data from Public Health Scotland which only shows the number of cases, not people, on the waiting list.

We don’t have the data to determine how many individual people are on the waiting list in Scotland, or what share of the Scottish population they represent. This is because some people will be waiting for more than one thing so may appear more than once on the waiting lists.

The waiting list for new outpatient and inpatient appointments, as well as key diagnostic tests in Scotland was 840,300 as of March 2024. That is between a sixth and a seventh of the estimated population of Scotland in 2022.

Survey data from the Office for National Statistics found 22% of people aged 16 and over in Scotland are waiting for something on the NHS.

Douglas Alexander—a former Secretary of State for Scotland—won the seat in Lothian East last night, returning to parliament after losing his seat in Paisley and Renfrewshire South in 2015.

We’ve contacted Mr Alexander and will update this article if he responds.

This claim was brought to our attention by our artificial intelligence (AI) tools. Full Fact's AI tools have spotted hundreds of misleading claims on social media during the election.

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3 July 2024, 5.59pm

Repeated claims circulate with general election just hours away

With just hours to go until polls open we’ve seen both Labour and the Conservatives repeat claims that are either misleading or could do with important context.

In a statement picked up by local and national newspapers late on 2 July, Labour said Prime Minister and Conservative leader Rishi Sunak’s “unfunded manifesto” would mean “£4,800 more on people’s mortgages, NHS waiting lists rocketing to 10 million, and family finances hit further”. 

But as we’ve explained several times since Labour first used it last month, the £4,800 claim is a speculative figure presented as fact, and is therefore misleading.

£4,800 seems to be an estimate of the average annual extra cost of a mortgage at the end of the next parliament. It is based on several uncertain assumptions, and some of the detail of Labour’s workings remains unclear.

The UK Statistics Authority has warned that presenting figures without full context may “damage trust in the data and the claims these data inform”.

Labour’s other claim, that NHS waiting lists could reach 10 million under the Conservatives, is also one we’ve fact checked before. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says Labour’s analysis has predicted a “highly unlikely” outcome, with analysts saying the waiting list is likely to fall slowly or “at worst flatline”, whichever party forms the next government.

On the broadcast round for the Conservatives today (3 July), work and pensions secretary Mel Stride repeated two claims on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that could do with additional context.

He said [1:36:34]: “If you take education for example, we’re the best readers now in the western world”.

As we’ve written about before, this is correct for England according to the results of one international study of nine to ten-year-olds in 2022, but according to another measure pupils which looked at 15-year-old pupils, Ireland, Canada and the US were better readers than their counterparts in England.

Mr Stride also said [1:36:37]: “Ofsted rated schools, 68% of them when we came to power as good or outstanding, that figure is now above 90%.”

While this figure is technically accurate for England, as we explained last month, changes to the way schools are inspected since 2010 means that a direct comparison between these two time periods is difficult. 

It is true, according to the latest data published by Ofsted, that 90% of schools are good or outstanding. This compares to 68% in 2010, when the Labour party was last in government. 

However, as Ofsted’s methodology explains, a number of factors affect the comparability of the most recent inspection outcomes for all schools and should “be used with caution”. 

But the UK’s statistics regulator, the Office for Statistics Regulation, stopped short of calling the claim misleading, saying it could be a useful indicator.

We’ve previously contacted Labour and the Conservatives about these claims and will update this post if we receive a response.

3 July 2024, 2.10pm

Full Fact's AI tools spot hundreds of misleading election claims on social media

Analysis conducted by Full Fact using artificial intelligence (AI) tools examining Facebook posts shared by 1,540 parliamentary candidates from all parties has found more than 300 repeats of misleading claims.

Conservative candidates were responsible for the majority of these repeated claims. Full Fact’s AI tools flagged 188 posts by Conservative candidates containing a misleading claim which we have fact checked—but Labour party candidates were not far behind with 117 claims flagged. 

All of the posts by Conservative candidates our tools identified contained the party’s most prominent misleading claim of the campaign: that a Labour government would lead to a £2,000 tax increase for working families.

Conversely, our tools flagged a broader range of claims by Labour candidates, including 39 repeats of the unreliable claim that a Conservative government would lead to a £4,800 increase in mortgage payments and 43 repeats of the outdated claim that Labour’s Net Zero plan would cut energy bills by £300

Posts including the six misleading claims identified by Full Fact’s AI tools were shared 565 times, creating a potential reach of more than 2.5 million people. 

Our Chief Executive, Chris Morris, said: “Scare tactics based on fudged numbers have dominated so much of this campaign right up to the final week, and that’s a disservice to democracy. It should shame both of the largest political parties. 

“For whoever is in Number 10, the long overdue work to repair battered trust in politics must begin on 5 July.”

The “£2,000 tax increase” has become one of the most high-profile claims of the campaign, featuring in the debates and across Conservative party messaging. Despite prominent debunking from Full Fact and others, Conservatives have continued to push out the claim—59% of the claims flagged in this analysis occurred after the figure had already been fact checked. 

Similarly, a high-profile challenge to Labour’s speculative £4,800 figure has not prevented the party from deploying it in the campaign as recently as last week, in a stunt that plastered the figure across the front of a building. 

Full Fact’s claim matching tool, which incorporates Google’s BERT model, examined 76,663 Facebook posts by 1,500 candidates over the course of the election campaign (22 May to 30 June). The AI model searches for sentences that semantically match claims that have been previously checked, debunked, or corrected by Full Fact. It found 311 repeated claims:

As not all candidates have a Facebook account used for their campaigns, the results are a snapshot of social media activity rather than a representative sample of all candidates from all parties.

3 July 2024, 1.09pm

Boris Johnson’s first campaign appearance: fact checked

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his first appearance [12:35] in the 2024 general election campaign last night with a little over a day to go before polling opens on Thursday. Here, we’ve fact checked some of his key claims on Brexit, a so-called “supermajority” and defence spending.

Speaking about Brexit Mr Johnson claimed “that national independence was vital when it came to approving Covid vaccines faster than any EU country”. This is a familiar claim dating back to 2020 which we have written about a number of times. This isn’t correct in terms of regulatory approval. Under European law, the UK was permitted to act independently to approve the vaccine in an emergency.

Discussing the polls ahead of the election Mr Johnson said “we are about to give Labour a supermajority.” As we’ve said a number of times, the term “supermajority” has no specific meaning in the UK parliamentary system. The Institute for Government says that in parliamentary terms the difference between an 80-seat majority (which the Conservative party won in the 2019 election) and a 200-seat majority is “not material”.

Talking about the government’s Rwanda policy, which Labour has said it would not continue, Mr Johnson said this would happen “just as it is being imitated by governments around the world”. This isn’t quite right. While other European countries have expressed an interest in processing asylum seekers in a third country, based on reports we have seen this is not the same as the UK’s Rwanda scheme.

Discussing what a Labour government might look like, Mr Johnson said they will be “whacking up taxes on pensions”. This seems to refer to a Conservative claim we’ve seen a lot over the election campaign, that retirement tax would be introduced under Labour. But this is based on forecasts showing that under current government policy, which Labour has said it would maintain, the state pension is set to rise above the personal allowance for the first time. The Conservatives have said they would re-establish a higher personal allowance for pensioners, so the state pension does not exceed the income tax threshold, a policy they’ve called the ‘Triple Lock Plus’.

Mr Johnson concluded by claiming that Labour refuses to commit to “spending 2.5% of our GDP on defence”. This isn’t quite true. The Labour party has said it is committed to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, but it has not set out a specific timescale to meet this target, unlike the Conservative government which has said it would do so by 2030.

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