Politics Live

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

22 November 2023, 12.58pm

Sir Keir Starmer wrong at PMQs about number of people on NHS waiting list

At Prime Minister's Questions today, the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that “7.8 million people are currently” on NHS waiting lists.

This isn’t what the latest NHS England figures show, as we wrote earlier this week about a similar claim.

There are an estimated 6.5 million individual patients waiting for treatment in England. 

They're waiting for 7.8 million treatment pathways to begin—some are waiting for multiple courses of treatment.

Mr Starmer is the third Labour politician we’ve heard make this claim over the last week, alongside shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves and MP Angela Eagle.

Mr Starmer was right to say that the number of people on waiting lists in England has risen by about half a million in the past year.

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22 November 2023, 11.47am

Is the UK’s national debt ‘now beginning to fall’?

On Sky News this morning, Conservative MP Stephen Hammond made a claim about the UK’s national debt while discussing the Autumn Statement.  

He said he wanted to see that the government “have shown that we have run the economy fiscally responsibly”, adding: “I think you’re going to see that today with some of the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] forecasts about the fact that debt is now beginning to fall.” 

We’re not entirely clear what Mr Hammond was referring to here—the OBR publishes a new set of forecasts this afternoon, though the content of these isn’t public yet. But we looked at this topic recently, after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed earlier this month that the UK’s national debt “is falling”.

At the time, we found Mr Sunak’s claim wasn’t correct according to the latest official figures, which showed that the national debt in September 2023 had increased compared to the previous year

In March 2023, when it made its last set of forecasts, the OBR predicted overall public sector net debt would peak in 2023-24 and fall thereafter.  Underlying public sector net debt, the measure the government used in its target, wasn’t forecast to fall for several years. Those forecasts may change when new data comes out today, however. Earlier this month Isabel Stockton, senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, told us in relation to Mr Sunak’s claim: “Headline public sector net debt has just—as in, the past quarter—stabilised in cash terms, so is probably falling ever so slightly as a percentage of GDP, though we don’t actually have that quarterly GDP outturn yet.”

22 November 2023, 9.22am

The Autumn Statement—and another busy day in Westminster

It’s been a hectic few weeks in politics, what with the King’s Speech, London protests, Cabinet reshuffle, vote on a Gaza ceasefire and more, and today promises another big moment, as the chancellor unveils his Autumn Statement. 

On days such as this the Full Fact team steps up its monitoring of political claims, while continuing our work tackling health and online misinformation as well. 

Right now, our fact checkers are doing their usual morning monitoring—reading the newspapers, listening to the broadcast round, scanning social media and checking tips from readers, looking for claims we should investigate further (or have already fact checked previously). 

Unsurprisingly pre-Autumn Statement speculation dominates the political news agenda this morning—much of it is based on off-the-record briefings or informed guesswork, which isn’t fact checkable, but we’re looking for statements of fact which might be. 

At 12pm Prime Minister's Questions—normally a focal point of the political week, but today more a warm-up for the main event—gets underway. We monitor this in real time, with a team of five or six fact checkers updating a collaborative Google Doc with claims as they are made, initial analysis of claims and, where we can, verdicts. 

We also use Full Fact’s AI tools to scan for claims we can instantly match and provide a transcript. Any immediate fact checks we can publish will go out via X (formerly Twitter) and this live blog too. 

Then at around 12.40pm we’ll move on to monitoring the Autumn Statement itself. This will likely involve a slightly smaller team, as fact checkable claims are likely to be more spaced out, amidst a blizzard of Treasury-approved numbers and forward-looking pledges. We’ll be ready to scan the underlying Treasury documents too, when they’re published—and keep a close eye on media and social media reaction to identify claims which may be challenged and deserve further scrutiny. 

A busy day then. Stay tuned…

21 November 2023, 5.20pm

Labour MP repeats claim 7.8 million people on NHS waiting lists, but that’s not what NHS England data shows

On BBC Politics Live earlier today, Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said “there are 7.8 million people on an NHS waiting list—2.8 million of them whom are of working age”. 

There are not 7.8 million people on NHS waiting lists in England, as we pointed out yesterday following a very similar claim made by shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves. 

There are an estimated 6.5 million individual patients waiting for treatment, according to the most recent NHS England data. But because some patients are waiting for more than one type of treatment, there are around 7.8 million treatment pathways that haven’t been completed. 

We were unable to find figures for the number of working age people on NHS waiting lists. 

We have written to Ms Eagle to ask about both points and will provide an update if we receive a response.

21 November 2023, 5.16pm

What percentage of Universal Credit claimants are in work?

We’ve taken a look at another claim that shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves made at the weekend. Talking to Laura Kuenssberg on Sunday, Ms Reeves said around half of Universal Credit claimants were in work.

This is slightly too high—it’s approximately 38%, so nearer to one-third. Read our fact check here

20 November 2023, 5.50pm

Shadow chancellor’s NHS waiting list claim fact checked

Yesterday, while on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves claimed “there are 7.8 million people on hospital waiting lists”. 

That’s not correct, according to the latest NHS England figures. (Health is a devolved matter in the UK and Ms Reeves appears to have been referring to figures for England, based on the 7.8 million figure she cited.)

There are actually an estimated 6.5 million individual patients on NHS waiting lists in England, waiting for 7.8 million treatments (or treatment “pathways”, to use the official jargon). Some people are due to receive multiple courses of treatment, so are counted more than once. 

It’s not the first time we’ve seen confusion over this NHS data—a few weeks ago we wrote about a similar error made by shadow health secretary Wes Streeting. As we write in our full check of Ms Reeves’ claim, until recently NHS England did not publish numbers of unique patients waiting for treatment.

20 November 2023, 3.37pm

Keir Starmer is not promoting an investment scheme - it’s another deepfake

At Full Fact we’re keeping a close eye on what we fear is likely to become an increasingly common phenomenon in the run-up to the next general election—video or audio clips created using artificial intelligence which appear to show politicians and others saying or doing things they have not actually said or done. On Friday we fact checked a Facebook video supposedly showing Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer promoting an investment scheme for UK residents to earn up to £40,000 a month. The video is fake and appears to have used technology to clone Mr Starmer’s voice.

It’s far from an isolated example. Last month we wrote about another deepfake video supposedly showing BBC presenters promoting a similar investment scheme. We’ve also covered apparently fake audio clips purporting to be of Mr Starmer and London mayor Sadiq Khan, although in these cases we weren’t able to confirm whether the clip was generated with artificial intelligence, edited in some other way or was of an impersonator.

Full Fact will continue to monitor and, where possible, identify the use of AI to create deepfake content, so that voters have access to information they can trust as we approach the election. 

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17 November 2023, 5.18pm

Which country was first to send tanks to Ukraine?

They’re a few weeks old now, but we’ve been digging into two claims from Rishi Sunak about the UK sending tanks to Ukraine.

Last month the Prime Minister said the UK was the first country to send tanks to Kyiv. Neither the government nor the Conservative party have backed up that claim though, and we can find no evidence to support it. Several countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland, reportedly sent tanks to Ukraine before the UK did.

Mr Sunak may have meant to refer to the UK being the first country to send Western tanks, which was what he subsequently said. Yet it’s not clear what that’s based on either. German-made Leopard 2 tanks from Poland and Norway reportedly arrived in Ukraine before Challenger 2 tanks from the UK, though the UK was arguably the first country to confirm it was sending Western tanks.

Read our full fact check here.

17 November 2023, 5.14pm

MP’s protests claim fact checked

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) last Saturday, Diane Abbott, the independent MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, suggested a man pictured with a swastika tattoo and wearing a poppy was involved in demonstrations in London at the time.

In fact, as others have pointed out, the photo was taken seven years earlier, at a protest that took place in Bolton.

16 November 2023, 5.00pm

Maria Caulfield latest MP to repeat misleading claim about Labour’s immigration plans

You may have seen that yesterday we fact checked a claim made by Jonathan Gullis MP on BBC Politics Live, and shortly afterwards during Prime Minister's Questions by the Prime Minister, about Labour’s plan for migration. It’s since been brought to our attention that health minister Maria Caulfield also said on Politics Live that Labour wants to “do a deal with the EU, in terms of a quota deal taking an extra 120,000 people”.

As we said before, Labour says it has no plans to join a migrant quota deal. Even if it did, this figure’s unreliable. 

Ms Caulfield’s claim appears to be based on a similar Conservative party estimate which has been repeated by several ministers and MPs in recent weeks. We first wrote about a similar claim in September. 

Last month we wrote to Mr Sunak and then-Conservative party chair Greg Hands about the use of the “100,000 migrants” figure, and asked them to take steps to prevent the claim being repeated by party members. We have not received a response.

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