Politics Live

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

20 June 2024, 2.37pm

Green Party corrects manifesto after Full Fact intervention

Following an intervention from Full Fact, the Green Party has corrected a claim in its manifesto about the number of people on NHS waiting lists. 

The ‘long version’ of the manifesto, published on the party’s website on 12 June, the day it was launched, stated: “The long-term under funding of the NHS has left nearly 8 million of us on hospital waiting lists.” 

But as we wrote last week, this is not what NHS England data shows. 

The latest referral to treatment (RTT) data when the manifesto was published showed that in March 2024 about 6.3 million people were waiting to begin about 7.5 million courses of treatment. (New data published since then shows that in April 2024 6.3 million people were waiting for about 7.6 million courses of treatment.) 

There are always more cases than people in the data, because some people are awaiting treatment for more than one thing.

We wrote to the Green Party about this, and following our intervention, a corrected version of the manifesto has been published on the party’s ‘manifesto downloads’ page, which reads: “The long-term under funding of the NHS has left 6.3 million of us on hospital waiting lists.”

According to internet archive the WayBack Machine, the corrected manifesto was posted at some point on 13 June. (It’s worth noting that the uncorrected version of the manifesto, though removed from the manifesto downloads page, still remains online and may be linked to from elsewhere.)

We are grateful to the Green Party for having made the correction.

The Green Party was one of four signatories to Full Fact’s leaders’ pledge, which asked politicians to commit to being honest and transparent in the general election. This also included a commitment to our manifesto standards which require parties to correct errors in their manifestos when they have been notified of such. Plaid Cymru, the Alliance Party and the SDLP were also signatories to the pledge.

Full Fact’s chief executive Chris Morris said: “Full Fact wants to increase trust in politics, not diminish it—but it's up to our politicians to lead by example and earn that trust. This correction from the Green Party is the sort of behaviour that we hope to see from all parties when they are notified of an inaccuracy.”

We continue to call on all parties, and whoever forms the next government, to show bold leadership by committing to honesty and accuracy in all party communications. 

Honesty in public debate matters

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20 June 2024, 11.56am

BBC Question Time Leaders’ Special

This evening the leaders of four political parties will be questioned by members of the public in a two-hour Question Time Leaders’ Special

The show will be hosted by Fiona Bruce and broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer from 8pm.  

Each leader will face 30 minutes of questions from members of a live studio audience in York. The running order will be the Liberal Democrats’ Sir Ed Davey, the SNP’s John Swinney, Labour’s Keir Starmer and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for the Conservatives. 

Full Fact’s fact checkers will be following the programme live, and scrutinising in real time the claims made by the politicians, highlighting statements that we think are wrong, misleading or need more context. 

You can follow our work on X (formerly Twitter) or here on Election Live throughout the show.

19 June 2024, 6.48pm

Reform UK wrong to claim 14 million forecast to arrive in the UK ‘in the next 12 years’

Reform UK has claimed in a paid Facebook ad that 14 million people will arrive in the UK in the next 12 years, but that’s not what official forecasts show.

The 14 million figure appears to be based on ONS national population projections, but those cover a 15 year period starting in mid-2021.

The ONS has confirmed to Full Fact that its projections indicate that 10.4 million will immigrate to the UK between now and mid-2036.

It’s important to be clear that immigration figures alone don’t show how migration impacts population growth.

When looking at net migration—that is, the number of people entering a country minus the number of people leaving—the ONS forecasts that the population will grow by around 4.5 million over the next 12 years.

Read the full fact check here.

19 June 2024, 3.48pm

Fact checking the SNP manifesto

Full Fact’s work to fact check manifestos continues, after Scottish First Minister and Scottish National Party leader John Swinney MSP launched his party’s offering in Edinburgh this morning. 

We’ve been checking the 32-page document with the help of Full Fact’s AI tools, and identifying key claims to investigate. 

Have a read of what we’ve looked at so far here, with more to follow. 

19 June 2024, 3.24pm

How many people in Scotland are on NHS waiting lists?

A claim we’ve heard repeated by Scottish politicians over the election campaign is that one in six or seven Scots are on NHS waiting lists. 

These figures are based on statistics published by Public Health Scotland (PHS), that track the number of ongoing waits for outpatient appointments, for inpatient or day case admissions, and for eight key diagnostic tests. It’s reached by combining the number of waits on each of these three lists, then dividing that by Scotland’s estimated population. 

But this misrepresents the data. PHS says this calculation shouldn’t be done as some patients are counted more than once on these lists if they’re waiting for multiple things. The total cases on these lists is 840,000 but this doesn’t reflect the number of people waiting. 

We don’t know exactly how many individuals, or what proportion of Scotland’s population, is on an NHS waiting list because PHS doesn’t provide this data.

You can read more about this here

18 June 2024, 4.14pm

Is it an annual figure, or a total covering several years?

We’ve noticed several headline figures used by the Conservatives during the general election campaign that sound like they may refer to an annual amount, but which actually represent a number of years added together. 

The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) has criticised this practice in the past, when it is not made clear, and it’s something everyone should look out for.

One high-profile example is the Conservatives’ claim that a Labour government would raise taxes by £2,000 for working families. As we’ve explained in our full fact check on the figure—which for various reasons we found to be unreliable—it has been calculated to represent the additional tax families would supposedly pay over the next four years under Labour, not in a single year, as someone might reasonably assume. 

A statement by the OSR noted how “someone hearing the claim would have no way of knowing that this is an estimate summed together over four years.”

Similarly, the Conservatives’ claim that Labour’s pension plans would result in a “£1,000 retirement tax” is based on the Conservatives’ analysis of the cumulative amount that the average pensioner would pay between 2025/26 and 2029/30 under the party’s “triple lock plus” policy. But we’ve seen this figure reported in ways that don’t make it clear that it would be spread over multiple years.  

Again, we’ve unpacked the numbers behind this specific claim in our fact check, and you can read more about the impact of the “triple lock plus” in our explainer

Another example is the Conservatives’ plan to increase defence spending by an “additional £75 billion” by 2030. While this is the sum of all additional spending over the next six years, it has sometimes been presented as a standalone figure, without making this clear.

A 2022 House of Commons Library briefing, which has since been archived, said this is “not how increases and decreases in spending are usually discussed”. 

There are other problems with the figure that we’ve also explained before

The OSR’s statement said that it had “warned against this practice” before and called for all political leaders to use statistics with “intelligent transparency”. 

It said: “When distilling claims into a single number, the context should be sufficient to allow the average person to understand what it means and how significant it is.”

Full Fact has written fact checks about this practice before in 2022 and 2018

So when you hear big numbers quoted during the election campaign, it’s worth checking whether they are annual or cumulative. We’ll be keeping an eye out for more examples, from the Conservatives or anyone else. 

We’ve contacted the Conservative party for comment and will update our Election Live blog if we receive a response.

Update: We’ve updated this blog post to reflect the year in which the Conservative party’s proposed “triple lock plus” policy would take effect. 

17 June 2024, 7.37pm

Fact checking Reform UK's election 'contract'

Reform UK launched its 2024 ‘contract’ today which is, essentially, the party’s manifesto.

With the help of Full Fact’s AI tools, we’ve been combing through the 28-page document and checking its key claims. 

Find out what we’ve been looking into in our round-up here.

Honesty in public debate matters

You can help us take action – and get our regular free email

17 June 2024, 2.26pm

Is unemployment always higher after a Labour government?

In multiple interviews this morning defence secretary Grant Shapps claimed “every Labour government in history” has left unemployment higher.

This isn’t the first time Mr Shapps has made this claim—we fact checked him last year after he said the same thing.

As we wrote then, this is true of most Labour governments, including the two most recent ones (1997-2010 and 1974-1979), both of which saw unemployment increase. 

These are the only Labour governments covered by currently comparable unemployment data, but historic unemployment data, while not directly comparable with current data, suggests there’s at least one exception to this claim, with unemployment falling during the Labour minority government of 1924.

In addition, though it wasn‘t a “Labour government” as such, it’s worth noting that between May 1940 and May 1945 the Labour party was part of the wartime government, led by Sir Winston Churchill, which left unemployment lower than when it came in. The unemployment rate dropped from 5.5% in May 1940 to 0.7% in May 1945.

Some Conservative governments have also seen rises in unemployment. When we looked at this issue back in 2021, we found that of the three completed periods of Conservative government since the war, at least two had seen increases. 

Unemployment is currently lower than it was when the Conservatives entered government as part of the Coalition in 2010.

16 June 2024, 1.40pm

Sunday morning politics shows include familiar claims about waiting lists, tax and mortgages

On today’s morning politics shows we spotted some familiar claims we’ve previously fact checked. 

On Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips [7:04 and 16:57], Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting twice mentioned “the 7.5 million” on waiting lists. 

While Mr Streeting did not specify whether he meant people or cases on waiting lists, as we’ve written before, 7.5 million was the number of cases, not people, on NHS England waiting lists. 

The latest data, collected at the end of April 2024, shows about 6.3 million people were waiting to begin about 7.6 million courses of treatment.

And on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Streeting referred to “the kind of unfunded gimmicks we have seen in this Conservative election campaign which could see people’s mortgages go up by £4,800”. 

As we explained a few days ago, this is a speculative figure, which 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.

For the Conservatives, transport secretary Mark Harper told Laura Kuenssberg that under Labour there would be a “retirement tax where you would have to pay tax on the basic state pension”. This is based on forecasts showing that under current government policy the new state pension is set to increase slightly above the personal allowance for the first time. 

Labour says it’ll maintain current government policy and not raise the personal allowance, while the Conservatives say they will introduce a new age-related personal allowance that grows each year so that it will “always be higher than the level of the new state pension”. We wrote about this earlier this month

Mr Harper also said on Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips [33:07] that under Labour there would be a “black hole” of “£2,000 for every family in the next, over the parliament”. As we’ve explained before, this figure is unreliable and based on a number of questionable assumptions. 

The Office for Statistics Regulation has also issued a statement criticising the Conservatives’ use of this figure.

14 June 2024, 4.26pm

Political ads on Facebook repeat familiar claims about tax rises, waiting lists and immigration

We’ve been taking a look at some of the adverts political parties have been running on Facebook—and have found a number making claims we’ve previously fact checked.

A Facebook advert for Alex Fawbert, the Labour candidate for Boston and Skegness, ran between 6 and 10 June and received between 2,000 and 3,000 impressions, according to Facebook’s ad library. In the video featured in the ad, Ms Fawbert said: “We know that there are eight million people currently on waiting lists.” We’ve heard similar claims to this throughout the campaign, from Labour and the Green party. But as we’ve written before, it’s not what NHS data shows. 

Assuming Ms Fawbert was talking about NHS England (which is the part of the NHS the UK government controls) and referral to treatment (RTT) data, which is usually what people mean by “the waiting list”, then it appears she was referring not to the number of people on waiting lists but the number of cases, and it’s been rounded up to eight million.

In the latest NHS England data, collected at the end of April 2024, about 6.3 million people were waiting to begin about 7.6 million courses of treatment. (At the time the ad started, the latest data, for March 2024, said 6.3 million people and 7.5 million cases.) There are always more cases than people in the data, because some people are awaiting treatment for more than one thing.

Meanwhile, an advert for Labour’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip candidate Danny Beales claimed that under the Conservatives “waiting lists will go up and up and hit 10 million”. 

While it’s impossible to say for sure what’ll happen in future, as we wrote a couple of weeks ago, that prediction’s been challenged by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It says lists are likely to “at worst flatline”, whichever party forms the next government.

Meanwhile the Conservatives’ claim that under Labour working families face a £2,094 tax rise features in a number of the party’s Facebook adverts, often as a standalone figure

As we wrote last week, the £2,094 figure is unreliable and based on a number of questionable assumptions. It comes from a Conservative party estimate of Labour’s “unfunded spending commitments”, but many of the costings behind the calculation are uncertain. Even if the figure was right, we can’t be certain this money would be collected by raising taxes, and if it was, families are unlikely to be affected equally.

Finally, Jake Berry, the Conservative candidate for Rossendale and  Darwen, made a familiar claim about immigration in a Facebook ad which the ad library says ran from 4 to 11 June and received between 7,000 and 8,000 impressions. The advert said: “Labour don’t want to control immigration. Their plans could see us take in 100,000 extra illegal migrants, from Europe, every single year.”

We’ve written about similar claims from Conservative politicians several times before. The 100,000 figure was circulated by the Conservative party last September in response to comments made by Sir Keir Starmer about a potential future returns agreement with the EU. But the way it was calculated is incorrect. 

We don’t know how many more migrants might come to the UK as a result of any future returns deal negotiated under Labour. Labour has not detailed what such a deal would involve or said how many migrants it would be willing to accept.

We’ve contacted the Labour party and the Conservative party for comment, as well as all the candidates behind the adverts listed above, and will update this post if they respond. 

Image courtesy of Pixabay 

Update: Labour candidate Danny Beales contacted Full Fact after this blog was published, noting that his use of the 10 million waiting list figure was based on Labour “analysis that was published in a national press release”. He added that “data this week has shown a further increase in waiting times”. The latest NHS England data, for April 2024, showed a slight increase in cases awaiting treatment, compared to the previous month.

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