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Full Fact’s rolling live blog of political fact checks
Fact checking claims about the Rochdale by-election
Following the news overnight that Workers Party of Britain candidate George Galloway has won the by-election in Rochdale, we’ve seen some potentially confusing claims on social media about Labour’s defence of the seat.
In a pinned post on X (formerly Twitter) the Daily Telegraph claimed “George Galloway has won the Rochdale by-election, defeating the incumbent Labour MP”.
This isn’t quite right. The by-election in Rochdale was called following the death of the incumbent Labour MP, Sir Tony Lloyd, in January. So while Labour was the most recent incumbent party, there was no incumbent MP to contest the seat.
Some of these posts have had responses from other users claiming there was no Labour candidate in the by-election. This is a bit complicated.
The Rochdale by-election was contested under a fairly unique set of circumstances after the Labour party’s decision to withdraw support for its chosen candidate, Azhar Ali, following comments he reportedly made about the 7 October attacks on Israel by Hamas.
Because this decision was made too late for the party to replace him as a candidate under electoral law, Mr Ali did remain on the ballot officially as a Labour party candidate, but did not have the support of the party during the rest of the election campaign.
So while the figure of 7.7% for Labour’s vote share is correct, it’s clearly not directly comparable with the party’s previous results in the constituency.
Shadow Treasury minister repeats 25 tax rises claim
On Times Radio [1:54] on Wednesday shadow financial secretary to the Treasury James Murray MP said there have been “25 tax rises in this Parliament alone”.
As we wrote last month, it’s unclear how Labour arrived at the specific figure of 25 tax rises. While Labour still doesn’t appear to have publicly published its workings or reasoning, in January Full Fact was sent the list of 25 tax rises by a shadow Treasury minister who is a Labour peer. It includes a range of tax changes that have occurred since 2019, but seems to miss out others, such as the energy windfall tax or the temporary rise in National Insurance that occurred in 2022.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies told us that counting the number of specific tax rises “isn’t very interesting or meaningful”. It said there have technically been hundreds of tax rises (and reductions) since this parliament began at the end of 2019, and what’s more significant is that this is “the biggest tax-raising parliament in modern times”.
PM challenges Labour MP’s claim about GDP growth
Today’s Prime Minister’s Questions also saw Labour MP Sarah Owen challenged by the Prime Minister after she claimed the UK had seen “seven consecutive quarters of no growth”.
Ms Owen’s claim isn’t true of overall GDP, which has seen some periods of limited growth within the past seven quarters. But Ms Owen has since clarified on social media that she was referring to GDP per capita, though she didn’t specify this at the time.
Read our full fact check here.
Is inflation ‘continuing to fall’?
At Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said inflation is “continuing to fall”.
Inflation is measured by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in two main ways—CPI, which stands for Consumer Prices Index, which measures the change in the price of everyday goods and services, and CPIH, which measures this as well as owner-occupier housing costs and Council Tax. The ONS considers CPIH the more comprehensive measure of inflation.
By both measures, inflation has fallen most months since October 2022. As of January 2024, the most recent month for which we have data, CPI inflation is 4%, while CPIH inflation is 4.2%.
However, CPI inflation reached 4% in December 2023, slightly up on the previous month, and remained at this level in January. CPIH inflation reached 4.2% in November 2023, and also remained at this rate in December and January.
So, while CPI inflation has fallen by 7.1 percentage points since October 2022, and CPIH has fallen 5.4 percentage points, both measures have levelled off over the last three months, so arguably aren’t quite “continuing to fall”.
The ONS still produces inflation stats for another way of measuring inflation, the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which measures the change in consumer goods and services, including owner-occupier housing costs. RPI only covers private households and excludes the top 4% of households by income, as well as pensioner households who receive over 75% of their income from benefits.
According to RPI figures, inflation also peaked in October 2022 at 14.2%, but has fallen since to 4.9% in January 2024. This measure shows inflation has fallen continuously since September 2023, but RPI inflation is no longer used as a national statistic “due to the shortcomings of the current approach”.
We’ve written to Mr Sunak about this claim and will update our blog if we receive a response.
Is the SNP the only political party that wants to rejoin the EU?
This week we checked a claim from the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) Europe spokesperson, Alyn Smith MP.
On 5 February he said: “The SNP remains the only party committed to rejoining the EU and the world’s largest single market”.
But this isn’t the case. Other political parties, such as Plaid Cymru, Alliance and the Green Party, all support rejoining the EU. The Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Liberal Democrats say rejoining the EU is their “longer-term objective”.
Read our full fact check to learn more.
Clip of Sadiq Khan calling Labour ‘antisemitic’ has correction edited out
A video clip shared on social media, including by the Conservative party and the Reclaim party leader Laurence Fox, appears to show the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan describing the Labour party as “antisemitic”. But this is misleading—the clip is a shortened version of an interview with Mr Khan, and fails to show him correcting himself seconds later.
During the interview with Sky News earlier on Thursday, Mr Khan was discussing the suspension of two Labour parliamentary candidates due to comments they allegedly made about Israel.
In the full version of the clip, he said: "As far as I'm concerned, that sort of language isn’t acceptable and it certainly shouldn't be acceptable in a party like mine, that is proud to be both anti-racist but also antisemitic."
Quickly realising he had misspoken, Mr Khan immediately corrected himself, saying: "I beg your pardon, tackling antisemitism."
However, the shorter version of the clip being shared cuts off before Mr Khan makes the correction. The edited clip was posted by the Conservatives along with the message: “Sadiq Khan says the quiet part out loud.”
We’ve contacted the Conservative and Reclaim parties for comment.
Political parties should ensure claims they make are accurate and include all necessary context—and this includes when representing the speech of other politicians.
Do more people rent or own their home?
On BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg last weekend, housing campaigner Kwajo Tweneboa said “We know the majority of people now in the UK are renting”.
However, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
The majority of households own their home. The government’s annual housing survey for England (2022/23) shows 65% of households own their home, 19% are privately renting and 16% live in socially rented housing.
These figures are similar in Wales based on the 2021 census, where 66.4% of households own their homes and 33.6% rent, and in Northern Ireland, where 65.2% of households own their home and 34.8% rent. In Scotland, 58% of dwellings are owner-occupied and 38% of dwellings are rented (based on 2020 figures).
If we multiply the average household size in England with the number of households that own or rent, according to the 2021 census, it appears that roughly 32.6 million people own their home, and 19.9 million are renting.
The picture in London seems different. More households in London rent than own their homes. 31% were private renters in 2022/23, and 21% social renters, while 49% owned their home. While in the rest of England, excluding London, home ownership in England was 68%.
We’ve contacted Mr Tweneboa for comment and will update this article if he responds.
Rochdale by-election wasn’t called after ‘expulsion’ of MP by Labour
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, presenter Nick Robinson suggested the forthcoming by-election for the Rochdale constituency was caused by the “expulsion” from Labour of MP Simon Danzcuk
During a segment on Labour withdrawing support for its Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali over comments he is alleged to have made about Israel, Mr Robinson said [starts at 2:12:20] there were now three men “rejected” by Labour challenging the seat, including: "The MP whose expulsion by Labour led to the by-election, Simon Danczuk, now running for Reform.”
However, this isn’t right. The by-election on 29 February is actually being held following the death of the incumbent Labour MP Sir Tony Lloyd on 17 January days after announcing he had an incurable form of leukaemia.
Mr Danczuk was the MP for Rochdale from 2010 to 2017, but was suspended by the Labour party in 2015 after newspaper allegations about his private life. At the time, he apologised “unreservedly” for what he described as “inappropriate” behaviour in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
Mr Danczuk was not allowed by Labour to stand as its candidate in the 2017 general election and stood as an independent. Sir Tony, who had formerly represented the Stretford and Manchester Central constituencies and served as the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, won the seat for Labour.
Mr Danczuk is now contesting the seat as the candidate for the Reform UK party.
There are 11 candidates standing to be Rochdale’s next MP.
We’ve contacted the BBC about this and will update this post if we hear back.
Think tank’s figures misquoted by Labour MPs in Parliament
In recent weeks we’ve seen two Labour MPs, including deputy leader Angela Rayner, claim that a think tank found that “on average, people are over £10,000 a year worse off” after 14 years of Conservative government.
This isn’t what the Centre for Cities study they referenced says, however. The figure in question is actually a cumulative estimate for the period between 2010 and 2022—the estimate wasn’t over £10,000 “a year”.
It’s also worth noting it was a counterfactual estimate, comparing the present to an alternative scenario, so doesn’t show how much less income the average person actually has compared to 2010.
For more details, see the full fact check of this claim which we’ve published today.
Treasury minister interview causes confusion over UK debt forecast
An interview with chief secretary to the Treasury Laura Trott MP yesterday caused confusion after she appeared to disagree with BBC Radio 4’s PM presenter Evan Davis’ claim that debt would be higher in five years time than it is now.
Figures published in November by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) show that underlying debt as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is forecast to be 89.0% this financial year (2023/24), and 92.8% in five years time (2028/29)—so 3.8 percentage points higher.
Underlying debt is the measure the government uses in its fiscal rules, which state that underlying debt must be falling as a percentage of GDP between the fourth and fifth year of the forecast period. It excludes the Bank of England’s debt.
Mr Davis quoted these figures multiple times in the interview, but Ms Trott appeared to repeatedly suggest debt was not rising “as a percentage of GDP”.
It’s possible that some confusion may have arisen from the fact that Ms Trott was initially referring to the fiscal rules mentioned above, while Mr Davis seems to have been referring to whether debt would be higher at the end of the forecast period than it is currently.
As was noted in the interview, OBR figures do show that underlying debt is forecast to begin falling at the end of the period—peaking at 93.2% in 2027/28 before falling to 92.8% the following year.
This means that the government is currently forecast to be meeting its fiscal target, even though debt will be higher in five years’ time than it is currently.
We’ve written a full fact check about the exchange, which you can read here.