2024 General Election: live blog

Last updated: 26 May 2024

Full Fact's rolling blog of fact checks, commentary and analysis on the 2024 UK general election.

26 May 2024, 3.09pm

Knife crime, army numbers, GDP growth and more: the Sunday politics shows, fact checked

It may be a bank holiday weekend, but politicians from different parties have been busy setting out their stalls on TV today, on the flagship Sunday politics shows.

On Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, asked about figures showing a 7% rise in knife crime in England and Wales in the year to December 2023, Conservative home secretary James Cleverly claimed if London were excluded “that figure would be down”. 

But, even when excluding London, the Office for National Statistics figures do still show a (smaller) rise of 2.5%.

We’ve asked the Conservatives about Mr Cleverly’s comments and haven’t yet had a response—we’ll update this post when we get one. But we think it’s possible he was referring to figures for the year to September 2023, rather than the year to December 2023 (which is the period he was asked about).

That’s because Mr Cleverly also said knife crime was up 22% in London, which matches data for the year to September 2023 but not for the year to December 2023, when it rose by 20%. And in the year to September 2023, knife crime rose by 5% across England and Wales, but did fall by 0.5% excluding London. 

Elsewhere in the interview Mr Cleverly claimed: “We took the decisions to come out of lockdown, which meant that our economy is growing faster than most of our international comparators.”

As we explained when we fact checked a similar claim last week, the latest quarterly figures do show the UK’s GDP growth was higher than most other G7 countries, but other measures paint a different picture. In particular, given Mr Cleverly appeared to link the UK’s growth to coming out of lockdown, it’s worth noting the UK economy has actually grown more slowly since immediately before the pandemic than most other G7 countries.

Also on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Labour shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said “the tax burden is at a 70-year high”.

As we explained when Ms Reeves made a similar claim earlier this month, that was the case in 2022/23. The so-called ‘tax burden’—which refers to tax revenues as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP)—has since fallen slightly, but is forecast to rise over the next five years to a near-record level.

Meanwhile on Sky News, while discussing the Conservatives’ headline-grabbing plans for all 18-year olds to do a year of national service, the honorary president of Reform UK Nigel Farage claimed “the army has shrunk from 100,000 to 75,000 in 14 years”.

This actually slightly understates the fall in the size of the UK Army Regular Forces since 2010. The number of UK Army Regular Forces personnel (trained and untrained) fell from about 109,000 in 2010 to about 75,000 in 2023, though there are many different ways of counting serving personnel.

24 May 2024, 6.21pm

What is happening to energy prices?

With candidates out on the campaign trail today, both major parties are putting energy prices in the spotlight. 

The Conservatives have pledged to make energy price comparison sites easier to use and are considering asking the regulator Ofgem to publish a league table of suppliers, ranking them on their responsiveness to complaints. 

Labour, meanwhile, has pledged to set up ‘Great British Energy’—a publicly owned company focused on clean energy. 

At a campaign event in Belfast Rishi Sunak said today’s energy price cap announcement showed the economy had “turned a corner”. 

From July the energy price cap—the maximum price that can be charged per unit of gas and electricity—will be set at a level which means a typical household using both electricity and gas and paying by direct debit will pay an average of £1,568 a year. That’s a fall of £122 compared to the current price cap set in April. (The consumer website MoneySavingExpert has a full breakdown of the figures.)

Energy bills are currently at their lowest level since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

However analysts at Cornwall Insight have forecast that the drop may only be temporary, suggesting that prices will increase again from October—equating to a price cap of £1,762 a year for a typical household—and will remain around this level from January 2025. 

It’s worth noting that the Typical Domestic Consumption Value—on which Ofgem’s figures for a “typical household” are based—has dropped since August 2023, when Ofgem reduced its estimates partly due to increased household efficiency, but also because people were cutting their energy use in response to high prices. 

24 May 2024, 5.08pm

Experts say Government not on track to deliver 40 new hospitals

Yesterday the MailOnline reported: “The Tories have stuck to their vow to build 40 new hospitals by 2030, which was promised before the 2019 general election.”

It’s true that the Conservative party has committed to this policy, we have written about it several times since the last election. However, a number of experts have said it is unlikely to be fully realised.

In a report into the 40 hospitals plan in July 2023 the National Audit Office said that “by the definition the government used in 2020, it will not now deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030.” 

In November 2023, the Public Accounts Committee stated it had “no confidence” that the Government would deliver the new hospitals it promised, suggesting it would struggle to reach even 32 by the end of the decade.

In 2020, the Department of Health and Social Care named and gave details on 32 of the new hospital sites. But by October 2023, none had been opened.

Speaking in Parliament on 23 May, health secretary Victoria Atkins reiterated the target of 40 and gave an update on progress. She said “Through our new hospital programme, we have committed to delivering 40 new hospitals by 2030. I am pleased to tell the House that six hospitals are now open to patients, two more are expected to open by the end of the financial year and 18 more are in construction.”

Since the plans were first announced in 2019, the government has faced questions over its definition of “new hospitals”.

Using this definition, the BBC in 2022 found that the 40 confirmed new hospitals include:

  • 22 rebuilding projects
  • 12 new wings within existing hospitals
  • three non-urgent care hospital rebuilds
  • three “new hospitals” (two general hospitals and one non-urgent care hospital)

24 May 2024, 4.33pm

Net migration decreased last year, but remains higher than at the start of this Parliament

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) yesterday Rishi Sunak claimed: “Since I became Prime Minister, net migration has fallen by 10%.” 

A ‘community note’ (which Twitter describes as “empowering people on [the platform] to collaboratively add context to potentially misleading posts”) appears under it.

Mr Sunak’s claim is true, though it may be helpful to have some extra context.

Data published this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows estimated net migration—the difference in the number of people immigrating to the UK and emigrating—was 685,000 in the year to December 2023. This is a fall of approximately 10% from the ONS’s updated estimate of 764,000 for the year to December 2022. 

That said, despite this decrease, net migration is still nearly four times higher than in 2019, when the Conservative party said it would bring “overall numbers” down in its manifesto

Estimated total immigration in the year to December 2023 decreased slightly compared to the previous year, from 1,257,000 to 1,218,000. However it has increased by almost 55% since December 2019, when it was 788,000. 

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford notes that net migration “remained at unusually high levels” in 2023, continuing to exceed “pre-Brexit, pre-Covid levels of roughly 200,000 to 300,000” a year. However it said a “sharp drop in visa grants early this year and an increase in student emigration hint at the start of a long-expected fall in net migration”.

Other parties such as Reform UK also discussed the new net migration statistics as general election campaigns got into full swing. 

Reform’s leader Richard Tice also said net migration levels were equivalent to “a city well bigger than the size of Manchester”. The 2021 census recorded Manchester’s population as 551,900, compared to the net migration estimate of 685,000 in the year to December 2023.

24 May 2024, 2.20pm

How do the Labour and Conservative records on building nuclear power stations compare?

On LBC this morning [55.57 mins], energy secretary Claire Coutinho claimed that “Labour did not build any [nuclear power stations] in their time in government”. 

This statement is true—but as we wrote when she made the same claim earlier this month, it would benefit from additional context.

As Ms Coutinho said in her interview today, nuclear power plants take years to plan and build. 

The last new nuclear power station, Sizewell B, was first announced in 1969 but didn’t begin operating until 1995.

So while no new power stations were completed between 1997 and 2010 under the last Labour government, neither have any been finished since the Conservatives came into office in 2010.

Two sites—Hinkley Point C in Somerset and Sizewell C in Suffolk—have been granted licences since 2010, but it’s worth noting these sites were proposed under plans drawn up by the last Labour government

23 May 2024, 5.50pm

Fact checked: Rishi Sunak’s interview on day one of the campaign trail

This morning Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in what will be one of many interviews during the six-week campaign. We spotted two claims we’ve looked at before, as well as a claim comparing the UK's GDP growth to other countries. 

Mr Sunak claimed: “The economy is growing faster than almost any other major country, including the United States”. As we’ve explained in our fact check, this is true based on the most recent figures for quarter-on-quarter GDP growth among the G7 in 2024, but other measures, such as annual GDP growth, paint a very different picture. 

Speaking about defence spending, Mr Sunak said Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer “has not matched” the Conservative government’s pledge to increase spending to 2.5% of GDP. But, as we’ve written about before, Labour has committed to increasing spending to this amount, though Mr Starmer hasn’t given a specific timescale for this and said only that he would do so “as soon as resources allow”. The Conservatives have pledged to do this by 2030. 

The Prime Minister also claimed “we’ve halved crime” when questioned on the Conservatives’ record in office over the past 14 years. Both Mr Sunak and policing minister Chris Philp have made similar claims several times before.

The claim is based on specific data from the crime survey for England and Wales (CSEW) which doesn't count fraud or computer misuse offences, so doesn't represent all crime.  

The latest survey data from December 2023 estimated that fraud and computer misuse accounted for 4.3 million of 8.4 million total offences. Compared with December 2022, fraud decreased by 16% and computer misuse increased by 29%.

There’s no comparable CSEW data including fraud and computer misuse offences from 2010, because the way the data was collected changed in 2015. Excluding these crimes, the survey estimated 9.7 million offences had occurred in 2010, compared with 4.1 million in 2023, which roughly equates to the 50% fall the Prime Minister referred to.

The CSEW currently records offences such as theft, robbery, criminal damage, fraud, computer misuse and violence with or without injury. Experiences of sexual assaults, stalking and harassment are presented separately.

22 May 2024, 6.33pm

It’s 4 July! How we’ll be fact checking the general election

It’s official—after months of speculation, we now know that the general election will be on 4 July.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has just announced the date in a short, and rain-soaked, Downing Street speech—you can watch what he had to say here. Labour has released a video with a message from party leader Sir Keir Starmer, while other politicians including SNP leader John Swinney and Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey have also reacted to the news. 

General elections are a big deal at Full Fact, as this round-up of what we did last time around shows. And we’ve been gearing up to fact check the 2024 general election for some time—not least with the launch of this politics blog last autumn. We’ll be updating it much more regularly in the coming days and using it as a hub for much of our election content.

In recent weeks we’ve also published a number of pre-election explainers, covering topics such as the asylum backlog, NHS waiting lists and the size of the armed forces in-depth. We’ll be doing much more of this in the coming weeks.

As the campaign unfolds, we’ll be significantly increasing our politics coverage and fact checking key moments as they occur. We’ll be scrutinising party manifestos as they are published, and if there are TV debates between the party leaders, we’ll be ‘live fact checking’, with a team of fact checkers looking at claims in real time. And we’ll be keeping a close eye on claims made online, including political ads. 

We’d like your help to do this too. If you can afford to, then donating to our General Election Crowdfunder will help us fact check the election at a scale never seen before. And if you’ve spotted a claim you’d like us to look at, please do let us know

The next few weeks are going to be busy…

22 May 2024, 2.51pm

Government’s record on poverty depends on which measure you use

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, Rishi Sunak claimed the government has “reduced not just the number of people living in poverty but the number of children living in poverty”.

As we’ve explained before, including when the Prime Minister made a similar claim earlier this month, whether this is correct depends on which poverty measure you use.

The Department for Work and Pensions publishes figures on two different poverty measures—absolute and relative poverty—expressed before and after housing costs. We’ve written more about how poverty is measured here.

The latest figures show the number of people in absolute poverty after housing costs decreased from 13.1 million in 2009/10 to 12 million in 2022/23, while absolute poverty before housing costs also decreased, from 9.9 million to 9.5 million, over the same period.

However, the number of people in relative poverty increased over this period from 13.5 million to 14.3 million after housing costs, and from 10.4 million to 11.4 million before housing costs.

The number of children in absolute poverty after housing costs meanwhile fell from 3.7 million in 2009/10 to 3.6 million in 2022/23. 

But the equivalent figure before housing costs shows an increase since 2009/10, from 2.5 million to 2.6 million. 

The number of children in relative poverty has increased between 2009/10 and 2022/23, both after housing costs (from 3.9 million to 4.3 million), and before housing costs (from 2.6 million to 3.2 million). 

Looking at year on year change, the number of children in poverty has increased under all measures in 2022/23 compared to the previous year, while the overall number of people in poverty increased under all measures except relative poverty after housing costs.

16 May 2024, 4.56pm

There seemed to be another mixup over the NHS waiting list on Today this morning

Labour’s national campaign coordinator, Pat McFadden MP, told Amol Rajan on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme [2:10:30] this morning: “We’ve got nudging eight million people on waiting lists at the moment.”

Later in the interview, Mr Rajan said: “There’s 7.5 million people in total waiting for procedures and appointments.”

Given the numbers they used, and some of the other statistics Mr Rajan quoted, it sounds like they were talking about NHS England’s referral to treatment (RTT) waiting times data, which is very often called “the NHS waiting list”. 

If so, they both made a common mistake, which we have written about many times, by mixing up the number of cases on the list (about 7.5 million in the latest data) with the number of individual people (about 6.3 million). There are always more cases than people, because some people are awaiting treatment for more than one thing, but we did not know how many more until November 2023, when NHS England began to publish an estimate for the number of people.

The RTT data doesn’t quite show the whole picture, however, as there are several other types of waiting list within the NHS. 

In April 2024, the Office for National Statistics published survey data it collected in January and February showing that about 21% of adults in England said they were “currently waiting for a hospital appointment, test, or to start receiving medical treatment through the NHS”. That suggests that about 9.7 million adults in England were waiting for something on the NHS at the beginning of the year—an estimate that is even higher than the ones quoted by Mr McFadden and Mr Rajan.

16 May 2024, 3.08pm

General Election Crowdfunder 2024: can you help us fact check the election?

At Full Fact we’re getting ready to fact check the general election, and this week saw the launch of our General Election 2024 Crowdfunder.

Whether it’s one party making false claims about another’s policies, AI-generated deep fake videos showing candidates saying things they didn’t, or social media posts feeding users tailored facts on divisive issues, misinformation will influence the way some people vote in this year’s general election, or whether they vote at all. 

The volume of misinformation we are anticipating is unprecedented, but Full Fact has the experience and expertise (built up over four general elections and three referendums) to fact check the election at a scale never seen before. 

As well as fact checking false or misleading claims, we’ll be writing about how elections work, and publishing explainers on topics likely to feature in the parties’ campaigns. 

If you can help fund our biggest ever team of fact checkers, please give to the Crowdfunder today. It’s a great time to do so, as the first £25,000 of donations will be doubled by a matching pot. 

With your support, our work can reach millions of people, ensuring that voters in every constituency can make informed choices on the issues that matter to them.

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