Friday, October 22, 2010

Odious little man

Full Fact is currently ploughing through Gurning Gideon's Big Tory Cutathon. First up are his claims about welfare and employment. And of four statements of fact analysed, one was true. One. Out of four. That's about 25%, George.

"In the last three months alone," he smugged, "the economy created 178,000 jobs." For a given value of 'the economy created' (25,000 of those were people registering as unpaid family workers, while a further 43,000 registered as self-employed), that number is accurate. So, well done. Pats on the back and cheers all round. Oh, you already did that.

The other three statements were about benefits. My word, these Tories hate people having benefits, don't they? Full Fact is rather charitable on these, giving Gideon the benefit of the doubt - doubt which he created with his imprecise use of language. For example...

"The benefit bill of a single out-of-work family," he snorted, "has amounted to the tax bills of 16 working families put together." How precise. And at the same time, how imprecise. Is it 16 average families? Or 16 high-earning families? Or 16 low-earning families? Let's assume he means the average. Full Fact does the math(s): On average, each taxpayer contributed £12,180 in taxation in 2009/10 - about £5,000 in income tax and the rest in VAT, fuel duty and the like. Multiply that by 16 and you get £194,880. 

Then remember that the current political buzzword is WORKING FAMILIES, and that working families have two adults earning. So double that figure and the grand total for the average tax bill of 16 families is.......

...... £389,760.

So a single out-of-work family gets the best part of £400,000 in benefits a year.

Bollocks they do. 

Full Fact highlights a story in the Telegraph about a family getting £147,000 in housing benefit for a seven-bedroom home. Shock horror. Presumably they had quite a few kids. But even this kind of sneering story doesn't come close to £389,760. Even if they were claiming all the other benefits to which they were entitled, this family's 'benefits bill' would have been £155,639.

Gideon, I'll give you a hint here: £155,639 is less than £389,760. A lot less.

"Benefit bills," he puked, "have soared by 45% under the previous government." Depends how you look at it - you can manipulate the figures to give you 45%, but you have to ignore such things as the meaning of the word 'benefits'. Factor in the pesky English language and you get less than 20%. Again, imprecise language (catch-all terms like 'benefit bills' can mean a number of things) is Gideon's saviour.

But when he jizzed: "Nor will fraud in the welfare system be tolerated... We estimate that £5bn is being lost this way each year," he messed up. £5.2bn is lost to the welfare system each year, but most of that (£3.7bn) is down to error on the part of the Government or the claimants. And that is a gross figure - the estimated underpayments (according to, erm, the Government) in 2009-10 amounted to £1.3bn. So the amount lost to benefit fraud is £1.5bn, but the Government almost makes up for that by underpaying people £1.3bn.

"Full Fact will write to the Chancellor to highlight this mistake and request that the record is amended to reflect this," says a rather naive fact-checking website. It wasn't a mistake, it was a lie - part of the Big Lie that anyone who claims benefit is either a scrounger or a fraud. 


  1. The one that really sticks in my craw - if I have one - is the announcement that extremely severely disabled people, so severely disabled that they have to have residential care, are going to lose their last vestige of independent action by having their Mobility Allowance taken away. No attempted justification (even GG couldn't mange to label them work-shy benefit cheats who need to be encouraged to enter the labour market). No apology. It almost makes me want o get involved in politics again.

    (this from Peter not Alison...)

  2. Well if you want to practise at being involved in politics where nobody will see, commenting on a blog nobody reads under an assumed name is a very good start.

  3. You have at least one other reader here aswell