The least you can expect from a Prime Minister is to be able to answer questions with factual accuracy. The kind explanation is that he believes his own spin that’s not just complacency that’s dangerous for the future of this country. The alternative that he is just making it up as he goes along or deliberately misleading the public is worse.
I rarely post on national politics but this takes the biscuit. Last night while working through council emails I put PMQs on the iplayer, and my ears pricked up a couple of times. If the number of work-less households had really doubled under Labour it surely would have been in the news and certainly in the Conservatives election literature many many times. But of course the number actually fell by 372,000. That was numerically the biggest mistake. But to say there are more people in work than at the election (May 2010) also sounded suspect to me. Sure enough not only is there higher unemployment but the number of those employed has fallen by 26,000.
There were other factual errors as well, like denying that any disabled children would have their support cut. Ed Miliband has written to the Prime Minister asking him to correct the record.
I don’t expect to agree with much from Conservative politicians and I’m always ready to debate them but I would expect that decent Conservatives will be hugely embarrassed not just by the Cameron’s performance at PMQs (frankly he was always going to have a hard time defending his economic policy and the assault on the NHS) but by his lack of reality based answers.
The text of Ed Miliband’s letter is below:
Dear Prime Minister,
I wanted to write following this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions to draw your attention to some inaccurate claims you made today.
In an answer to me, you said that “There are more people in work today than there were at the time of the last election”. In fact, the most recent employment figures from the Office for National Statistics show that total employment between May-July 2010 and September-November 2011 fell by 26,000.
In an answer to Lindsay Roy MP, you said that the Merlin agreement “actually led to an increase in bank lending last year”. In fact, the latest Trends in Lending report from the Bank of England, published last Friday, said that “the stock of lending to SMEs contracted between end-April and end-November 2011”.
In an answer to Paul Maynard MP, you spoke of “the real shame… that there are so many millions of children who live in households where nobody works and indeed that number doubled under the previous government”. In fact, according to the Office for National Statistics, the number of children living in workless households fell by 372,000 between April-June 1997 and April-June 2010.
In an answer to Rt Hon Anne McGuire MP, who said that your Government was planning to cut benefits to disabled children, you said that “The Hon Lady is wrong”. In fact, according to page 28 of the Department for Work and Pensions’ own impact assessment on the introduction of universal credit, your policy of mirroring for disabled children the current adult eligibility for Disability Living Allowance means that the rate paid to those disabled children who do not qualify for the highest rate of the DLA care component “would be less than now (£26.75 instead of £53.84)”.
I am sure that you will want to take this opportunity to correct the record.