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Home / Latest News / Statistics… and the damned lies of our politicians

Statistics… and the damned lies of our politicians

Far be it from me to compare our PM and ministers like
Iain Duncan Smith and the oleaginous Grant Shapps to the late and very much
unlamented Adolf.

But they do have one thing in common. Hitler is supposed to
have said: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will
be believed.”

And clearly, our leaders and their attack dogs of the right
wing media agree. On everything from welfare to immigration, from the disabled
to the BBC and NHS, they peddle half-truths and distortions always backed up by
carefully-selected statistics. A more consummate politician than any on offer
today told us all we need to know about statistics. Said Disraeli: “There are
three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

So don’t fall for it when Cameron rattles off the figures on
unemployment or NHS investments or, come to think of it, anything else. His
minions are at it as well. Grant Shapps, the party’s co-chairman, a figure who
reminds me in so many ways of the serial fibber and conman Jeffrey Archer,
recently claimed “almost a million people” on incapacity benefits had dropped
claims and started looking for work rather than face a work capacity committee.

Ah yes, statistics. The true figure, said investigators, was
more like 19,000. Shapps has form. When Housing Minister, his department tried
to cover up correspondence showing he was misleading MPs over house-building
numbers. Andrew Dilnot, of the UK Housing Authority, decided that “as so often
in the public debate, Mr Shapps may have subjected the statistics to selective
use.”  

Iain Duncan Smith, Minister for Work and Pensions, is
another. When planting the poisonous idea that all benefits claimants are
shirkers, he conveniently forgets to mention that seven million of his workers
are entitled to working tax credits  –
because the low pay his party espouses is simply not enough to live on. The
answer is not to cut benefits but to raise wages. And not a minimum wage but a
living wage and an end to the disgusting zero-hours contracts taking us back to
the days when men waited outside the dock gates, desperate for a shift, but too
often turned away.

(In passing, on his first trip to Wales as a minister, the
unctuous IDS told Merthyr’s unemployed they should take a bus to find work in
Cardiff. That’s how out of touch he was. And is).

These days the Tories seem to revel in their reputation as
“the nasty party.” Homelessness is a huge and increasing problem but their
attitude hasn’t changed since Sir George Young, Old Etonian baronet and new
Chief Whip, summed it up years ago. “The homeless?” he asked. “Aren’t they the
people you step over when you come out of the opera?” Not long ago George
backed a move by Westminster Council to stop handing out food to the homeless,
with the threat of fines for those who did.

Meanwhile, one of IDS’ 
ministers, Lord Freud, claims that his master’s benefit cuts are not
connected to the increasing use of food banks. Oh, no! “More people use food
banks,” he insists, “because more of them exist.” The subliminal message: so
they can spend their benefits on booze and betting and drugs instead of grub.
Before the election 30,000 used them. Now charities say close to 500,000 depend
on them. Blimey, half a million boozers, gamblers  and addicts.

But the nastiest example of all is the campaign against
immigrants, from the despicable poster vans warning  people of the risk of staying here illegally to the spot-checks
at train stations where, it’s claimed, only non-white passengers were being
stopped.  But this is not because of
illegal immigration. It’s because the Government fears Ukip’s stand on
immigration is wooing Tory voters,  a
cynical political gimmick with another echo of Hitlerian times – racial
stereotyping.

I am not religious but I have to say that our new religious
leaders are doing what our political leaders emphatically refuse to do. Pope
Francis and Justin Welby are showing infinitely more compassion for and
understanding of the poor than our politicians. Each looks intent on reforming
his church. High time our leaders were told to reform their approach to
politics.

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