(If, once you’ve read this article, you want to complain to the Ofcom about the Tories’ lie in their broadcast, you can do so here – please do!)
Some years ago, I was in the US and turned on the TV to see an advert for a US car – I think it was a big multi-person vehicle. I knew already that advertising rules are considerably slacker in the US than in the UK, but what I saw and heard still made my mouth fall open.
The makers of this vehicle were pulling a not-very-subtle con on viewers through the phrasing of their claims, which went something like this (in a typical US announcer’s voice together with screen text over footage of their vehicle splashing through pools etc):
Rated #1 against the Dodge Blahblahblah for fuel efficiency!
Rated #1 against the Chrysler Gobbledegook for in-ride comfort!
Rated #1 against the Chevy Whogivesadamn for accessories as standard!
Rated #1 against the GM Pylacrap for crash safety!
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Until you realise that they’re only saying that their vehicle managed to beat one other vehicle – and only in that particular category! Put in less dishonest terms, the ad would have said:
Worse than every other car (because we’d tell you if there was another one!) for fuel efficiency – except the Dodge Blahblahblah!
Worse than every other car except the Chrysler Gobbledegook for in-ride comfort!
Worse than every other car except the Chevy Whogivesadamn for accessories as standard!
Worse than every other car except the GM Pylacrap for crash safety!
(Model names are – of course – completely made up and not intended to imply anything about the selected brands!)
This has long been one of my favourite examples of how deceptively facts can be phrased in order to give a completely misleading impression.
The Tories have plenty of ‘form’ for this kind of weaseling. For example, back in November, Treasury Minister Sajid Javid deliberately chose a misleadingly-low starting point – which had been achieved by Labour – in order to create a false impression and accuse Labour of a huge increase in youth unemployment.
Well, in last night’s party political broadcast by the Conservative party, David Cameron combined one prize example of this kind of weasel-speak with such a blatant, outright lie that even the dyed-blue Tory magazine The Spectator felt it had to slap him down and call him a liar:
What was Cameron’s lie? Well, the outright one that The Spectator was slapping him down for was simple. In his propaganda piece, Cameron said:
So though this government has had to make some difficult decisions, we are making progress. We are paying down Britain’s debts
This is simply not true. In the 2nd quarter of 2010, just after the last general election, the UK’s debt was £811.3 billion, or 55.3% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At the end of 2012, it had risen to £1,111.4 billion, or 70.7% of GDP. In cash terms and as a percentage of GDP, debt has risen dramatically under the Tory-led coalition.
‘Paying down the debt’ means reducing the debt. Mr Cameron told a blatant lie in a desperate attempt to mislead the public and shore up its crumbling support for himself and his party of ‘arrogant posh boys’.
But that wasn’t the only misleading statement. In the video, Cameron also says:
Footage then follows of numerous gullible members of the public saying variations of ‘Wow, how fantastic!‘ But this is where the ‘rated #1 against…’ nonsense is brought into play.
Here, courtesy of the Guardian website, is a graph showing the UK’s deficit for the last 30-odd years. Remember, we’re talking of the deficit here and not the debt – the deficit is the overspend in any given year, not the cumulative total debt.
The two yellow boxes, which I’ve added to the image, highlight first the deficit under the Tory government that preceded Labour’s 1997 win; and second the deficit under Labour’s government and the deficit under the coalition.
Note that, from 1997 until 2007, Labour’s deficit was lower than the peak under the preceding Tory government – and Labour even ran a surplus for 4 of those years.
Then, in 2008, because of the financial crisis and the bank bailout, Labour’s deficit rose – but even in 2008, in the midst of the crisis, it was only around half of the deficit in either of the years under the coalition so far. In 2009/10, as the global crisis continued to worsen, it rose to a high of £156 billion.
And, of course, this is the year the Tories choose as their benchmark for their ‘25% reduction’ claims – one, single, exceptional year which they use to paint the entire, 13-year period of Labour government.
Factual, of course – but still completely misleading and deeply dishonest. Just like those US car ads.
That car manufacturer was hoping to find an audience of ‘suckers’, people who wouldn’t have the wit or perception to realise the scam that was being perpetrated on them.
Exactly what Cameron was hoping in his broadcast last night. Let’s make sure we don’t let him get away with it.