‘Love letters’ to a Tory MP re govt’s lying habit

A little while ago, I invited readers to write to their MP about the persistent, shameful lying of Work and Pensions Secretary Ian (Duncan) Smith and his department, the DWP, about statistics on disabled people and their benefit claims.

Some fantastic letters were sent, and some ludicrous responses received from Tory MPs, which I will turn into an article. But one reader’s correspondence to his MP has become too long, and too good, to simply add an extract into a larger post – so I invited the author to write it up as a guest article for this blog. I’m very glad that he accepted the invitation and am very proud to offer you the resulting article, which I think is so good that he should have his own blog (but I’m pleased the SKWAWKBOX got this before he starts!). Please read – and then please share, as I’m sure you’ll agree it deserves to be widely read:

‘Love Letters to Andrew’

I first heard the pronouncement that Iain Duncan Smith’s ‘get tough’ policy had scared away 1 million fraudulent benefit claims through ‘mainstream’ media. It was one of way too many ‘wtf’ moments.  Another shoulder slumping ‘how do they get away with it’ slap in the face.
Which probably would have ended there if I hadn’t followed a link to this post:  http://skwawkbox.org/2013/06/01/we-did-it-tories-now-spanked-by-uksa-for-blatant-esa-distortion/ and the follow up post asking for readers to write to their MP.
Like many, my first thought at the suggestion of writing to my MP was ‘what’s the point, what difference will my tuppence worth make?’  Well, it makes more difference than keeping quiet.  Let me explain.
Part of that difference might be lending moral support (and encouragement) to The Skwawkbox Blog, Vox Political and Scriptonite Daily (to name only a few).  Another part might be encouraging others to write, to recognise that your voice and, more relevantly, your opinion matters and matters just as much as anyone else’s, including your MP, the PM and the guy who works down the chip shop, swears he’s Elvis and only ever reads the headlines and Page 3.
All these opinions have equal weight in a democracy.  I know, that’s the theory.  The practice…?
Well, the practice is pretty much the same… the difference is how an opinion is formed, or persuaded.  For example, Elvis down the chip shop can’t be bothered forming an opinion, he’d rather just be given one, preferably as a side order to Kylie from Cheltenham.  Me, I prefer to form my own even if, for all the time and effort it takes, it rewards with a disappointingly low nipple count.
Which brings me to a crucial factor in my decision to write to my MP.
I remind you that hearing the press release pronouncement was a big ‘wtf’ moment.  It so obviously couldn’t be true.  It read like a parody, a satire or perhaps a transcript of Iain Duncan Smith’s favourite wet dream. 
Yet it was being taken seriously, it was being presented as a government assured, gold plated, bet your house on it truth.  It was substantiated by senior government officials who surely, if they had even half a wit, would have checked the facts behind such a too good be true windfall. 
I mean, it would be career suicide if this turned out to be a mistake.  Wouldn’t it?  Surely they couldn’t get away with something that screamingly outrageously incompetent?  They wouldn’t be that stupid… would they?
Whatever, rather than just presume it was a lie, I checked.  I took the time and effort the Elvae and Elvisses wouldn’t. 
Of course, it wasn’t true.  And, of course, to date, despite the staggering degree of incompetence and/or negligence or, heaven forbid, deliberate dishonesty, there have been no career suicides as a result. 
However, neither the absence of truth nor the lack of career suicides due to incompetence is the real concern behind my ‘Letters to Andrew’.  My concern is that rather than being any kind of mistake or negligence, this was a deliberate and dishonest manipulation of public opinion.  Those behind this press release knew exactly what they were doing and knew they’d (most likely) get away with it. 
They knew whatever retraction or apology might be made, it would pass unnoticed, without fuss.  All the Elvis and all the Elvae will, to this day, believe this government lie.  A lie that will skew the weight of public opinion into the hands of dishonest, dishonourable conmen.
But that’s just my opinion.  What’s yours?  Why not let your MP know, it just might help rebalance the weight of public opinion from the deceived to the informed.
For the record, while incompetence and negligence are (scarily) the least of my concerns, they may well be the most effective argument for action against those responsible for this reprehensible press release.
What follows is what happened when I wrote to my MP, Dr Andrew Murrison, asking him to make a stand on my behalf against the DWP press release. 
Saturday 1 June 2013
Dear Andrew Murrison,
I would like to draw your attention to the information outlined in the following; http://skwawkbox.org/2013/06/01/we-did-it-tories-now-spanked-by-uksa-for-blatant-esa-distortion/
In brief, the linked article outlines a cynical deception perpetrated by Iain Duncan Smith and Grant Schapps in order to justify what can now only be described as ideological attacks against the vulnerable.
I’m calling on you to ensure that both IDS and Schapps are held properly and fully to account for their dishonesty, their manipulation, the abuse of their privilege and their contempt of parliament.
Theirs is not the kind of behaviour we demand from those we ‘elect’ to positions of power and responsibility.
Neither do we, the electorate, expect such behaviour to be tolerated, let alone condoned by either action or inaction of others in a position and with a duty to act honestly, fairly, honourably and in the interests of all the citizenry.
I very much look forward to hearing that you have taken the lead in both publicly condemning their behaviour and ensuring that proper action is taken.
Iain Duncan Smith and Grant Schapps must be made accountable for both their deception and the consequences of decisions made based on their misrepresentation of statistics.
To which, on the 6th June, I was sent this reply… a ‘form letter’:
Dr Murrison thanks you very much for your email and has asked me to let you know that he will respond to your concerns as soon as he can.
Best wishes
(name removed)

PA to Andrew Murrison MD MP

Serving South West Wiltshire

House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

Constituency Office, Suite 1, Holloway House,

Epsom Square, White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge BA14 0XG

Tel: 01225 358584 Fax: 01225 358583


website: http://www.andrewmurrison.co.uk twitter: murrisonMP
I waited…
No further news.  On the 11th June I sent a follow up;
“This is becoming an increasingly serious matter as David Cameron has re-joined the misrepresentation game with his claims over NHS spending.
This behaviour is not only a disgrace, it undermines the very fabric of democracy. As my political representative, please advise when I can expect action demonstrating that you do not and will not condone this appalling deceit?
If you intend dodging the issue with ‘assurances’ that the underlying policies are working, then also provide proper, un-tampered, evidence to support your claims. And then explain why you’re allowing this behaviour to continue.”
12th June
Didn’t think it was going to go well… he is a Minister.  Andrew Murrison’s response to my letter.
“Thank you. I’m not familiar with the blog you’ve sent me but do not agree that my colleagues engage in ‘cynical deception’ and ‘dishonesty.’ Since I’m also a minister in this government, an attack on them is also an attack on me and I would resent such accusations and refute them.

Andrew Murrison”
I quickly replied:
“Thank you for your reply. Even if it does nothing to amend my perception of those concerned and even less to alleviate my concerns.
Details about the misrepresentation/distortion of statistics are fully outlined in the previously linked blog.
The page includes the response from Andrew Dilnot, Chair of the UK Statistics Authority alongside a copy of the grossly misleading DWP press release (which, having served its purpose, has since been hidden from public view).
I also refer you to the following BBC news report.
“Shadow work and pensions secretary Liam Byrne said: “This is a government that doesn’t like to let the facts get in the way of a good story… but it really is outrageous that the Tories have been caught yet again misusing statistics for their own ends.” ”
I also refer you to this headline from Dec 2012 (from the Telegraph)
“The chairman of the authority, Andrew Dilnot, issued the rebuke after upholding a complaint by Labour about statements by the Prime Minister and other senior Tories.”
Despite this official rebuke, I now refer you to PMQs on Wednesday 5th June 2013 during which Cameron twice repeated the (officially false) claims that NHS spending was up.
I’m very well aware that, for many politicians, ‘massaging’ statistics combined with careful, considered phraseology, allusion and sub text are all part and parcel of the ‘political’ process. That this practice is, in some quarters, admired and considered acceptable persuasion rather than devious, deceptive and damaging manipulation.
Maybe I’m old fashioned but I stand in the quarter that values a more noble approach to leadership.
Perhaps, after considering the news reports and the rebukes from the UK Statistics Office you might recognise that there are occasions, such as these, when rhetoric (or ambition.. or self preservation) overstep the bounds of even political debate.
Best wishes
John Le Brocq”
14th June
Andrew’s response… it took longer to read his ‘titles’ than his message.
“Thank you, but spending on the NHS is up!
Dr Andrew Murrison
MP for South West Wiltshire

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence

Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the Great War”
My reply;
“Hi Andrew,
NHS spending is up…? Err, no. Not in real terms (when adjusted for inflation) and especially not after the ‘clawbacks’ – £2.2 Billion last year – which is up on the approx. £1.5 Billion in the previous year.
Best wishes
Not sure we’re actually on first name terms (yet), just testing the water ;-)
19th June.
Andrew replies.
“There’s been a cash terms increase unlike other departments which have necessarily been cut thanks to the financial situation we inherited.

Andrew Murrison”
Turns out we’re not on first name terms.
My reply;
“Entirely misses the point and… really, is that the best you can offer?
It still amounts to a real world cut, is contrary to policy ‘promises’ and
the exact opposite of the impression Cameron and Hunt contrived to imply until they were ordered to stop making false claims (see previous link to the telegraph’s news report).
Do we really need a watchdog to step in and order public servants to stop perverting the truth? Have we sunk that low?
I don’t suppose you’d have a comment to make on today’s news about the investigation into the DWP, David Halpern and the misuse of psychometric testing?
The logic behind any claim that the NHS budget hasn’t been cut is perverse and destructive. It’s almost as perverse as claiming that benefit cuts ‘make work pay’. They don’t. Increased pay and conditions make work pay. Jobs make work pay. Benefit cuts just make poverty, hunger and homelessness.
By the way, please don’t insult me by defending the latest fact twisting claims that poverty has been alleviated for 100,000 people.
I’ve seen the methodology behind the calculations showing that, yet again, the truth is the exact opposite. Rather than any reduction in poverty, average living standards have been significantly reduced to such a degree that ‘relative poverty’ can be made (if you’re so perversely inclined) to appear lessened.
Poverty isn’t a relative statistic, it’s the absence of life’s necessities.
Knowing your neighbour is also going hungry does not fill your stomach.
This government has simply made enough people poorer to skew the average and allow the DWP to make merry with their strange analysis. This government has not lifted anyone out of poverty, it’s brought a whole lot more into or closer to.
To date, in real terms, an additional 300,000 children have been
unnecessarily forced into poverty. It’s suggested this figure will reach 500,000 by 2015.
It’s that perverse logic at work again.
Sorry, the ‘poor me’ rhetoric of blaming the previous incompetents just doesn’t wash. Not least because the root of the financial ‘situation’ you ‘inherited’ lies with Thatcher and market deregulation, for example; http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7f8aaf08-a122-11e2-bae1-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2WeYhQMvt
And was then compounded by the inhumane nature, the entitlement ‘culture’ of greed and the opportunity for abuse within a system that demands ruthless self serving aggression from those it allows to ‘succeed’.
Rather than whine on about the other side’s failings, how about some action to correct the abuses of those who milk the nation’s wealth, effort and productivity from luxurious off shore tax havens?
I know it might appear easier to pick the pockets of the least represented, the weak and vulnerable, and to justify this by manipulating public opinion with the use of false statistics but… is that really what you signed up for?
In the long run even George ‘the destroyer’ Osborne will have to acknowledge that a poor, sick, homeless and hungry population is far more damaging to the nation than a few disgruntled dinner guests and even a couple of lost holiday invitations.
In brief, and to be clear, this isn’t about party politics. This is simply
one of your constituents asking their representative to stand up for an honourable, honest and proper approach to power, privilege and

responsibility. This is concern for the state of the nation.
It would appear I need to take my concerns elsewhere.
John Le Brocq”
At this point I’d decided the conversation was drawing to a close, I wasn’t expecting a reply… certainly not one that brought my responses back on track.  I should perhaps explain George ‘the destroyer’ Osborne, apparently ‘the destroyer’ is one meaning of George’s original christian name, now his middle name, ‘Gideon’.
20th June
From Andrew;
“Thank you. There is no need to be unpleasant. I have stated the facts and cannot be responsible for any impression you have gained from them. I think the points you are trying to make are polemic in nature and I suspect we are unlikely to be able to find common ground. Nevertheless, I’m grateful to you for letting me have your views.

Andrew Murrison”
My reply:
“You’re more than welcome although, I am sorry you found my approach unpleasant, it wasn’t intended as such – I was aiming for robust banter, something to help develop a dialogue beyond refutation.
Aren’t you just a bit concerned when such prominent and influential members of this government are officially cautioned for making false claims?

Concerned that these claims are given credibility (as press releases) and so erroneously influence public opinion? Not least because the corrections receive far less attention and the minister’s responsible have, so far, escaped any accountability for such actions.
Not to mention, you must be concerned when key policy decisions need to be justified by misrepresentation of their effectiveness and consequences?
Especially when emergency legislation needs to be drafted and applied retroactively as the only way to legitimise departmental behaviour?
For the Statistics Authority to issue such orders there has been either gross incompetence (by either the departments or ministers) and/or gross negligence (by senior advisors or ministers) or outrageous dishonesty.
None of which can be swept under the carpet if we are to ensure proper management of the nation’s concerns.
You see, I remain convinced that the common ground we share is a concern for the proper management of the nation and the well being of all the people.
As such, I’m similarly convinced that we would both recognise the need for any government (and its agents) to have sufficient strength of character to admit failings and amend policy rather than fudge statistics?
I do understand the difficulties you face, especially as a minister, in supporting my concern but, surely, your desire, as shown by your chosen profession and your previous career, is to serve the country above all else?
Aside from which, if the persons involved have nothing to hide, what harm would there be in raising the matters for full and proper examination?
On the other hand, if there is something ‘rotten in Denmark’, surely it would be crucial for the proper management of the country to ensure a full and proper investigation leading to actions within the bounds of both parliamentary procedure and expectations?
John Le Brocq”
Andrew’s reply came within just a few hours:
” I’m assuming you are equating official caution with comments made by the government statistician which is slightly different. The danger of stats as I know since I’ve used them rather a lot is that they can be used to say various things. My view is that authorities should not knowingly manipulate official figures to falsify positions.

Andrew Murrison”
My reply;
“Thank you, Andrew, I think you might be right.
I’m referring to statements – made by the UK Statistics Authority given Royal Assent to (in part) oversee the quality and integrity of statistics produced, quoted, used (or abused) by government departments.
I’m asking for action to be taken to put more weight behind the comments to ensure those responsible for misuse of statistics face official sanctions (which may be a caution or may be more severe).
So far as the dangers and flexible nature of statistics, I agree, there is often ‘wriggle room’. As a consequence, I thought long and hard before approaching you and pursuing this matter.
In these cases what we’re seeing goes far beyond ‘wriggle room’ – particularly in the case of Shapps, IDS and the conflation of “official statistics relating to new claimants of the ESA with official statistics on recipients of the incapacity benefit (IB) who are being migrated across to the ESA” – we’re seeing such a level of incompetence or negligence or dishonesty that it demands further action.
I’m not expecting you take my word for this, nor am I expecting you to personally undertake an investigation into exactly how, why and who was responsible. I’m simply asking that the matter is properly raised and addressed, that a prominent and public correction is made and that (after a suitable investigation is made) sufficient punitive action is taken against those responsible to ensure this misleading behaviour is stopped.
Andrew, the particular statistics in question represent the most vulnerable people in our community, people who demand the greatest duty of care, people in already fragile, sometimes desperate circumstances. Their lives are tough enough without the added burden of reckless misrepresentation.
All I’m asking is that you initiate action that ensures that duty of care is properly upheld.
John Le Brocq”
20th June
I was invited to turn the exchange into this guest post. 
I’ll keep you posted on any further action and leave you with the suggestion that, if you want proper political representation, you also begin a dialogue with your MP. 


  1. This is brilliant thanks Steve and Dave for his brilliant letters, which if it is okay may I copy some of Dave’s replies when and if my mp decides to reply to my emails. He did answer one of them by asking for my home address to prove I was a constituent, which I duly supplied but not heard anything even though I have sent followups asking for a reply, so if it is okay I will use one of John’s followups as it is far more eloquent than mine.

  2. They do like to play with words. Why can’t they just admit that they have been found out.
    I do hope that one day they are held accountable for the suffering they have caused. One can hope.

  3. Spending on the NHS dropped by nearly £1 billion in cash terms between 2010 and 2012: Spending for 2009-10 was 105.073 billion. For 2010-11 – 104.353 billion. For 2011-12 – 104.333 billion.
    I mentioned this in a comment following a request from a reader, after I reblogged ‘Cameron repeats his NHS £12.7bn lie in PMQs. Twice. Help shut him down.’
    Hope this helps.

  4. He actually said;

    “I have stated the facts and cannot be responsible for any impression you have gained from them. I think the points you are trying to make are polemic in nature and I suspect we are unlikely to be able to find common ground.”


    So it’s true, they do actually believe their own twisted bullshit. Amazing. Surely PhD psychiatrists would give their curly bits to be able to case study delusion on such a scale? It’s fascinating!

  5. You’ve done a great job, John. I’ve emailed my Labour MP about this and many other issues. He hasn’t yet replied on this issue and I think its time to get back to him. I’ve noticed that when I write about something controversial like this he often just sends a postcard acknowledging receipt and that’s the end of it. He’s never entered into any kind of dialogue. I’ve asked him many times to raise questions in parliament but he rarely gets up to speak. The only time he has in recent memory was at PMQs recently to ask if Cameron agreed with him that Bolton Wanderers were right to refuse sponsorship by a pay day loan company. I’ll keep plugging away but I doubt I’ll get anything going with him anyway near as fascinating as this brilliant correspondence.

  6. Credit to both of you. Most enjoyable read, just goes to prove that some of the wrong type of people seek election to parliament, and others who would do a brilliant job don’t. IMHO

  7. June 22nd
    From Andrew;
    Thank you although you’ll forgive me for pointing out that exploitation of any ‘wriggle room’ is not the preserve of the exclusively Conservative politicians you have cited. 45 minutes springs to mind….

    Dr Andrew Murrison
    MP for South West Wiltshire
    Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Defence
    Prime Minister’s Special Representative for the Centenary Commemoration of the Great War

    My reply;
    Andrew, I’m disappointed, I thought we understood this wasn’t about party politics.

    However, I will forgive. But.. only if you’re front and centre ensuring the same (or similar) mistake isn’t ever made again, front and centre ensuring those responsible for the DWP press release are held to account and front and centre ensuring a headline correction is made public.

    Beyond that I am grateful for your recognition and acknowledgement that exploitation has been at play. Not, of course, leading to the nature and scale of suffering you will have witnessed in Iraq. Saying that, linking these two events should not become an excuse to belittle the matter in hand.

    To reassure you that my motive is not party political but humanitarian, I’ve included (see below) a link to a very short film I made to mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq. A war that I resisted even more keenly than I now resist the brutally cruel, callous and inexcusable behaviour being taken against some of your constituents.

    To the matter at hand.

    I must say I am impressed that your personal response has continued and not resorted or succumbed to a form letter. But we still need to press further and then, maybe, between us, we can go some way towards mitigating the consequences of this reckless exploitation of the facts and the damage being done to members of your own constituency.

    Andrew, we need a champion, a brave Knight in shining armour to come forward and protect a defenceless body of people who have done no harm. Who are being forced to pay the full price for the mistakes of others. Mistakes that are unjustly leading to unimaginable fortunes that continue to grow despite a continuing global recession.

    The DWP press release falsely labelled and vilified hundreds of thousands of honest productive people as scrounging cheats when all they’d done was find a job. Most likely not a job that pays enough to abuse the system for their own end, simply the kind of job that keeps this country functioning. They’re doing their bit to help rebuild the economy that others destroyed and often doing so for less pay than the like of IDS claims (from their
    taxes) in expenses.

    Please, make a stand. We’ve seen all too clearly the consequences of allowing rotten apples at the top of tree to act with impunity and go on to create a trickle down culture of savage, self serving abuse.

    We’re living through such difficult times that we must not encourage
    incompetent, negligent nor especially dishonest behaviour to thrive in power. We both clearly know all to well what can happen when those in positions of responsibility and power come to believe they are beyond sanction.



  8. A very well done John. Brilliant challenges, well expressed and answered with an abysmal poverty of truth and honesty.
    If your MP is a medical doctor he should be struck off as he clearly does not have the capacity for caring that his mate, the dear Jeremia Hunt, expects, demands and insists that all clinicians in public service must have.
    Staggering hypocrisy laid bare. Why is it that this Government requires everyone else to be open and honest and to speak out when things are not right and the public are suffering, but have completely the opposite standards when it comes to their manipulation of truth and decency and completely failing to follow all accepted moral standards themselves?
    MPs are required to swear allegiance to the Monarch but not to the people. Time to change the rules. Time to change the Constitution.
    Time to change to balance of power in favour of the many and not the few.

  9. Curious… had a letter from a Senior Case Worker on behalf of Andrew… wonder if he knows?

    Anyway – first this new contribution – followed by my reply;

    From Senior Case Worker

    Good Afternoon Mr Le Brocq

    Thank you for contacting me about the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) use of statistics.

    The DWP is committed to transparency and makes available all of its key statistics to the public via its website. In addition the Department provides advice and support to help people understand and use them.

    The majority of the Department’s statistics have been formally assessed by the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) and have been designated as meeting the standards for National Statistics. The rest are in scope for assessment.

    You may be interested to learn that DWP introduced procedures for the publication of ad hoc statistical analyses in 2010, following a request from the UKSA to improve the accessibility of figures cited in press releases and ministerial Statements.

    Finally, the Work and Pensions Select Committee is currently examining the way DWP releases benefit statistics to the media, and I will await their findings with interest.

    Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

    Best Wishes

    Dr Andrew Murrison MP

    Sent on behalf of Dr Murrison MP
    Charlotte Melville-Kirk (Mrs) Senior Case Worker for
    Andrew Murrison MD MP Serving South West Wiltshire

    My Reply;
    Dear Charlotte,

    If the DWP are so committed to transparency maybe you could explain why they’re refusing FOI requests for statistics on the number deaths of recipients of Incapacity benefit (now ESA) and Severe Disablement Allowance. You might also explain why they have decided to stop collecting these figures.

    Then, you might read my original letter and let me know when Andrew will be taking a stand against the misuse of statistics rather than waxing lyrical about their availability.

    You might be interested to learn that UKSA have formally rebuked and instructed Duncan Smith, Shapps, Hunt and Cameron to stop misinterpreting and misrepresenting statistics to both parliament and the public through press releases. For which Iain Duncan Smith will face questions by the Works and Pensions Committee in September.

    Not that I expect any better a response than the one he gave on the Today programme during which he, Iain Duncan Smith, as good as said the facts don’t matter anyway because he believes himself to be right. Well, sorry to burst that bubble but government isn’t religion, the facts do matter.

    Not that I’m trying to make a nuisance.. actually, quite seriously, I’m not trying to make a nuisance or annoy anyone, honest, god forbid. I’m simply very concerned at the contribution this level misrepresentation of statistical analysis from high office, under the guise of authority has on the, frankly disturbing, level of general ignorance.


    ‘Hetan Shah, executive director of the Royal Statistical Society, said: … “politicians need to be better at talking about the real state of affairs of the country, rather than spinning the numbers.” ‘

    While I do understand that this kind of public ignorance has helped push through most, if not all, of this government’s policies, it does and should beg the question “why are the public being so consistently misled by government ministers and, what kind of damage is this false state of affairs doing to the country?”.


    John Le Brocq

    Also – just had an immediate response from Charlotte – I say response, not reply, because it was an exact copy of the first response.

  10. Charlotte has replied… with the promise of a reply.

    Good Morning Mr Le Brocq

    Thank you for your response emails.

    Dr Murrison will write to the minister requesting he addresses the points you make. Once a reply is received I will ensure you receive a copy of the letter.

    Kind Regards


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