At Prime Minister’s Questions this week, responding to a question about the Government’s top-down reorganisation of the NHS, David Cameron said that hospital “waiting times are down”. Yet official figures show that the number of patients not being treated within 18 weeks has soared by 43% since the coalition took office.
This error was a big whopper by David Cameron, but it is not especially unusual for his outings at PMQs. As Jason Beattie revealed in the Mirror last week, when it comes to playing fast and loose with the truth, this prime minister has form. At PMQs on 25 January, Cameron wrongly claimed that “there are more people in work today than there were at the time of the last election”. In fact, the Office for National Statistics says there are now 26,000 fewer people in work than at the last election. Again on the 25 January, Cameron wrongly claimed that disabled children would not have their benefits cut, despite a Department for Work and Pensions’ assessment on the new universal credit showing that the rate paid to disabled children will fall from £53.84 to £26.75 a week.
It is not difficult to find other recent examples. Last September, the Prime Minister claimed that “since the election there are 500,000 more jobs in the private sector”. However, you can only get to this figure by including the whole of the second quarter of 2010, including April 2010, when Labour was still in power. According to the Office for National Statistics, 129,000 jobs were created in April 2010 – before the election. The hard truth for the Government is that over the last three months, for every job being created in the private sector, 13 are being lost in the public sector.
It seems that Cameron either cannot be bothered to do the work and get his facts right, or he is simply happy to be deliberately misleading. This matters because it tells a story about what sort of a prime minister we have. It absolutely speaks to his character. Week after week, at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron is revealed to be arrogant, disingenuous and out of touch. And if you want further evidence, here are ten more “whoppers” from Cameron:
Ten more whoppers from Cameron at PMQs:
30 March 2011: Getting his facts wrong on university funding
David Cameron said that “because of the system we’re introducing we will actually be spending more overall on universities, that’s right”. In fact, the Spending Review set out a 40% cut in the overall resource budget for Higher Education by 2014-15.
9 March 2011: Getting his facts wrong on per pupil funding
David Cameron said that “the per pupil funding that is in place is not going down and is being maintained”. In fact, according to theIFS, rising pupil numbers mean that average spending per pupil will fall in real terms by 0.6% per year, or by 2.15% over four years.
25 January 2012: Getting his facts wrong on bank lending
David Cameron said that the Merlin agreement between the Government and the banks “actually led to an increase in bank lending last year”. In fact, the latest Trends in Lending report from the Bank of England said that “the stock of lending to SMEs contracted between end-April and end-November 2011”.
9 February 2011: Getting his facts wrong on the Sure Start budget
David Cameron said that “the budget [for Sure Start] is going from £2,212 million to £2,297 million”. In fact, the budget he was referring to is falling by 10.9% between 2010-11 and 2011-12.
7 September 2011: Getting his facts wrong on the Winter Fuel Payment
David Cameron claimed that the Government was “going ahead with the winter fuel payment set out by the previous Labour Government in their Budget”. In fact, Labour never had the opportunity to set a Budget for 2011/12. George Osborne’s March 2011 Budget indicated that the winter fuel payment would revert to £200 for the over 60s and £300 for the over 80s in the winter of 2011-12 – a cut of £50 and £100 respectively.
6 July 2011: Getting his facts wrong on what his office knew about Andy Coulson
David Cameron said that the information his office had been given about Andy Coulson by the Guardian in February 2010 “contained no allegations directly linking Andy Coulson to illegal behaviour”. In fact, the information related to unpublished material suggesting that Coulson, as editor of the News of the World, had knowingly hired a private investigator who was involved with corrupt police officers. The Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, said: “The prime minister’s account of why he failed to act on the information we passed his office in February 2010 is highly misleading.”
15 June 2011: Getting his facts wrong on benefit cuts for cancer patients
David Cameron said that Ed Miliband was wrong to claim that 7,000 cancer patients would lose out as a result of the Government’s proposed changes to Employment Support Allowance, by arguing that “our definition of ‘terminally ill’ is exactly the same as the one used by the last Government”. But in fact, Ed Miliband was right about the impact of the changes. The issue had nothing to do with terminal illness and as his own minister Chris Grayling conceded, it “is not related to recovery times or to estimates of how long it takes to get over cancer”.
16 March 2011: Getting his facts wrong on council funding cuts
David Cameron said that Manchester city council’s funding is being cut by “less than my council”. In fact, for 2011/12, Manchester City Council’s formula grant has been cut by £43.26 million, while Cameron’s local West Oxfordshire council’s formula grant has fallen by £0.71m.
25 January 2012: Getting his facts wrong on children in workless households
David Cameron 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.
7 September 2011: Getting his facts wrong on child poverty
David Cameron said that “in better economic times, under the previous Government, child poverty actually went up”. In fact, according to the latest DWP figures, Labour lifted 900,000 children out of relative poverty and 2 million children out of absolute poverty between 1998/99 and 2009/10.
Michael Dugher is Labour MP for Barnsley East and shadow minister without portfolio