Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tories lying about pensioners

Via Guido, the Tories have just produced an Annual Report on Gordon Brown, which you can download here. This is part of their strategy of ending Punch and Judy politics attacking him personally.

It is clearly a compilation of everything that the Tories think is bad about Gordon Brown, in a sort of 'let's throw in everything regardless of importance or coherence' kind of way. So, for example, one of the criticisms of him is that he wished Scotland good luck in a football match, but then they got beaten by the reigning world champions Italy, and another is that he pursued policies which the European Commission didn't like. Another six pages are taken up with quoting newspaper articles where people anonymously say that they don't like Gordon Brown. And there are four pages of pictures, which are seriously on the level of 'here he in a picture which makes it look like his hair is on fire, even though it isn't.'

There aren't many facts in this document. But there is one which the Tories seem to think is so good, it appears twice. They claim that pensioner poverty is 100,000 higher now than in 1997, and cite the DWP report to prove this.

But the thing is, the DWP report says nothing of the kind. There are two ways of measuring poverty over time. One is a contemporary measure, and one is to compare income held constant in real terms as of a particular date. The former compares how many people are in relative poverty at any given time, whereas the latter is a better measure of how poverty levels in one year actually compare to those in a previous year.

On the constant in real terms measure, poverty amongst pensioners has fallen by 1 million (2.4 million compared to 1.4 million). On the contemporary measure before housing costs, which is presumably the one the Tories are using, it fell by 100,000 (from 2.3 million to 2.2 million). If you look at the situation after housing costs, levels of poverty fell even more dramatically, by 1.8 million on the former measure, and 800,000 on the latter. But I guess the Tories didn't realise that some pensioners might actually have to pay housing costs, or something.

So living standards amongst pensioners have increased substantially since 1997, and levels of inequality are lower, though there has been a smaller reduction because most other people got richer as well. And Tory researchers can't read a table (it's page 161, if you are interested).

What's so interesting about this little example is that it shows that the Tories either aren't prepared or aren't able in terms of basic competence and reading comprehension to have an honest debate about the issues and so are instead relying on smears, personal attacks, and making claims and crossing their fingers that no one checks them.

While there are indeed people who will anonymously slag Gordon Brown off in the newspapers, and photos which make him look a bit silly, if you move away from these weighty issues to trivia such as 'has Gordon Brown helped poor pensioners' or 'have Labour done better than the Tories did when they were in charge', you get a rather different picture.


At 9:28 pm , Blogger Tom Freeman said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:31 pm , Blogger Tom Freeman said...

As well as making the straightforward mistake you document (pensioner poverty numbers on the measure they cite is either unchanged or down 100k depending on whether they mean 1996/97 or 1997/98 when they say "1997"), they're more seriously confused.

This is the number of pensioners belowe the contemporary 60% line. And there are now more pensioners than there were back then - six or seven hundred thousand more.

Which means that the proportion of pensioners below this poverty line is significantly down.

Some of the kids at Central Office clearly had fun making this dossier, but the quality of most of it is really embarrassing.

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