Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Why it matters that Brown misled Chilcot

Gordon Brown admitted yesterday that he had misled the Chilcot enquiry. He had said that defence spending had risen in real terms year on year since Labour came to power in 1997. However it turns out that there were 4 years in which spending actually fell in real terms in 1997/1998, 1999/2000, 2004/2005 (at the height of the Iraq war) and 2006/2007.

I think this sort of thing matters. It matters because Brown is the statistics man. He tries to bludgeon his opponents into submission by firing out stats that supposedly show his government in a positive light all the time. He makes broad sweeping statements about how great he has been as Chancellor and PM which he then backs up with these. It matters because he was not just slightly out in one year, he was way out in several years. It matters because the media reports of how Brown performed at Chilcot were largely very positive and they would not have been if he had told the truth. This makes me suspicious about the motives behind the incorrect figures. I would like to believe it was an honest mistake and yet the stakes are so high in the run up to the election that I am not sure I do believe it.

Above all it matters because we need to be able to believe what our Prime Minister tells us, not always suspect that he is twisting or distorting things in some cases beyond breaking point into downright untruths.

Now you might say that all Prime Ministers and politicians are guilty of spinning and massaging figures to their advantage and to an extent you would be right. It is part of the game of politics but I have never known a politician who is quite so keen to fire stats at us as our current PM. Given that he has built his career and reputation on them, he needs to be sure that he is not telling us figures that are totally incorrect like these in specific political situations that are then "clarified" two weeks later.

We are now entering what could be the most divisive and brutal election campaign of my politically sentient lifetime. The three main parties know there is everything to play for. I would however advise all politicians and especially Mr Brown (and his mini-me Ed Balls who has exactly the same tendencies as his boss) to be very, very careful about how they use statistics.

They need to be very sure of their ground. The electorate will not forgive any more slips like this.


Mick Anderson said...

"I would like to believe it was an honest mistake". It wasn't. Get used to it.

The reason for the statistics is partly because they can be skewed to Mr Browns favour by careful omission, and partly because it's impossible to check while he's busy haranging people with them.

I simply assume that he's lying until proven otherwise....

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

"I would like to believe it was an honest mistake" - but this is a repeat offence such that there is now a well-established pattern!

"Above all it matters because we need to be able to believe what our Prime Minister tells us"

A newsworthy item would be Brown (or Blair before him) not spinning, just telling the truth! Where have you been for the last 13 years????????????

The Great Simpleton said...

Either this was a deliberate lie or a sign of incompetence.

It was obvious this question would be asked and Brown would have been prepped for weeks before he appeared. His advisers will have thought long and hard about the answer and, as has been pointed out, Brown believes he is the master of statistics.

If they didn't anticipate it then they are worse than we thought.

Still, while the supine press continues to get worked up over the Labour spin of the Ashcroft non story, Labour can get away with lying and/or incompetence.