2019-11-05 15:21:57 UTC
It would be easy enough to find five examples on the NHS alone. Let’s suspend reality for a moment and imagine that there is some way in which a free trade agreement with the US could add £500 million a week to the NHS drugs bill. Are we seriously expected to believe that any UK government would ever agree to something so obviously toxic, and that the public would let them get away with it?
Bogus "privatisation" claims provide more examples. There has been an increase in the proportion of government spending on healthcare going to private companies, but this is still paying for goods and services which are provided to NHS patients on the same basis as any others. That’s not "privatisation". It’s delivering universal healthcare in the most efficient way.
2. Poverty is going up
Rebecca Long-Bailey claimed at the weekend that inequality in the UK is rising on an "unprecedented scale". This is simply not true. The last significant and sustained increase in income inequality was in the 1980s. Since then, most measures of inequality, whether you look at income or wealth, have barely changed – or actually fallen.
Perhaps the Shadow Business Secretary just misspoke. But the Left consistently mispresents the data on inequality. For example, Labour likes to portray the UK as some sort of outlier where extraordinary numbers of households, especially those with children, are facing serious hardship.
In particular, Labour has made a lot of statistics suggesting that more than 14 million people in the UK live in "poverty". However, this figure is based on a relative measure, where you’re considered to be poor if you earn less than a certain percentage of the average income, rather than what most people would understand as poverty, which is not having enough to get by.
What’s more, even on the relative basis, levels of poverty in the UK are similar to those in countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg and New Zealand. And since they come up a lot, levels of foodbank use in the UK are unexceptional by international standards too.
Of course, this is not to say that there isn’t a poverty problem in the UK. But by painting it to be much worse than it is, Labour is attempting to justify fundamental (and damaging) changes in the UK’s economic model, when what is actually needed is targeted support for those who need it most.
3. Austerity has killed 120,000 people
There’s a healthy debate to be had about whether the fiscal tightening in the early 2010s went too far, especially when the economy was still weak, interest rates were already low, and many other countries were cutting back too. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But to paint austerity as an ideological choice amounting to "economic murder" is very wrong.
In particular, many Labour politicians have seized on claims that austerity has cost at least "120,000 lives". This figure is based on the extrapolation of a relatively short period when mortality rates were higher than might have been expected, based on previous trends, which coincided with a period when public spending grew more slowly.
But as many independent experts have pointed out, this evidence is just not good enough to support claims that austerity has actually caused the variation in mortality rates. Indeed, there have been similar variations in other countries, and in the UK in the past, even under very different conditions.
4. Billionaires only ever get rich through ill-gotten gains
Labour has form when it comes to its attacks on billionaires, enthusiastically recycling dodgy claims from Oxfam about inequality which any serious researcher would also pull apart. But fundamentally, Labour’s attacks are based on the lie that there is only a fixed amount of income or wealth, so that if someone has more, someone else must have less. Rarely, if ever, does Labour ask what a billionaire might have done to earn their good fortune – it is simply assumed to be ill-gotten gains.
5. Companies can be made to pay endless tax
It’s a lie to suggest that business leaders are deliberately setting out to make money from "polluting the environment", and that their activities are nothing to do with the rest of us. The reality is that companies respond to consumer demand.
It’s also a lie to suggest that businesses are a magic money tree that can always be shaken for more tax. Companies are only abstract legal entities and cannot bear the economic burden of taxes themselves. Instead, all taxes are ultimately paid by people. If corporate taxes rise, customers and employees are at least as likely to pick up the bill as the shareholders, who themselves are just as likely to be small investors looking to build up a decent pension.
Fortunately, the latest opinion polls suggest that the electorate is seeing through Labour’s guff. Long may that continue.