Thursday, April 19, 2012

FactCheck: The "No More Lies" Boris Attack Video (light fisking)

Oh dear, an allegedly "non-aligned" group have released an attack video against Boris Johnson according to Liberal Conspiracy.

Now I love a good bit of negative campaigning but this one is pretty shoddy I have to say. True it's get the tone and music ambience right when portraying its theme of "lies" by Johnson, but it does have a few glaring flaws.

  • All its data used to contradict the quotes are unattributed. They should have had some tiny point font to at least show where the figures were coming from.
  • The first charge is on Police numbers. Boris says "under this mayoralty there will be no cuts in the Police. The video says he is lying and there are 2,132 fewer Police since March 2010. Note the choice of the date? What we have here, ironically enough, is the maxim that there are "lies, damned lies and statistics". You see, as pointed out by Full Fact,
The MPA figures show that, when Mr. Johnson entered office in May 2008, police officer numbers stood at 31,398 (for the 2007-08 financial year). In 2008-09 this number rose by 1,145. In 2009-10 numbers further rose by 717, although in 2010-11 they fell by 801.

Along with projections from a 'Policing London Business Plan' published in March, the numbers are graphed as follows:

The approximate number of officers expected for the 2011-12 financial year is put at 32,510, which will also be at the end of Mr. Johnson's term in office. Compared to his inheritance of 31,398, this would mean police officer numbers will have increased by 1,112 under Mr. Johnson's premiership.
  • Next up we have "crime". Boris says "crime is down in London". The video says he's lying and says "knife crime is up". This is bit like a farmer saying "the yield of apples from the orchard is down" and a farm hand saying "you liar, the number of apples on this one tree has gone up". You know what? Crime overall in London might be up, Boris may indeed be lying. However if you're going to accuse him of doing so at least use the right data to make your point!
  • On to the congestion charge. Boris says he would not allow it to go up. They say he increased it by 25%. This is the one true thing so far. He increased it by £2, from £8 to £10. My guess is that this is why the producers claim to be "unaligned", you see, it would look a bit silly from a green point of view if they aligned themselves and were then arguing against a rise of something that is in line with general environmental policies.
  • Affordable homes is next. Boris says there will be "50,000 affordable homes by May next year". He doesn't say what year. The video says there have only been "56 affordable home started building between April and September". They don't say what April and September. Let's take a quick look at a random council though. According to the Royal Borough of Greewnich's affordable housing and regeneration web pages, "some 1,198 new homes were built last year". Where exactly did this random "56" number come from then?
  • Finally we have transport fares. Boris, being interviewed specifcally about bendy-buses and their replacement, he is asked if he can financially make that change. He says "I think we can... and I think we can do it without increasing fares for London". The video then points out that fares have gone up a whopping 47% - that's about 50p for most bus journey's incidentally, but saying it in percentage terms sounds much worse but I digress. You see, the video makers have buggered up again here. Instead of finding a generic clip of Boris saying that he will not increase fares period, they've found one where he says he doesn't think he needs to increase fares for a specific project to be possible. That doesn't mean he can't increase fares for other things, much as the previous Mayor increased fares multiple times for multiple things.

So there we have it. An attack video about "lies" that amusingly enough is mostly full of errr... lies. Five specific claims, and only one that can in anyway be described as accurate.

Actually, I'm being unfair, they're not so much lies as statements that, more often than not, are juxtaposed against other statements that are about different things.

I think the more appropriate word might be disingenuous, and that is why the BBC, LBC and the Evening Standard, who Sunny laments, have not pushed such things, because if they did, they'd be hauled over the coals for it.

Verdict: Must try harder

Monday, April 09, 2012

Was the "boiler tax" dreamt up during a crack-party?

I know, I know, it's rare to even see me post more than a few characters on Twitter these days, but occasionally 140 individual letters/number just doesn't cut it for what I want to say.

You see, I've just read an article (admittedly in the Daily Mail) that is claiming that the Coalition plans to introduce what appears to be mandatory planning permission for getting a new boiler. The ideas goes like this.

If you want a new boiler you will have to ask the Council to let you get one and then if the Council decides your home is not energy efficient enough they'll tell you you can't unless you fork out hundreds of pounds on other energy saving efficiencies first, such as loft insulation, cavity wall insulation etc.

There are so many absurdities with this I can only conclude that Coalition ministers and their civil servants were having some sort of crack-smoking party when they came up with it.

For a start, what happens if the boiler breaks in a family home during the Christmas period. Are they to be expected to freeze their bollocks off whilst they wait for Council officials to sober up and answer the planning request?

What's more, if someone is spending their own money on a new boiler (which will invariably be more energy efficient than the old one anyway), why should the Government force them to further spend their own money or take out Government backed loans to put themselves in debt?

The plan is so obviously going to fail even if they did try to implement it. Firstly, it is a gift to their political opponents who will point out that they're attacking poor pensioners and families with extra cost, and you know it will only be a matter of time before someone dies of hypothermia because their boiler broke and they couldn't afford to get the extra work done.

Secondly, people will just start paying plumbers and the like cash-in-hand for work and boilers that go under the radar of the official snooping Council workers.