The Tories’ shocking new crime leaflet

New election leaflet features bloodied machete and bogus statistics.

Tory election leaflet (front)

Photograph: Girl With A One Track Mind

Here's the charming leaflet the Tories are sending out in Edmonton in an attempt to persuade voters to back their PPC Andrew Charalambous.

It features the sort of bloodied machete you might expect to find on the front of a low-budget slasher flick, and goes on to claim in gory letters that Britain has become "the crime capital of Europe". It's all rather at odds with David Cameron's call to "let sunshine win the day".

But worse, the leaflet indulges in exactly the sort of statistical manipulation that earned Chris Grayling a rebuke from the UK Statistics Authority earlier this year.

As you'll remember, Grayling was criticised for directly comparing crime figures from now with those from before 2002, even though changes made to recording methods after this date meant that such a comparison was invalid.

Tory election leaflet (rear)

But last month the Tories claimed that a new study by the House of Commons library made a direct comparison possible by stripping out 24 per cent of the increase in violent crime to account for the new recording methods. It claims that unpublished data from the study goes on to show that violent crime has risen by 44 per cent since 1998.

Yet, as ever, there's a catch. The 24 per cent figure accounts for only one year of the changes, even though the violent crime figures were artificially inflated for at least two to three years.

Michael Scholar, the head of the independent UK Statistics Authority, was forced to write to the Tories again, warning that their use of crime statistics remained potentially misleading.

He said: "[A] more balanced commentary on national trends in violent crime would, in the view of the Authority, also make reference to the estimates given in the British Crime Survey, which in our view provide a more reliable measure of the national trend over time."

The British Crime Survey, which has recorded crime in the same way for almost 30 years, tells a very different story from the one spun by the Tories. As the graph below shows, violent crime has fallen by 48 per cent since 1995 and by 41 per cent since 1997.


Dodgy data, scare tactics, violent imagery . . . you may well wonder what happened to the Tories' promise to run a campaign based on "hope, optimism and change".

With the polls tightening again, perhaps a return to old politics was just too tempting to miss.

Hat-tip: The Straight Choice.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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