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 It claims that unpublished data from the study goes on to show that violent crime has risen by 44 per cent since 1998.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.

bcs_crime91_09

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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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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