When the prisons minister Rory Stewart appeared on 5 Live for an interview about Brexit, he had definitely done his homework… of inventing bogus stats.
Confidently trotting out the figure that “80 per cent of the British public support this deal” – prefaced with the phrase “to be honest” – Stewart appeared not to realise he’d be called up on this entirely invented claim:
“One of the advantages of this deal, to be honest, and the reason why 80 per cent of the British public support this deal, is because what it does…”
As listeners boggled, presenter Emma Barnett was quick to jump in: “80 per cent of the British public support this deal?” she asked. “The draft deal? How on earth do we know that yet?”
RS: “Ok, ok, let me, let me back on that…” Stewart stuttered, totally busted. “My sense is, sorry, let me, let me get the language right on that – my sense is that if we have an opportunity to explain this, the vast majority of the British public would support this deal.”
EB: “But where did 80 per cent come from? I’m a bit confused.”
RS: “I’m producing a number to try to illustrate what I believe, which is that the people who are rejecting this are 10 per cent on either fringe, but obviously this is not coming from an opinion poll, I’m just trying to express the basic fact that… the vast majority of the people are going to be happy with a deal that protects our economy, gives us access, on goods, right into that market while at the same time, giving us control over immigration, stopping us paying out the money…”
EB: “Well, with all due respect, Rory Stewart, you don’t know that yet, because the deal has only been in the public domain for a matter of hours, and we don’t know…”
RS: “I totally agree, I totally agree…”
EB: “Ok, well we went from 80 per cent of people supporting it to us not knowing yet. I think it’s a dangerous game when politicians pretend they know exactly how the people are feeling.”
RS: “Yeah. I apologise for that but I do believe – and I totally apologise for that and I take that back…”
Listen to Stewart’s moving dramatic reading of this latest piece of fiction here:
“80% of the British public support this deal….
“I’m producing a number to try to illustrate what I believe…
“I totally apologise for that and I take that back”
— Radio 5 Live on BBC Sounds (@bbc5live) November 15, 2018