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12 April 2010

The Tories’ shocking new crime leaflet

New election leaflet features bloodied machete and bogus statistics.

By George Eaton

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”.

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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.

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 It claims that unpublished data from the study goes on to show that violent crime has risen by 44 per cent since 1998.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