Monday, 5 January 2015

Campaign Posters

Ah, so season of goodwill over, and we've got 5 months of electioneering coming now.

On the Conservative one, Fraser Nelson points out that:-

New year, new porkies from Conservative HQ. It has opened 2015 with a poster that involves a deception (above): ‘the defict halved’. It’s a relatively small deception: the deficit has been reduced by a third (see graph below) just as David Cameron was saying only a few weeks ago. But this poster makes a more important, and more depressing point: the Tory leadership is prepared to use dishonesty as a weapon in this election campaign.

Here’s how I suspect it all unravelled. George Osborne invented the porkie: that you can say ‘the deficit has been halved’ if, when challenged, you later claim that you’re referring not the deficit, but to a ratio: a deficit/GDP ratio. This is a valid metric, but it’s not “the deficit”.

On the Labour one, err Fraser Nelson points out that:-

So Labour’s poster is misleading. It uses share of GDP in language that makes the reader believe it’s talking about real money. But given that Osborne has just used precisely the same trick to pretend that he has halved the deficit, he is in no position to complain.

My own view of the posters is that both are full of the sort of distortions that politicians like to make.

I don't really think that the Conservatives are in much of a position to make bold claims about unemployment and businesses. There's very little that they've done in policy terms that seems to me has been either about getting people into work, or creating business. I suspect a lot of the recovery is just what would have happened, anyway.

One thing that you often see in companies is that things get stretched out a bit longer when there's economic uncertainty. A white van man might hang onto his van a couple of years longer, maybe. But you can only stretch things so far, things pick up slightly, the future starts to look rosier, and you buy the new van.

As for Labour's poster, well, waiting times were clearly being manipulated under Labour's era (such as having ambulances holding people outside A&E so that they didn't count as waiting in A&E), something the Conservatives put a stop to. And regarding privatisation, this was a process that was started under Ken Clarke as an internal market, dropped by Labour early on and later re-introduced and the extended by Labour to provide personal choice outside the NHS. The competition under the Tories is furthering what Labour already were doing.

All of this is from both parties is about trying to create clear water between them, the Indian Bicycle Marketing that Mark refers to. The "Tories cutting spending" talk favours both parties. It favours Tories who want their small government voters to vote for them and it favours Labour who want their big government voters to vote for them. The reality is that spending has increased over the past 4 years.

Both parties need this lie because both want their "core" vote to turn out. The people who want small government to vote Conservative because "otherwise, evil Labour will get in" and the people who want big government to vote Labour because "otherwise, the evil Tories will get in". If these core voters ever figured out how it really makes little difference either way, they'd vote with their instinct (for perhaps UKIP or the Greens). Neither party is ever going to call the other one out on this, because then it shatters the illusion for them too.


Curtis said...

As you say, the waiting time starts when a patient is accepted into A&E. If A&E is actually full (which doesn't happen all that often, but does at this time of year), then ambulances will still have to queue up and this waiting time is not recorded.

If the patient is not imminently dying, they can be driven between several hospitals in an attempt to offload the patient, as happened to someone I admitted the other day. It would have been faster for his wife to drive him back to his local hospital in London (3 hours away), but that's not to say it wouldn't have been full as well.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Forget about one-third or one-half of the deficit, the real problem is the pol's muddling the difference between the annual deficit and the overall total accumulated national debt.

The Stigler said...


Indeed. I think it would be more helpful not to talk about the deficit at all but to only talk about the debt.

Ross said...

I don't think George Osbourne is being unreasonable in saying he meant halving the deficit as a proportion of GDP. If GDP doubled and the deficit rose in real terms by 10% that would be considered a success, it's only as a percentage of our ability to pay that it matters.

He's got form for bullshitting though so perhaps doesn't get the benefit of the doubt, like when he pretended to halve the EU contribution last year.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, exactly. If Labour hadn't signed up to Indian Bicycle Marketing, they could quite truthfully say "National debt up by fifty per cent under the Tories"

Which sounds terrible and is terrible. Surely nobody in his right mind would vote for that shit? (The fact that Labour might have been worse is by-the-by).