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New Website Keeps UK Election Lies In Check

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posted on Apr, 5 2005 @ 12:28 PM
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At last we can keep election lies in check


Sunday April 3, 2005
The Observer

Politicians lie, cheat and distort the views of their opponents at general elections. This year looks like being the ugliest of all, although previous campaigns have been bad enough.
In 2001 Labour lied about tuition fees while the Conservatives made malodorous claims about immigration statistics. In 1997 Labour pushed the palpable lie that the Tories would abolish the state pension, while in 1992 John Major falsely pledged not to raise VAT.

This time, however, there is a new watchdog to catch the politicians out. Channel 4 has had the dazzling idea of setting up FactCheck, a new website to sift political fact from fiction.

The website came on stream only last week, but has already scored some notable hits. Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt has been caught out making false claims about Tory childcare policies and forced to promise never to make them again. Yesterday FactCheck tore to shreds shadow chancellor Oliver Letwin's claim that Labour had produced 'a quarter of a million extra bureaucratic posts ... people behind desks dealing with pieces of paper'.

As FactCheck showed, Letwin's so-called pen-pushers included school matrons, librarians and lab assistants.

Just as good as these two direct hits, however, is FactCheck's sober and diligent analysis of the major points of contention behind this year's election battle. Labour's claim that the Tories have a £35 billion cost-cutting agenda, or Tory allegations that violent crime has soared under New Labour, are analysed and dissected. All this analysis can be read by clicking on to www.channel4.com...

The British website is the brainchild of Dorothy Byrne, head of news and current affairs at Channel 4. But the idea was born in the United States during last year's presidential elections.

At the start of that campaign FactCheck.org - which was funded by an educational charity, the Annenberg Foundation - was unknown. But by the end its site was receiving more than 100,000 hits a day and even playing an important role arbitrating in disputes, for example over the Swift Boat Veterans' campaign that cast doubt on Senator John Kerry's service in Vietnam.

The key strengths of FactCheck.org were rigour, clarity, transparency and, above all, impartiality. These have been duplicated in the British version, whose team of experienced political journalists and researchers is run by Jon Bernstein, former editor-in-chief of the government's Directgov website.

FactCheck can play a vital role in restoring public trust in politics in an age where political lying and deception is taken for granted. There is an existing British model for FactCheck in the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, which monitors the economic statements of the rival parties.

There is no question that the IFS has brought a discipline to the economic statements made by politicians in the three decades since it was launched. But until now there has been little or no restraint on, or examination of, political statements in wider areas.

As a result British political culture has been poisoned. Measured and reasoned debates about the future of Britain have been impossible during general elections. Voters have been unable to reach proper judgments in the face of rival assertions from entrenched political machines.

FactCheck can perform an immeasurable service to British democracy. It can force politicians and the media to focus on truthful and accurate claims.

The endless accusations of bad faith made between rival politicians in their battle for power have prevented real debate about policy and the future of the nation. If organisations like the IFS and Channel 4's FactCheck can secure common agreement on the facts, then the mist will have cleared and for the first time in decades we can all see the real battlefield.

· Peter Oborne is the political editor of the Spectator.

He is presenting a film on the general election for Channel 4's Dispatches to be screened on 25 April.


zero lift




posted on Apr, 5 2005 @ 01:16 PM
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Originally posted by zero lift
At last we can keep election lies in check


- Up to a point this is true but, like everything else, the devil is in the detail.
For instance......


In 2001 Labour lied about tuition fees


- Actually they did not.

The 2001 manifesto made it clear tuition fees would not be introduced in this Parliament and they have not been.

Paving legislation for their introduction in the next Parliament has been introduced and they will of course follow but there was no actual lie. Labour maintained it's manifesto committment.


Labour's claim that the Tories have a £35 billion cost-cutting agenda


- ....is 100% accurate from the figures and statements made so far.
The point is that this 'cost cutting agenda' is compared to Labour's projected spending plans.
(.....and at least Labour is prepared to tell people it's spending plans)


even playing an important role arbitrating in disputes, for example over the Swift Boat Veterans' campaign that cast doubt on Senator John Kerry's service in Vietnam.


- God save us from anything as disgraceful as that transparent synthetic fiasco.


The key strengths of FactCheck.org were rigour, clarity, transparency and, above all, impartiality.


- I guess I'm saying I applaud the attempt but these things are political and therefore rarely a matter of only being observable from one point of view.


There is no question that the IFS has brought a discipline to the economic statements made by politicians in the three decades since it was launched.


- You have got to be kidding me.
Do you really think economists have no personal political leanings?
Why shouldn't they have? They are people just like the rest of us.....

.....and some of the most outrageous and rabidly tory people I have ever met have been people 'from the city'.


British political culture has been poisoned.


- Sorry but I think this is just utopian nonsense.
Politics is a dirty business and a highly subjective one at that; all about an undefinable future 'we're gonna......' you can attempt to introduce rules and systems all you like but I think the effects will be marginal.


Measured and reasoned debates about the future of Britain have been impossible during general elections. Voters have been unable to reach proper judgments in the face of rival assertions from entrenched political machines.


- Like I say, I think this will always be so....
.....although when we look at track records the matter changes somewhat.


FactCheck can perform an immeasurable service to British democracy. It can force politicians and the media to focus on truthful and accurate claims.


- It will have 'an' effect but it will not IMO 'force' anything of anyone substantially.


Peter Oborne is the political editor of the Spectator.


- ......and Peter O. is pretty right-wing himself, how does he edit any bias he might unwittingly have demonstrated, hmmmm?


He is presenting a film on the general election for Channel 4's Dispatches to be screened on 25 April.


- Should be worth a look, his stuff is usually thought-provoking if nothing else.



posted on Apr, 6 2005 @ 09:21 AM
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Ooops my bad.

For 'tuition fees' read 'top up fees'.

(Tuition fees was much the same story in the last (2001) election and this Parliament just gone.)

I know people see it as 'spin' but the fact is they kept to the letter of what they promised and did not bring in tuition fees when they said they would not and ditto top up fees this time.....

.....and of course there is the reintroduction of grants and the whole 'ability to pay' terms brought in which make the matter moot for so many on low incomes - funny no-one ever even wants to consider them, huh?

It's not an unusual story, a not particularly convincing chorus of basically middleclass people hoping genuinely struggling low paid people will back them up as they whine and bitch about having to pay (a little of the bill - the majority of not outstandingly well paid UK tax-payers pick up the bulk of the tab) and being too poor (
) to do so.




[edit on 6-4-2005 by sminkeypinkey]



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