Political lies about poverty and inequality have got to stop

Rishi Sunak: he loves coming out with rousing claims in Prime Minister’s Questions. What a shame so few of them are true.

Rishi Sunak seems to love misleading us all about poverty.

At Prime Minister’s Questions last week, he claimed that 1.7 million fewer people are in poverty now than when the Conservatives came back into power.

But he was almost certainly using the relative definition of poverty – that is, that a person is only define as being in poverty if they receive 60 per cent of the median average income, or less.

He was almost certainly not referring to genuine poverty, in which people cannot afford to eat or buy basic essentials. Peter Stefanovic spells out the distinction here:

14 million people in poverty is a little more than one-fifth of the population.

A million adults can’t afford to eat every day.

Nine million, while eating every day, are skipping meals and cutting back on food. There is a consequent effect on the nation’s health that will impact the NHS, of course – with thousands of people being hospitalised with malnutrition. Then the Tories say they don’t understand why the health service can’t cope after they have put so much (ha ha!) extra funding into it.

A record 2.1 million people are now using food banks. Remember David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ policy? This is its only success – forcing more wealthy people to subsidise those who cannot afford to feed themselves, including lower-paid working people and nurses, let’s not forget, with charity.

The number of children in food poverty has doubled in the last year alone.

Seven million households aren’t being heated properly.

Sunak also mentioned inequality, claiming – again, falsely – that this is also lower. In fact:

In 2022, incomes for the poorest 14 million people fell by 7.5 per cent while those for the richest fifth saw a 7.8 per cent increase.

Could that be partly because Sunak has uncapped bankers’ bonuses while imposing real-terms pay cuts on public sector workers?

Sunak reckons 200,000 fewer pensioners are in poverty today – but the number of pensioners in relative poverty has actually increased by more than 200,000. In 2021/22, more than two million pensioners were living in poverty in the UK.

Sunak’s comment about 100,000 new homes needs no response because the House of Lords rightly rejected the arguments in favour of building on land likely to be flooded with water that had been polluted, not only by developers but also by greedy privatised water firms.

Sunak reckons he’s delivered 4,000 prison officers – so why are there fewer now than in 2010? Does it have something to do with the privatisation – and profitisation – of our prisons?

It would be worth keeping this information handy when PMQs is on over the next few weeks and months.

I’ll try to put out a YouTube clip and a few infographics.

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