Brown's lies: a calculated election strategy?

The PM has chosen to fight the next General Election with 'fabricated' figures, according to some pundits.

The prime minister has "chosen to lie rather than tell the truth", says Peter Oborne in the Daily Mail. News that the Comprehensive Spending Review has been delayed until after the general election proves Gordon Brown has chosen to act in the interests of his party and himself rather than the country. Announcing future spending plans would show us how "disastrous the financial situation has become", and give the lie to Brown's repeated claims that under his premiership public spending will keep rising.

Instead, he has chosen to "fight the election with fabricated figures". This "deeply misguided and selfish move" will do terrible damage to Britain's credibility. If a large quoted firm suddenly announced it was not publishing its annual results because the economic outlook was too grim, "mayhem would ensue".

How do we know Brown is lying? At last week's prime minister's questions, David Cameron zeroed in on red book statistics produced by Brown's own officials.

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These showed that capital spending on infrastructure such as schools, roads and hospitals would actually fall from £44bn next year to £36bn in 2011 and £26bn in 2012, say Jonathan Oliver and David Smith in The Sunday Times. Caught telling a "whopper, unwilling to admit or apologise", Brown then tried to suggest that because the high figure this year includes a lump of spending on something (the Olympics) that won't happen until 2012, you could spread the sum forward into the whole pre-Olympic period and "make the graph continue uphill", says Matthew Parris in The Times. What a "snivelling, broken-backed little attempt at a wriggle-out".

Capital spending is just the start: the "nub of the debate" is what happens to spending on services. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has calculated, using the Treasury's own figures, that spending here will have to be cut too.

Brown's stance is "simply incredible", says Leo McKinstry in the Daily Express. "Anyone who is not either delusional or a liar knows that drastic measures are needed to bring the public finances under control again." Only last week Bank of England governor Mervyn King warned that the "scale of deficits is truly extraordinary" and that current fiscal policy is "not sustainable".

Brown's claims that cuts in public spending would automatically mean job losses among nurses, police officers, teachers and doctors is childish "emotional blackmail". An incoming government could "easily take an axe to state expenditure without touching front-line services". The social security budget that fosters benefits dependency costs a "colossal" £180bn, while more savings could be made by scrapping quangos and the special privileges of public-sector staff on pensions, pay, and sick leave.

"Privately many cabinet ministers fear Brown is making promises that Labour cannot deliver and that voters do not believe," says The Sunday Times. But to others, "the truth or falsehood of the party's position on public spending is irrelevant. All that matters is that the simple idea that the Tories are 'cutters' is communicated to their core working-class vote." 'We don't care if the commentators or the economists turn against us," says one minister.

This is "about shoring up the base in the northern heartlands, which we lost in the European elections. We don't want or need them to understand the nuance of the argument. We just want them to hate the Tories again."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.