Thanks to Mike Sivier of the outstanding Vox Political blog for drawing my attention to this. I’ve been snowed under all week and had missed it – and it’s too good to miss.
At the beginning of April, I wrote about the Tories’ despicable and clearly intentional abuse of statistics to support their ‘reforms’ and demonise disabled people (yet again) by suggesting that almost 900,000 Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants had dropped their claims rather than face medical examination.
On 11 May, I wrote to Andrew Dilnot, the head of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) after his ‘spanking’ of Iain (Duncan) Smith for abusing employment statistics, to ask him to look at the far worse ESA distortion, and invited readers of this blog to do the same, which many did.
It turns out a Labour MP, Sheila Gilmore, was ahead of the game. On 9 April, perhaps as a result of reading my initial blog, she wrote to Mr Dilnot to ask him to look into the same matter. Mr Dilnot did so (and I’m certain that the sudden influx of requests from members of the public echoing Ms Gilmore’s request certainly didn’t do anything to reduce his attention on it!), and sent his response to the MP on Wednesday.
This letter was as emphatic as this kind of formal response document can be. It confirmed that:
- the Tories had wrongly ‘conflated’ monthly figures into a cumulative total
- the Tories’ press release about the figures misled about their significance
- this press release ignored a clear caveat in the DWP’s own report that the reason the claims were dropped each month had nothing to do with fear of medical assessment but were because people recovered and went back to work, or else were switched to another benefit deemed more suitable to their circumstances.
- the Tories had tried to obscure their misdeeds by removing the press release from the public domain
It’s worth reproducing the response letter – which Mr Dilnot copied to Iain (Duncan) Smith, to Grant Shapps, to the Chair of the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee Bernard Jenkin MP, to the Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee Dame Anne Begg MP and to the National Statistician Jil Matheson, and which was even picked up by the BBC – in full here. It includes the Tories’ deliberately-misleading press release and two very telling DWP graphs which Mr Dilnot included as an annex.
That way, you can grasp the full extent of their dishonesty and recklessness toward disabled people – and gauge the hideous embarrassment that they ought to be feeling but probably are not, since they appear shameless about telling blatant lies to the public. If you can’t read them clearly on this page, you can view a larger version by clicking on each image:
It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Tory ministers will lie as naturally as breathing if it suits their purposes, and that they have no shame whatever about even the most gratuitous distortion of facts to try to present the inexcusable as necessary – even if it means libelling and demonising hundreds of thousands of disabled people, sometimes with terrible results.
But now, thanks to Andrew Dilnot, the UKSA and Sheila Gilmore (and before her Nicola Smith of the TUC) – and to SKWAWBOX readers for their efforts in raising the UKSA’s awareness of the issue – those lies are being exposed, and more importantly condemned, on the record by an official UK authority.