Alistair Carmichael: Boris Johnson Must Come Clean To MPs About His Misleading Claim That Crime Is Falling

The prime minister claimed crime had fallen by 14 per cent when it has actually gone up by the same amount.
Boris Johnson is under pressure to correct the record.
Boris Johnson is under pressure to correct the record.
Jason Cairnduff via PA Wire/PA Images

Have you been a victim of fraud in the last two years?

You may be surprised to learn that in the eyes of the Conservatives, you do not exist.

Last week, in scrabbling around for something positive to say in the midst of his slow slide into political collapse, Boris Johnson made the eye-catching claim that under his watch, crime had been cut by 14 per cent.

This was, to put it mildly, not an accurate representation of the crime figures.

It quickly emerged that the basis for the Prime Minister’s bluster was some statistical sleight-of- hand. To reach that 14 per cent decline, you just have to make one minor omission – by ignoring the entire category of criminal fraud.

You have to vanish millions of victims, from your friend who found himself caught up in an email scam to your aunt who was tricked into signing over her savings over the phone by a fraudster.

Millions of victims – magicked away as the government twists and abuses the crime statistics we need to trust to understand the dangers in our society.

The Prime Minister must come clean and correct the record – now.

You do not have to take my word for this. Sir David Norgrove, head of the UK Statistics Authority (who might indeed be expected to have some authority to adjudicate on such matters) stated firmly last week that fraud cannot simply be ignored in order to present a rosier perspective on crime in our country, and that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary have been “misleading” in their presentation of the crime stats.

Instead of apologising for misleading the public over rising crime, on Sunday Kwasi Kwarteng doubled down. His excuse? Fraud just isn’t the sort of crime that people experience in their “day-to- day lives”.

An estimated 4.1 million people were victims of fraud last year – more than 11,000 victims per day. Fraud and computer-related crimes have soared by 47% over the course of the pandemic.

In point of fact, when you include fraud and computer-related crimes the mirage of a 14 per cent drop in crime transforms into a 14 per cent rise in crime – a 28-point swing more akin to a recent Conservative by-election loss than anything else. The misuse of statistics is farcical, but the real-world consequences are all-too serious.

Almost everyone knows someone who has been a target or a victim of fraud. We have all seen a scam email in our inbox or had a questionable call – and anyone can be caught out. It is something people experience every day, and it does matter.

Instead of fighting the corner of victims of fraud, however, the government is trying to make them disappear. But how can a government tackle these serious problems if they pretend they do not exist?

Given that the Prime Minister is now being investigated by the police about alleged crimes committed in Downing Street, it is perhaps unsurprising that he and his ministers are misleading about fraud and crime rates across the country.

It is too late for Boris Johnson to reclaim credibility – but before he goes, he must come clean to Parliament.


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