U.K. election manifestos, fact-checked

U.K. election manifestos, fact-checked

By: christian haag&
anna aleksandra sichova&
June 14 2024

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
U.K. election manifestos, fact-checked

(Source: Conservative Party/The Labour Party/Green Party/Liberal Democrats/Reform UK/Screenshots/Composite by Logically Facts)

Political parties in the U.K. this week launched their manifestos ahead of the general election on July 4, 2024.  Usually around 100 pages or longer, the manifestos lay out the parties' plans for the future period in power and are thematically structured around questions deemed important to the party.

While all parties have their individual focus areas, most cover evergreen topics such as taxes, economic growth, and healthcare, as well as current topics such as immigration, energy, and the war in Ukraine. Another common theme is a party in power drawing on its track record of its years in power, while the opposition critiques and describes how it will do it better. 

Logically Facts has examined the manifestos and checked several of the parties' most significant claims.

Conservatives

The Conservative Party is currently in power and has been, either independently or in coalition, for the past 14 years. The party’s manifesto focuses on stability and security, social conservatism and limited state intervention. A policy-heavy document, it emphasizes accolades achieved during its recent years in power while laying new plans for the future.

However, the manifesto makes several misleading claims about the party’s track record in government, like the claim “We must stick with a plan that has cut taxes for 29 million working people.". While 29 million people did benefit from a National Insurance cut, National Insurance is not the same thing as income tax. While tax is used by the government to pay for public services, National Insurance pays for benefits during retirement, sickness, and unemployment. Furthermore, the Office for Budget Responsibility reports that the number of people expected to pay income tax is set to increase by almost 4 million between 2022-23 and 2028-29 due to a freeze in the threshold above which a person pays tax on their income.

Similarly, with regard to economics, the manifesto claims: "The U.K. economy is now growing faster than Germany, France, Italy, and the US." While the referenced time period is unclear, the U.K. has suffered the highest inflation and lowest economic growth in the G7 since 2021, according to an analysis by the Trades Union Congress labor union. House of Commons data also shows the U.K. was the second-slowest growing economy in the G7 in 2024 compared to pre-pandemic levels, ahead of only Germany at just 0.2 percent.

Moving to future plans, the Conservative Party also contradicted themselves within 24 hours of the publication of their manifesto regarding national service, a form of voluntary or mandatory work in service of the country, which typically constitutes military service. 

According to the document, the Conservatives want to “reinvent national service for this century to give young people valuable life skills and build a stronger national culture.” The service would be compulsory for 18-year-olds, but they would have a choice between 25 days a year of civic service in their communities, or a full year of military service in the armed forces or cyber defense, a position that would be paid. However, during an interview the following day, Defense Secretary Grant Shapps suggested the military placement would last the same amount of time as the civic service, 25 days a year - an about-turn on the timeline set out in the manifesto.

Read the Conservative Party’s full manifesto here.

The Conservatives’ plan to re-introduce National Service (Source: Conservative Manifesto 2024 General Election/Screenshot) 

Labour

The Labour Party's manifesto, “Change,” focuses primarily on predictions and future plans. As the future can’t be fact-checked, many of its political promises are outside the scope of fact-checkers. 

However, the document is not without its confusing claims. When discussing economic stability, Labour claims: “The Conservatives have raised the tax burden to a 70-year high.” While this was true in 2022-23, the tax burden has fallen by 0.2 percent for 2023-24, from 36.3 to 36.1 percent, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. The tax burden is also expected to increase again to 36.5 percent in 2024-25.


Tax burdens in the U.K., G7, and EU 14 since 1965. (Source: Office for Budget Responsibility/Screenshot/Edited by Logically Facts)

Both Labour and the Conservatives have promised not to raise taxes on working people, but these pledges have been criticized as near-impossible, according to economists at the Institute for Fiscal Studies and other leading financial institutions, cited by Reuters. These experts say tax rises are inevitable because of inflation and pressure on public services. Furthermore, proposals from the Labour manifesto, such as private school fees, an extra levy on oil and gas companies, and a crackdown on tax avoidance are expected to increase the personal tax burden to 37.4 percent for the next fiscal year.

Labour’s many promises of change also risk becoming a disappointment due to the self-imposed constraints of not wanting to increase tax burdens. The IFS writes in its initial response: “This is a manifesto that promises a dizzying number of reviews and strategies to tackle some of the challenges facing the country. That is better than a shopping list of half-baked policy announcements. But delivering genuine change will almost certainly also require putting actual resources on the table. And Labour’s manifesto offers no indication that there is a plan for where the money would come from to finance this.”

Read the Labour Party’s full manifesto here.

Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats' 2024 manifesto credo is “For a fair deal,” prioritizing affordable and safe housing, improving the quality of education and expanding youth opportunities, and improving the quality and accessibility of healthcare. The Liberal Democrats have chosen to emphasize their mission and goals rather than focusing on current observations and verifiable statements in their general election manifesto. 

However, one pledge they do set out is the ambitious target to increase the number of General Practitioners (GPs) by 8,000. The party aims to increase the number of GPs in two ways: by recruiting an additional 4,000 doctors and by retaining 4,000 more experienced GPs. Since 2015, under the existing Conservative government, the number of fully qualified GPs has declined by 1,759

Retaining GPs does not actually increase the number of doctors - rather, it ensures they remain in their roles as opposed to leaving or reducing their hours. As such, the claim that the party will deliver 8,000 more GPs is misleading - Liberal Democrats plan to increase the number of new GPs by 4,000 and prevent 4,000 others from leaving their roles, as opposed to adding 8,000 new GPs. On average, it would take about 10 years for these new recruits to become fully qualified GPs, due to the length of time it takes to complete medical school. As such, voters would not see the benefit of this increased number of medical professionals until the end of a Liberal Democrat government’s second term in office, if they were to win the election.

Read the Liberal Democrats’ full manifesto here.

Greens

The Green Party's manifesto emphasizes its goals and visionary outlook. This results in fewer concrete claims that allow for fact-checking, instead underscoring the party's focus on long-term planning and transformative change. The party's agenda includes increasing clean energy, raising the minimum wage, improving animal rights, and promoting greener farming practices, among other things.

However, one claim made by the party prompts questions. The Green Party aims to reduce energy bills, stating: “Our energy bills are far too high because we have the worst-insulated homes in Europe.” While poor insulation has contributed to the energy crisis, it is not the sole reason. Global fuel prices began rising in the summer of 2021 as economies reopened and demand for energy grew as restrictions began to be lifted post-COVID-19 pandemic. 

This increase in energy prices was worsened by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite the U.K.'s lower reliance on Russian energy compared to other European countries—with only 4 percent of the U.K.'s gas imports coming from Russia in 2021—the enforced sanctions following the invasion still increased energy bills for U.K. households. In 2023, the U.K. formally banned the import of Russian fossil fuels, further squeezing energy availability. Therefore, while insulation contributes to high energy prices, a combination of geopolitical events has increased the energy bills for U.K. households.

Read the Green Party’s full manifesto here.

Reform Party

Reform’s manifesto, which it describes as a “contract with the people,” focuses on cuts to immigration, taxes, NHS waiting lists, and climate targets. Many of the proposals are presented as urgent and labeled “critical reforms needed in the first 100 days” of government. A common allegation the party makes is that the Conservatives have ruined the U.K. and that a Labour government would preside over further decline. Reform also is critical of the U.K.’s first-past-the-post electoral system, claiming: “the two-party system is broken.” 

However, the manifesto contains false and misleading claims. Firstly, it states that the U.K. is experiencing “record crime,” but the claim is false. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Crime Survey for England and Wales from 2024 shows that crime rates peaked in 1995 and have reduced ever since. Police records do show an increase at the year-end of December 2023 in offenses involving firearms, knives, and robbery. However, the ONS also states that  “police recorded crime does not tend to be a good indicator of general trends in crime” due to changes in reporting methodology. Full Fact also fact-checked a similar claim in 2022, finding that the claim is missing context. 

Reform’s contract also states that “Excess deaths are nearly as high as they were during the Covid pandemic.” This claim is false. A recent report from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) states that 10,890 excess deaths were reported in England during 2023, compared to 70,718 in 2020 and 43,102 in 2021. This claim ties into a common narrative pushed by anti-vaxxers about a link between excess deaths and COVID-19 vaccines without providing evidence of such.

The contract also states that “Postal voting has allowed electoral fraud. We will stop postal voting except for the elderly, disabled, or those who can’t leave their homes.“ However, this claim is false as voter fraud with postal ballots is exceedingly rare. Farage made a similar claim during the 2019 Brexit party launch event, stating that the system had been abused for 20 years. This has been refuted by the Electoral Commission to Logically Facts, stating that "Postal voting is a safe way of voting, and there are security measures in place.” These security measures are outlined on their website

Following the 2019 statement by Farage, Sky News wrote, citing the Electoral Commission that since 1998, there have only been 9 convictions of postal voter fraud. Given the minuscule scope of the issue, there is no indication that postal voting is an issue that can compromise election integrity as a whole. 

Reform’s financial calculations for their manifesto pledges have also been criticized by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) as “extremely optimistic.” The organization writes: “The sums in this manifesto do not add up. Whilst Reform’s manifesto gives a clear sense of priority, a government could only implement parts of this package, or would need to find other ways to help pay for it, which would mean losers not specified.”

Read Reform’s full manifesto here.

 

Read all of Logically Facts' coverage of the U.K. elections here.

This article was updated on June 18, 2024, to include details of the manifesto published by Reform on June 17, 2024.

Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

0
Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before