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18/08/2017
BBC Radio 4

    Electionwatch: testing the politicians' numbers

    We're nearly there - less than a week to go - but the More or Less election team still needs your help.

    Our job is to explain the numbers being thrown around by all candidates during the campaign. Our presenter (and the FT's Undercover Economist) Tim Harford is broadcasting our analysis on PM and Today. You can find an archive of our work so far on the More or Less web site.

    It's been fun. But after weeks of going line-by-line through speeches, combing data-sets and finding functions on our calculators we didn't know existed, we're getting tired.

    So here's how you can help: if you spot what you suspect is a rogue statistic - or simply a confusing one - please contact us at moreorless@bbc.co.uk.

    What sort of thing should you be looking for? Here's an example which caught our eye on Wednesday.

    This is Sarah Montague and David Miliband on Today:

    DM: The biggest complaint the IFS have is that we haven't had a spending review, a detailed spending review. And the second biggest complaint is that we haven't set out plans up to 2016 and 2017, i.e. into the Parliament after next. When it comes to the four years... br>SM: They say £44 billion of cuts remain undefined in Labour's plans... br>DM: For 2016, 2017.

    We nearly choked on our morning croissants when we heard that one. You can see here (PDF) that the well-respected think-tank the IFS were perfectly clear: they say £44 billion of 'mystery' cuts - cuts Labour has so far failed to specify - will need to be made by 2014/15. (The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, incidentally, have similar black holes on their plans).

    During the final PM's debate Nick Clegg said "80% of people who come into this country come from the European Union" - and therefore, in his view, it was dishonest of David Cameron to suggest there could be a meaningful cap on immigration.

    But that 80% figure is wrong. Actually, it's about a third. On Friday morning Vince Cable, speaking on Today, said his leader was referring not to all immigrants, but to 'workers'. The Lib Dem press office pointed us to their source, an article in The Economist which included the following claim: "Workers from outside the EU make up just one-fifth of all immigrants when students (who pay valuable tuition fees) are excluded".

    As my colleague Oliver Hawkins has discovered, however, the fact that one-fifth of all immigrants are workers from outside the EU does not prove that the remaining four fifths of all immigrants are workers from inside the EU.

    What about other types of immigrants, like dependents?

    In fact, ONS data show that of all the people who come to the UK to work - who aren't British citizens - 60% come from the EU.

    In the same debate David Cameron claimed that Gordon Brown had got his facts wrong on the Conservative proposals to cut child-tax credits: he said they would only be taken away from families earning over £50,000.

    As our colleague Stephanie Flanders has pointed out, however, the IFS has called that description of the proposal "incomplete at best and misleading at worst".

    All families with an income over £40,000 would lose some of their tax credits (and most families earning over £48,175, who get tax credits now, would lose all of them).

    It seems, even at this late stage in the campaign, we need to keep our eyes open. If you can help, please do.

    Richard Knight is series producer of More or Less

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