On Monday 15 May, Theresa May took part in her first ever ITV Leaders LiveFacebook question and answer session. And judging by the public’s reaction on the social media platform, people weren’t best impressed. Because not only did she repeatedly lie throughout the interview, but a surprise visitor gatecrashed her appearance.
For just over 45 minutes, presenter Robert Peston fired a selection of the public’s questions, from over 40,000 submitted, at the PM. But her answers obviously didn’t resonate with the viewers, as the PM received over 10,000 ‘angry face’ emojis, compared to 4.3 thousand ‘thumbs-up’ and 1.2 thousand ‘loves’. And while some of the questions were run-of-the-mill, the public threw several curveballs in the PM’s direction. Leaving her floundering, and even lying.
Lie number one
May was asked whether she would make a pledge to reduce absolute child poverty. But her response was possibly one of the most insidious of the entire interview. May said [6.50] that:
We have seen absolute child poverty reduce. I think it’s something like a couple of hundred thousand…
Absolute child poverty has indeed fallen. But not by “a couple of hundred thousand”. In fact, it has only fallen because the Tories changed the definitions of poverty. In reality, using the old methodology, absolute child poverty has increased by half a million since 2010.
And overall, child poverty is now at four million, its highest since 2010. And the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) expects relative child poverty to rise by another 1.3 million by 2020, due to the government’s changes to benefits and tax. And absolute child poverty to increase as well.
Lie number two
But May seemed unaware, saying [7.05]:
What we’ve seen over the last few years… is… child poverty coming down.
This is a demonstrable lie.
Lie number three
But she then lied again [7.10]:
One of the things… you need to do… is about helping families into work…
Work is no longer a route out of poverty, as 66% of all children living below the breadline are in working households.
Lie number four
May also lied about the NHS. When a viewer said [26.30] “Don’t sell off the NHS!” May said:
Nobody is selling off the NHS… We are committed to it remaining free at the point of use.
Once again, the PM’s answer is demonstrably untrue. Since 2010, the amount of NHS money paid to ‘independent’ companies has more than doubled to £8bn a year. And since 2013, a third of all NHS contracts have gone to private companies.
Lie number five
But May also said that the NHS will be getting £10bn extra a year by 2020. And this, again, is untrue. Because five MPs, including the Conservatives’ own Dr Sarah Wollaston, have said:
The continued use of the figure of £10bn for the additional health spending up to 2020-21 is not only incorrect but risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash…
The question of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) also repeatedly came up. And each time, May gave a stock answer about benefits going to those who most need them; and that the government is committed to helping disabled people get back into work. But her claims about the Tories’ record on disability are also demonstrably false, as the UN has twice accused the UK government of committing “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.
May being sneaky
Other topics that came up included:
- Fox hunting, which May said she supports.
- A viewer saying that food bank use was up 700% since 2010. This figure is in fact over 2,000%
- Her refusal to say whether disabled people and pensioner’s bus passes would be scrapped by a Tory government.
- She said, when questioned over why the UK has the most expensive rail fares in Europe, that our train system was “complicated”.
- The sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which were then being used in Yemen. May said that “we have strict rules” regarding arms sales, and that “Saudi Arabia has been a partner of the UK for many years”.
- Why she didn’t go to the Royal College of Nurses conference. May said she was busy.
But one question stood out in particular. Jeremy Corbyn, from Islington, asked [13.05] May:
As Prime Minister, you’ve served your elite friends, by giving them tax cuts while wages have stagnated. House building is at its lowest since the 1920s. There are 20,000 fewer police on our streets since 2010. And the NHS is in crisis. Do you not think the British people deserve to see [us] debate live and on television?
May’s response? That the important thing is for her and Corbyn to take questions “directly from the voters”. But judging by her meeting with a voter in Abingdon, it may be best if the PM stays indoors.
The doorstep challenge
So was ITV Leaders Live a useful platform for the average voter to watch? Possibly not. May’s pre-designed answers and Peston’s selective question-picking hardly gave the PM a tough grilling. Many questions that were asked, like about Trident and Windows XP, were never posed to the PM. And Peston challenged very little of what May said. The real test for the PM will be on the doorstep. And with Corbyn proving an expert in face-to-face meetings, it could be May’s undoing.
Watch May’s full interview:
SO VOTE FOR JEREMY CORBYN AND THE LABOUR PARTY AN HONEST MAN AND AN HONEST PARTY.