Statistical Watchdog Urges Sunak to Clarify Tax Claims Amid Labour Accusations

Opinion polls show the Conservatives lagging behind Labour ahead of the July 4 election.

The head of Britain’s statistical watchdog, Robert Chote, has urged Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to clarify the source of his claims regarding the opposition Labour Party’s tax plans, suggesting that Sunak may have misled the public on their independence.

During an election debate with Labour leader Keir Starmer, Sunak stated that “independent Treasury officials have costed Labour policies,” asserting that these plans would result in a £2,000 ($2,560) tax increase for working households. Labour accused Sunak of lying.

Opinion polls show the Conservatives lagging behind Labour ahead of the July 4 election.

However, a snap poll after the debate indicated that viewers thought Sunak’s performance was slightly better than Starmer’s.

The £2,000 figure, representing a cumulative cost over four years, originates from a Conservative Party document primarily based on Treasury officials’ estimates and Labour’s own costings.

Nevertheless, key assumptions about the implementation of Labour policies were determined by Conservative Party advisors working within the government.

Chote, chair of the UK Statistics Authority, explained that the practice of Treasury costing opposition policies has been part of British government operations since the 1950s, a practice he believes should end.

“This was a bad precedent when it started and we’d be much better off without it,” he told the BBC.

When asked if Sunak had been transparent about the figure’s origins, Chote responded: “When you’ve got people getting the wrong picture about the confidence, the independent verification that goes behind this, that’s not a great place to be.”

Meanwhile, work and pensions minister Mel Stride defended the £2,000 figure, asserting on Times Radio that the Conservatives stood by it.

He noted that Labour had employed a similar approach to Conservative policies when it was last in power in 2010.

This exchange underscores the ongoing tension between the parties as they head into the election, with accusations of misinformation and debates over the transparency of policy costings coming to the fore.