If a politician told you that ‘frontline policing has increased’ since their party came to power, any ordinary person would obviously expect the number of officers on the frontline to have gone up, not down. However, the fact that police numbers have dropped by 22,000 since the Tories came to power didn’t seem to stop the Conservative Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom from making this exact claim.

And, to compound the situation, after having her ridiculous statistical gymnastics exposed, Leadsom went on to try and blame a Labour MP as ‘discourteous’ for having the temerity to call her brazen deceit out.

The dispute began when, on 25th January, Paula Sherriff, the Labour MP for Dewsbury, had asked a question of Leadsom (the Leader of the House) about police numbers during a Business Questions session [11:13:10] in the House of Commons. The Labour MP had quoted official figures released that week that showed there were nearly 22,000 fewer police officers across England and Wales than in 2010.

Sherriff went on to say that her constituency was suffering a plague of car crime and antisocial behaviour, and that the police don’t have the resources to manage the problem. She asked if the House could have an urgent debate on police numbers.

In response, Leadsom made this extraordinary claim:

Frontline policing across the country as a whole has not changed, and in fact has slightly increased since 2010.

To which one could only ask, really? But hadn’t Paula Sherriff just quoted statistics showing that police numbers had decreased by 22,000 since 2010? One of them must be wrong, and the evidence suggested that it wasn’t Sherriff.

Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, then wrote to Leadsom asking her to clarify her remarks. Lynch received a response which claimed that when Leadsom told Sherriff in the House of Commons there had been an increase in frontline policing, she was not, as everyone would have expected, referring to the actual number of frontline police officers, but to the overall proportion of frontline police officers which has apparently increased from 91% to 93.3% since 2010.

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Lynch, probably clutching her head and groaning, posted Leadsom’s letter to Twitter, pointing out that she had ‘failed to mention the bit about 20,000 [sic] fewer officers’:

Despite clearly misleading the House on this supposed increase in frontline policing, Leadsom simply attacked Labour MP Lynch for having the temerity to call out her deceit, saying:

Mr Speaker, perhaps you might like to give your thoughts on how appropriate it is when one tries to be courteous to colleagues and they simply go on Twitter accusing you of not saying things that they would have liked you to say. It is a little bit discourteous, Mr Speaker.

Leadsom’s attack on Lynch was not well received, with boos coming from the back benches. And whilst she was very happy to complain about Lynch’s supposed discourtesy, she conveniently failed to mention what the issue was all about.

If you told the average person in the street that frontline police had increased, they’d obviously expect there to be more of them. Not, as in this case, 22,000 fewer. It’s a sleight of hand which no doubt Leadsom was hoping nobody would notice. She was wrong.

It was for this – pointing out the utter dishonesty of Leadsom’s response – that Lynch was accused of being ‘discourteous’.

In the warped world of Tory politics, it seems that intentionally misleading the public is fine – it’s apparently calling people out for it that’s a problem.

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