David Cameron misled the nation when he used a party political broadcast to say the coalition was "paying back Britain's debts", the chair of the UK Statistics Authority said today.
In a damaging and humiliating moment for the prime minister, Andrew Dilnot said national debt had risen under the coalition from 55.3% of GDP to 70.7% of GDP.
The fact that the comment came in the middle of a scripted party political broadcast rather than an off-the-cuff interview is also particularly embarrassing for Cameron and suggests Downing Street may have wilfully misrepresented its economic achievements.
To be accurate, the prime minister would have had to refer to public sector borrowing, which has fallen significantly since the coalition came to power, from £159 billion in 2009/10 to £121.6 billion in 2011/12.
The wrap on the knuckles from the authority marks the second time the Conservatives have been found guilty of using misleading statistics.
Last year, the Tories had to correct claims of having increased real-terms spending on the NHS in each year since coming to power.
The Cameron claim about the debt was sent to the Statistics Authority by shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves.