Did you know that two-thirds of people don’t pay income tax?

No, I didn’t either.

But that’s what Polly Toynbee says:

… it does nothing for the 62% of adults who earn too little to pay tax.

Oh hang on, what’s this Lord Bonkers is saying?

It’s not that 62 per cent of people don’t pay tax, it’s that 62 per cent do pay tax.

How out of touch with the lives of ordinary people do you have to be to make a mistake like that and not spot it? It hardly encourages you to have faith in Toynbee’s judgement as a columnist.

You think someone at the Guardian would have spotted it though.

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28 Comments

  • Ah, Pollyanna … the Italian second-home-owning, private-school-children-sending upholder of “Socialism” (aka New Labour).

  • Perhaps she thinks that two thirds of people have Italian villas

  • “The mother was poor, the father was poor, the butler was poor …. “

  • At least the Guardian corrections and clarrifications column is probably somewhat more read than in other papers as they have to make so much more use of it.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 23rd Jun '10 - 12:15pm

    Polly bashing has of course always been a favourite sport among Tories.

  • I think Lib Dems have always had problems with Polly, a journalist who seems to consistently promote LIb Dem policies, but somehow sticks with Labour, even as they pushed right wing.

  • David Morton 23rd Jun '10 - 12:20pm

    Is this article really about poor proof reading at the Guardian? Or displacement activity for the mounting horror over what a liberal newspaper like the Guardian is going to be saying about us for the next five years?

  • Foregone Conclusion 23rd Jun '10 - 12:39pm

    Toryboys,

    Lib Dems have never liked Polly. She was an Owenite in the SDP, then left to join his rump party rather than the mainstream Lib Dems. So there’s a considerable amount of history here that predates the coalition by over twenty years.

  • toryboysnevergrowup 23rd Jun '10 - 12:59pm

    Foregone conclusion

    Looks like we are learning everyday about all the things that the Tories and LibDems have always had in common!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 23rd Jun '10 - 1:00pm

    “This graph shows the bottom quartile as ending at £14,000, well above the rate to pay income tax. So unless I’m deeply confused, less than 10% of adults don’t pay tax, making polly even more confused than we or anyone possibly ever thought. “

    The graph is based on households, though.

  • David Morton 23rd Jun '10 - 1:18pm

    Looking at the big picture for the moment I think we can sketch for the first time the ” No ” campaign in the AV referendum. The one thing AV had going for it was its inoffensiveness. Even if not in favour / not bothered how many voters were realistically going to give up Coronation Street on a wet Thursday to vote No?

    By front loading the austerity and by using the comfortable majority afforded by coalition to do it a sophisticated but doable reframing of the question becomes possible by the NO camp.

    If YES/NO in the referendum is a cypher for whether the country accepts the paradigm shift from majoritarianism to coalition or not then the challenge for the NO camp is make people realise that this dullest and most technical of changes is actually an existential one. A tough gig but…

    Front loaded austerity delivered by a coalition allows for the reframing. You could end up with

    AV = Coalitions = Easier to get shafted = NO

  • Gramsci's eyes 23rd Jun '10 - 1:38pm

    My last post here because readers should be aware of how much “liberal” censorship is going on.

    Looked at my last 5 posts which did not call anyone “stupid” ( a default position of some) nor swear etc.

    Instead I quoted Voltaire, Shakespeare & Mill.

    Each post failed to get through the bamboo firewall.

    Make of that what you like.

    [Comment from The Voice: your Shakespeare comment, for example, has appeared on the site: https://www.libdemvoice.org/nick-clegg-why-we-have-to-do-this-20022.html#comment-128901 – it may either be that the comment was delayed and so you didn’t see it if you looked back before that, or also sometimes a cached copy of the comments page is served up. If you think you’re not seeing the latest comments it is worth trying the refresh option in your web browser.]

  • Matthew Huntbach 23rd Jun '10 - 1:44pm

    Yesterday’s G2 had Copernicus saying the universe revolved around the earth, the science editor who wrote it clearly didn’t mean that, but it was surprising it wasn’t picked up.

    There was an article a few weeks ago discussing the use of “area of Wales” and “area of Belgium” as commonly used measurements. Despite giving the figures – 20779 km² for Wales, and 30528 km² for Belgium – it finished with “Belgium is one and a third Waleses” (or similar).

    Mistakes like this are easily made, but also ought to be easily corrected. A particular problem is the lack of people working in journalism who have some type of science/maths background. Given the number of stories that rely on some numeracy, it ought to be almost mandatory for them to have at least confidence in maths to good A-level standard.

  • @Henry- “I think Lib Dems have always had problems with Polly, a journalist who seems to consistently promote LIb Dem policies, but somehow sticks with Labour, even as they pushed right wing.”

    -If you actually read Toynbee’s column, you’d know that she was pretty scathing about Labour while they were in power and urged people to vote Lib Dem, so that STV could be introduced.

  • David Blake 23rd Jun '10 - 5:30pm

    Given that most of us use our names on this site, maybe Toryboysnevergrowup would like to do that too.

  • As for the mistaken statistic, everybody makes mistakes right?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/feb/15/tories-pregnancy-mistake
    http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/vote_2010/factcheck+lib+dem+manifesto+in+focus/3612992

    The point holds, raising the income tax threshold does nothing to help the very poorest who do not pay income tax… nor is there anything shocking about the revelation that the income tax threshold increase by itself helps the richer more than it helps the worst off. In fact, this very blog had a post defending itself from that criticism because when Left Foot Forward wrote (as the IFS later did) that the income tax threshold increase was regressive, it failed to take account of the (now scrapped) mansion tax’s and the (mutilated) CGT rise’s redistributional impact.

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/evidence-based-left-foot-forward-only-if-you-ignore-the-actual-evidence-18370.html

    Now, it is a good thing that the policy has been adapted so that the richest do not benefit as much as they previously did. But the point that this is by no means a tax measure that will especially help the poorest holds, regardless of mistakes on stats.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 24th Jun '10 - 12:41am

    “It also increases the incentive to work.”

    What the hell is the point of “increasing the incentive to work”, by cutting benefits, if no work is available?

    And what effect do you suppose that 25% cuts in public spending will have on the jobs market?

  • it’s a typo. the real quesion is ‘How out of touch with the lives of ordinary people do you have to be’ to abandon every thing you promised as the pre-election lib dem party, and support the ordinary people-hating tory party policies.

  • Malcolm Todd 24th Jun '10 - 11:09am

    Of course Polly Toynbee’s not the only one who’s so out of touch with “ordinary people’s lives” that she fails to spot an arithmetically ridiculous mistake. 🙄

  • Dominic Curran 24th Jun '10 - 1:13pm

    @Anthony Aloysius St
    ““It also increases the incentive to work.”

    What the hell is the point of “increasing the incentive to work”, by cutting benefits, if no work is available?”

    The line that you quote is about the rise in the income tax threshold, not a justification for cutting benefits, so your response isn’t massively relevant.

    However, the question that you raise is fair. i’m broadly sympathetic to your view, but there is a counter response. There are some jobs out there that are horrible and low paid – say toilet cleaning in a hospital – and which pay only a little bit more than benefits. if you had the choice of getting 60 quid and not having to do that, or getting 80 and having to do that, it might not seem worth it. However, if the difference between working and not working was greater, say with a ten pound benefit cut and a couple of pounds extra in your pocket from an income tax cut, you might decide to swallow your pride and get out there and do the job. It might be a horrible job, but then life isn’t fair, as my parents were so fond of saying.

    Naturally, this argument works if there are jobs but which are low paid and not particualrly desirable. if there really are no jobs at all, or rather if you aren’t getting them, then the issue is whether benefits enable you to live, and we’ll have to see how that pans out.

  • Dominic Curran 24th Jun '10 - 5:18pm

    @ Kell

    “it’s a typo. the real quesion is ‘How out of touch with the lives of ordinary people do you have to be’ to abandon every thing you promised as the pre-election lib dem party, and support the ordinary people-hating tory party policies.”

    1. the libdems haven’t abandoned everything. read the coalition agreement and the libdem manifesto and see how much overlap there is. sure, they ahvent achieved it all within 6 weeks of taking office, give them a year or two to keep their promises on electoral reform, green policy, and education, and then make your judgement.

    2. as for supporting the people-hating tories, well, i certainly hate them. but in a grown up world you have to put that aside and deal with reality. and the reality was that labour didn’t have the votes or seats to give them a mandate to continue governing. what would you have done as cleggy the day after the election?

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