Tag Archives: statistics

Book Review: Bad Data by Georgina Sturge

Politicians’ memoirs are ten-a-penny while books by statisticians in the House of Commons Library can be counted on one thumb. This is that book and its rarity makes it all the more valuable. We are familiar with the flood of Government statistics; what is less apparent to the reader is how the data behind the statistics was collected. This book exposes how unreliable such data can be and how it can mislead even well-intentioned politicians.

Sturge provides a number of examples. We remember Gordon Brown meeting Gillian Duffy in Rochdale during the 2010 General Election, but what Brown and other politicians did not appreciate at the time was the level of immigration to the UK from the A8 countries. This was because for decades immigration had been estimated using the Air Passenger Transport Survey which sampled travellers passing through Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports, and this sampling had led to  estimates close enough to the decadal censuses that there was no good reason to change the sampling process.

What happened in the 2000s was that a Hungarian businessman Jóseph Váradi co-founded a low-cost airline, Wizz Air, which like other low-cost airlines, flew to small regional airports. The UK Government in anticipation of the A8 countries joining the EU had asked the statisticians for an estimate of the number of migrants from these countries coming to the UK and received a response of 5 to 13 thousand per year.

That had been based on an assumption that between 20 and 73 thousand per year would emigrate to Germany, but just before the enlargement the German Government had paused immigration from the A8 countries for two years. Not surprisingly many Eastern Europeans, particularly Poles, chose to come to Britain instead.

Unlike Germany, where any migrant has to register at their local Citizens Office within 14 days to live and work legally, there is no single action that a migrant needs to do in the UK and no link between National Insurance numbers and NHS numbers, nor are these linked to council records. As a result there is no easy way to make an estimate of immigration between censuses.

Another example Sturge uses from the Blair years is the change in agricultural subsidies from production to farmed area. Although land is registered on change of ownership, there were large areas of unregistered UK land: think of the land owned by the Crown, the Church, and Oxbridge Colleges. One consequence of the change is that it created an incentive to register land, even if it wasn’t actively farmed. In 2005 there were 100,000 applications to register land up from 9,000 previously.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 2 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 15 April 2020

Are you sitting comfortably? I hope so, because we might be locked down for quite some time to come…

2 big stories

There’s no avoiding what is the biggest story of the day, the suggestion by the Office for Budget Responsibility that the United Kingdom economy could shrink by 35% in the second quarter of 2020, with 2 million joining the ranks of the unemployed. And yes, it will bounce back to some extent, but as the IMF’s economic counsellor, Gita Gopinath says;

the size of the hit to the global economy, uncertainty about the how long the shock would last, and

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , and | 3 Comments

What’s the REAL state of the parties?

Frequent Opinion Polls since May 2016 show one picture; Conservatives way ahead, Labour & Liberal Democrats suffering, UKIP hanging on.

But when we look at “Real Votes from Real People”, from a 310,000+ sample size, from 3 countries since May 2016, we get a much different picture:


Local government by-elections may not be translatable into General Election results, but they show a remarkably different position – and one that is much more attuned with feedback from the doorstep.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 12 Comments

Watchdog says Shadow Home Secretary ‘likely to damage’ trust in statistics

Yesterday I wrote about Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling’s extraordinarily twisted use of statistics to try to justify part of the Conservatives’ ‘Broken Britain’ narrative.

Today the BBC’s Mark Easton, who broke the original story, has the news that Chris Grayling has just been sent a sharp letter from Parliament’s statistics watchdog, informing him that his mis-use of statistics about violent crime is ‘likely to damage public trust in official statistics’. The Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), Sir Michael Scholar, says he does ‘not wish to become involved in political controversy’,  but ‘must take issue’ with Grayling’s comments ‘yesterday about violent crime statistics’.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 10 Comments

Recent Comments

  • Alex Macfie
    @LIZ Gamlin: Look on the back (or even front) of the Lib Dem leaflets you've been receiving. Almost certainly there'll be a barchart somewhere, with a note "can...
  • David Rogers
    Re "Local Councils will only begin sending out postal ballot papers starting Wednesday 19th June" - not so! West Devon BC (Torridge & Tavistock constituenc...
  • Paul
    Janet Goldsborough-Jones is/was a long term Lib Dem activist / council candidate in Worthing awarded an MBE. Very active in the community. Congrats to her too....
  • LIZ Gamlin
    I live in target seat 28. I am being showered with Lib Dem leaflets thru the door but no one is engaging with residents to urge them to vote out the conservativ...
  • Alex Macfie
    Uncritical support for whatever the EU does isn't even possible because the different institutions often disagree on policy! And EU policy extends beyond policy...