Telegraph: “The nation’s babies have begun to abandon the Prime Minister”

You have to hand it to Telegraph journalists. It’s approaching August. Stories are thin on the ground. But trees must be killed. So stories must be concocted. And what a concoction this one was!:

New parents shun ‘Cameron’ and ‘Nick’ for baby names
David Cameron may feel he needs his Tuscan holiday at the end of a bruising first year in power.

There followed suitable snaps of Cameron and Clegg looking knackered, and this text:

After facing battles over spending cuts, a gloomy economy, and the phone hacking scandal, now it seems that even the nation’s babies have begun to abandon the Prime Minister.

Fewer parents chose to call their newborn boys “Cameron” during the Coalition’s first seven months in power, as the Conservative leader’s apparent popularity on the maternity wards continued to slide.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 1,191 baby boys were named Cameron in 2010, making the Prime Minister’s surname the 61st most popular first name in England and Wales last year.

This represented a plunge in the rankings since 2008, when 1,627 boys were called Cameron, putting it 46th in the rankings.

Perhaps reflecting the harsh realities of sharing power, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, faired even worse.

Only 15 boys were called Nick last year, along with 448 named Nicholas, even fewer than in previous years, before Mr Clegg was appointed Deputy Prime Minister.

Astute LDV readers may have already spotted the fatal flaw in the headline above. Yes. You’ve got it. The first names of our Prime Minister and Deputy PM are not “Cameron” and (bearing in mind babies are normally named in full) “Nick”.

In the service of Liberal Democrat Voice, I have immersed myself in Office for National Statistics spreadsheets until my eyes were starting to come out of their sockets.

Trust me. Over the years, some names become more popular and some become less popular. It’s as simple as that. Take my surname. In 1904, “Walter” was the 19th most popular first name in the country. It then succumbed to an historic slide so that, in 2009 only 27 babies were named “Walter”.

If we take our Prime Minister’s actual first name, David, that has undergone a similar historic slide in popularity. In 1954 and 1964, David was the most popular boy’s name. In 2010 it was 64th with 1094 boys named “David”. But, playing the Telegraph at their own game, this was a DRAMATIC increase on 2009 when only 1072 boys were called David. So the Prime Minister, contrary to the Telegraph’s gist, has encouraged a POSITIVE RUN on his first name, if we play the same fatuous inferential charade as the Telegraph.

If we wanted to split hairs about the name Cameron, then we could point out that it is actually enjoying a vast increase in usage. It was nowhere in the Top 100 names until 1994 when it came in at 65th. It peaked at 27th in 2002 when Mr Cameron was relatively unknown. When you compare 1191 Camerons in 2010 to virtually zero in 1990, then that’s quite an increase. And Cameron as a girl’s name is on a roll. 32 in 2010 compared to just 18 in 2009.

Now to the name Nick. Despite not being a usual full first name, there were 15 babies named Nick in 2010 compared to just 9 in 2002. That’s actually an increase, oh Telegraph.

As for Nicholas, that is another one of those names, like David, which is historically declining. In 1944 it was the 76th most popular boys’ name. It rose to 52nd in 1996 but in 2010 it trended down to 133rd. In 2009 there were 454 new Nicolases while in 2010 there were 448 – just a 1% reduction.

So, to summarise (and wake up at the back, please), the popularity of David went up between 2009 and 2010, while the choice of Nicholas went down by a mere 1% in those years.

So, that was the highly fragile basis on which the Telegraph told us that the PM and DPM have been ‘shunned’. That was the basis on which the Telegraph based this ludicrous sentence:

The nation’s babies have begun to abandon the Prime Minister.

…The Silly Season has well and truly arrived.

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5 Comments

  • Daniel Henry 30th Jul '11 - 11:57am

    Um… I’m not sure what’s sillier really, making a silly jokey article about baby names or taking that joke a little too seriously! :p

  • @Daniel Henry

    The Telegraph doesn’t do jokes. Seriously, having had to have read that newspaper for several years due to family choices in paper-buying habits, practically every article, regardless of content has a political agenda behind it of some way. There was one story where they had to admit the EU did something positive (something about bird biodiversity) and they actually introduced an unrelated story for the second half of the article to match the paper’s editorial stance. It’s quite remarkable in a depressing sort of way.

    So, it’s a stupid filler article but it’s certainly not a jokey article, the Telegraph is deathly serious in pretty much everything it does.

  • Good analysis Paul. Should serve as a warning to be very sceptical about any story based on selective statistics – especially in the silly season!

  • Martin Land 30th Jul '11 - 8:07pm

    and, I assume, even more damningly not a single boy was named ‘Daily Telegraph’….

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