The Tory Party’s dodgy use of stats

At PMQs today, Ed Miliband questioned David Cameron on the NHS. In response to a wuestion on the 18 week target, Cameron claimed the number waiting 18 weeks had fallen since the election. Labour disagreed, saying the number had risen. Labour seem to be correct and Cameron wrong.

It’s not the first time the Tories have been caught out using dodgy stats (although Labour aren’t immune either). Here are some other instances courtesy of a comment I saw on the Guardian website:

1. Grant Shapps claims that “nearly a million people” (878,300) on incapacity benefit had dropped their claims, rather than face a new medical assessment for its successor, the employment and support allowance.

2. David Cameron falsely states in a Conservative Party political broadcast that the coalition “was paying down Britain’s debts”.

3. David Cameron and Jeremy Hunt rebuked by the Government’s own statistics watchdog yesterday for claiming that spending on the NHS had risen in real terms in recent years.

4. Boris Johnson rebuked over use of dodgy crime statistics

5. Iain Duncan Smith rebuked over immigration statistics

6. Statistics head Andrew Dilnot says a Treasury graph on infrastructure left readers with “a false impression of the relative size of investment between sectors”

7. Iain Duncan Smith rebuked for falsely claiming the coalition’s controversial benefits cap had already caused 8,000 people to move into jobs.

From this list we can conclude two things:

1. Sub-editors like using the word “rebuked”

2. Cameron’s error today was not an isolated incident

Now all parties spin stats in a way they think best suits their argument, so what’s the problem you might think? Well, if we are going to argue over whether a particular policy is working or not, it is essential to agree on some basic facts. If we can’t even do that, a proper evaluation of the policy is impossible. It also leads to a general mistrust of statistics to the extent that no figures (regardless or the source) are believed, whether they be on unemployment, crime or immigration.



9 thoughts on “The Tory Party’s dodgy use of stats

  1. Reblogged this on Jay's Journal and commented:
    I don’t call it being rebuked, I call it being caught as bloody liars – that’s all they have been (the coalition) since before they sneaked into the government through the back door. I hope never again…

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