Friday 5 February 2010

Fiddling the figures

A few days ago, I mentioned the Tory leaflet being distributed locally with a somewhat misleading front cover, and some rather dubious solutions to the problems we face. The credibility of the leaflet was further undermined yesterday by the UK Statistics Authority telling the Tories that the way in which they have been using crime statistics was "likely to damage public trust in official statistics".

Yes, indeed – the local leaflet uses the same dodgy figures which the Tories have been using elsewhere, claiming that "Since 1998 violent crime in Wales has increased by 53%". As was made clear by the Statistics Authority, any such claim is completely baseless, because the method of recording was changed significantly in the period concerned. Yet the claim is simply repeated in the Tory leaflet with no explanation, and no context.

Violent crime is a serious matter, and it is a matter which greatly concerns people on a day to basis. The causes and solutions deserve proper and thorough debate – and it would certainly help if the government did not keep changing recording methods so that we could all see whether the trend is increasing or not.

But simply playing on people's fears for political advantage by quoting meaningless figures is an irresponsible thing for any politician to do.

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