Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Statistics, damned statistics, and Lib Dem statistics


It is often suggested that 87.6% of all statistics quoted by politicians are made up on the spot. The MUF-87.6 virus, as it is known, afflicts most politicians, but some seem to catch a more severe infection than others. Boris Johnson suffers from a very serious infection but, in fairness, that’s been exacerbated by his inability to understand what a statistic is or that numbers have meaning. Amongst the worst affected are that endangered species, the Welsh Lib Dems, where the proportion has been known to go as high as 110%. Unlikely, one might think – but they have a wide range of bar charts to prove it.

Their leader illustrated the point over the weekend when she claimed that Welsh independence “…would be 10 times more complex and 10 times more painful than Brexit”. Not 9, not 11, but precisely 10. This particular figure was based not on any careful analysis or consideration of the issue (that would require time and effort to carry out, and there aren’t enough of them left to do that) but on the need for a dramatic sounding figure to include in a speech to what remains of the party faithful. Oh, and an eye to what an uncritical media would faithfully use for a headline or two as though it had some basis in fact.

The biggest problem with her plucked-out-of-the-air number is that it makes unstated assumptions; and it completely overlooks the main reason why Brexit has been so complex and painful. That the economic impact of Brexit was always going to be negative, whatever form it took, was obvious from the outset, despite the promises to the contrary. But the degree of complexity and pain is a direct result of a deliberate decision by the UK government to distance the UK as much as possible from the EU. There was a much easier and less painful option available (remaining inside the single market and customs union whilst opting out of the political union), but in pursuit of some illusory ideas about sovereignty and greatness the UK rejected them. To make independence ten times as complex and painful assumes that any Welsh government negotiating that independence would be ten times as incompetent and irrational as Boris Johnson. A government that monumentally stupid may appear to be a realistic prospect to a Lib Dem, but my problem is that, however hard I try, I really cannot conceive of Wales electing a Lib Dem government. Whatever the bar charts show.


Anonymous said...


dafis said...

Does anyone pay real attention to what this defective dame ever has to say ? I suspect we only listen to her when we need to top up on our reserves of chuckle material. Her defects reflect the woeful state of the LibDems more than anything else. Link that to that other sad Leader of LibDems in London and you have a right pair of empty vessels.