back to article BoJo, don't misuse stats then blurt disclaimers when you get rumbled

As we all know, there are "lies, damned lies, and statistics". No doubt that line will be pulled out again to bolster the case for British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson against Sir David Norgrove, head of the UK Statistics Authority, who has made it clear he's unimpressed with Boris's use of the stats. Norgrove criticised …

Re: RE: Sabroni

Damn Mark110 beat me to it.

Would I guess that you didn't vote in the European elections then? Can you name any of your MEPs?

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Re: RE: Sabroni

And we seem to be going through with this silly Brexit thing even though only 37% of people voted for it.

By that method of calculation only 33% voted to stay. That's on a par with the 350m figure...

53% of the 72% who cared enough to vote voted for it, which is a bigger turnout, and a bigger majority, than any European election in the UK, and most UK parliamentary elections. If you claim that the numbers make the result invalid, then you must accept that most UK elections in the past 100 years were even less valid.

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Re: RE: Sabroni

Just doing my own little statistics play.

It is a pure and unadulterated statement of fact that a minority of the electorate voted for Brexit.

You can choose other numbers if you wish - which may also be true.

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Re: RE: Sabroni

Would I guess that you didn't vote in the European elections then?

Correct. I live in a non-UK EU country and have not registered to vote for that pointless sinecure of a Parliament.

Can you name any of your MEPs?

No.

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Re: RE: Sabroni

Which bit do you think is undemocratic?

I'd go for the bit where our parliament gives us very little say (one vote every five years or so) and no control over how our money is spent. A parliament which is arguably much less democratically accountable than the institutions of the EU, as it is currently led by a monomaniac who is hell-bent on subverting the representative democracy of the parliament and ruling by edict.

Of course leaving the EU will make this more democratic. I am also the last Tsar of Russia, and have this lovely bridge to sell if you're interested...

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Re: RE: Sabroni

If you claim that the numbers make the result invalid, then you must accept that most UK elections in the past 100 years were even less valid.

AFAIK, general elections don't tend to exclude people from voting on the grounds that the vote is only advisory, despite the fact that those people are likely to be the ones most affected by the outcome of the vote.

The referendum was, however, conducted on these terms (the bill for the referendum itself says it is only advisory, and referendums in UK law cannot actually be legally binding) and British citizens resident overseas for more than a certain amount of time (I think it was 8 years, but stand to be corrected) were excluded from voting.

So no, I'm not claiming it's the numbers that make the referendum invalid, I'm claiming that the referendum itself was defined as being invalid, and that the result was skewed by excluding a couple of million people who would almost certainly have voted the other way. To top that, I'll add that the leave campaign was based on a set of lies that those promoting it had been practising for 30 years or so, whilst the remain campaign was so ineptly run (through central Tory government) that there was never any possibility of most people being properly informed about what the vote actually meant in the first place.

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Re: RE: Sabroni

exclude people from voting on the grounds that the vote is only advisory

Sorry, you're seriously claiming that making a vote advisory in some way prevents people from participating? That has to be the most ludicrous sour grapes comment on the referendum that I've seen so far.

British citizens resident overseas for more than a certain amount of time (I think it was 8 years, but stand to be corrected)

15 years. Was 20, but Tony Blair decided that expats were more likely to be rightwing and reduced it. Cameron promised to remove the limit, but didn't.

there was never any possibility of most people being properly informed about what the vote actually meant in the first place.

That's perhaps the most damning comment about modern politics. You're seriously claiming that the vote wasn't valid because people weren't correctly told how they should vote by either side? I can see why you like the EU model, keep 'em voting until they get it right.

If people haven't got the interest and time to learn about the issues and make their own minds up then they shouldn't be voting. It's not a playground game, it's a serious matter.

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Re: RE: Sabroni

"Which bit do you think is undemocratic?"

The ratification process.

A constitutional change on such a scale ought to receive a popular supermajority* (as, of course should a decision to leave). It's possible that if Maastricht and Lisbon had been properly explained they would have received that. It's possible but I suspect it wouldn't have happened and that very different treaties would have had to be negotiated.

That means that there is a democratic deficit that Leave was based on. However it doesn't justify the ensuing rhinectomy.

*Being told to vote again until you get the right answer doesn't count!

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Re: RE: Sabroni

Sorry, you're seriously claiming that making a vote advisory in some way prevents people from participating? That has to be the most ludicrous sour grapes comment on the referendum that I've seen so far.

No, I'm claiming that the government justified excluding those couple of million ex-pats from the vote on the grounds that it was advisory and non-binding, so they didn't have to act on the result. If they had passed legislation form the start to make the vote binding, they would have had to include all British citizens, not just those it was convenient to poll. Arguably, they may also have had to include other EU nationals resident in the UK too, who also got no say in a major decision that directly affects their future.

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Anonymous Coward

sadly, voting is based not on actual discussion of actual figures, it's based on, well, pretty paint job of a bus. Again, and again, and Britain is no exception.

On one hand, hurrah for humans for being so consistent over the course of history. But then - why can't we so f... consistent at applying reasonal thinking?!

by the way, I would understand why people who originally, in 1970s, voted to join the EEC, an economic club, now voted out, because the club is becoming something else entirely. But then, it wasn't the reason people voted out now...

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Anonymous Coward

sadly, being 100% accurate, or even 1% accurate, doesn't matter (regardless of the misleading bit). Clearly, you can be inaccurate, wrap your shit in shiny paint and people will ignore the smell and vote for it anyway.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: vote for that pointless sinecure of a Parliament.

but bitching about it feels great! :)

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Re: RE: Sabroni

If they had passed legislation form the start to make the vote binding, they would have had to include all British citizens,

That doesn't stand up. Elections and parliamentary votes in Westminster are legally binding, yet there's no obligation to consult citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years. There's no connection between the referendum being binding or not, and the eligibilty of non-residents to vote. I think you're clutching at straws to find reasons to ignore the vote, because you didn't like the outcome.

Ask youself, honestly: if the vote had gone the other way, and leavers were complaining that it was invalid for that reason, would you support their claims?

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Anonymous Coward

people will ignore the smell and vote for it anyway.

At least they got a vote, which is more than we did for the particularly malodorous turds laid in Maastricht and Lisbon.

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Unhappy

"We don't have control over the rebated money as we're told how to use it. "

So the words are correct but the sentence is a lie?

Yes, that sound like Bozzer at work all right.

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Words not stats

Boris is right, Jane is wrong as is Norgrovery. The wording is the importantime bit not the figures. Control is the key.

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Re: Words not stats

Control is the key

Maybe, but some of us - frankly - trust Westminster to do sensible things with the money even less than we trust Brussels. The amount of "objective one" (or whatever it's called this month) funding that has flowed into parts of the UK that will simply disappear (note there have been no clear promises from Westminster about carrying on this funding) post Brexit is embarrassing.

What I haven't seen yet is a proper calculation of the real net profit / loss of stepping outside the club, even one that makes assumptions about things like tariffs that haven't yet been decided (though I think More or Less did something around the time of the referendum?). Whatever the actual figure, one thing for sure is that it will be substantially less than £350M/wk. My guess is that it'll be below £100M, but I'm basing that on nothing more than a gut feeling.

M.

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Re: Words not stats

You haven't because no one knows and you won't because it will be politically unpalatable.

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Re: Words not stats

My guess is that it'll be below £100M, but I'm basing that on nothing more than a gut feeling.

My guess would be that it might be in the ballpark of £100M, but if you look at it in any other currency - or purchasing power parity - it'll be closer to minus £2900M. Did you see how the pound tanked after the referendum?

The pound in your pocket is worth about 80% of what it was at the beginning of last year. Spread across £772 billion of public spending, that means what the government gets to spend now - measured in terms of what it will actually pay for - is about £3 billion per week less than it was before the referendum.

So yeah - if Boris has a plan to claw back every penny of that £350 million, he'll still be looking at a humungous hole in the public purse.

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Journalists

Sadly Johnson, like Gove, comes from a journalism background: Being accurate doesn't matter. All that matters is getting attention. Sadly when real solutions and substance are needed, their approach, like detailed plans for Brexit, falls apart.

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Re: Journalists

"real solutions and substance"

Are things he's not worried about in the slightest. He's involved in the classic power struggle, he wants to rule us like the kings of old. Executive power to amend the stuff he's "taking back control" of without asking either us, or parliament. And like the Kings of old, he's scheming, plotting, lying and cheating to get the crown. I'd like a general election please, early next year, before they ruin anything else : it's time for a change.

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Re: Journalists

"I'd like a general election please, early next year, before they ruin anything else : it's time for a change."

Much as I agree with you, in the greater scheme of things, the "other side" already see the UK as having a weak negotiating position due to Mays snap election and loss of her slim majority. Having another election any time before Brexit along with the uncertainty of our position changing and possibly having to restart some of the negotiations would almost certainly be far worse than leaving the existing crowd to muddle along as they are.

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Re: Journalists

Having another election any time before Brexit along with the uncertainty of our position changing and possibly having to restart some of the negotiations would almost certainly be far worse than leaving the existing crowd to muddle along as they are.

Personally, I'd far prefer Kier Starmer (a man actually qualified for the job) to be negotiating with the EU than the total imbecile that is David Davis. Davis has made no noticeable progress in the negotiations, so even if we started again in a years time and rewound the negotiations right back, Starmer would probably get us more progress in a week than Davis will have managed in a year.

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Re: Journalists

"Starmer would probably get us more progress in a week than Davis will have managed in a year"

That assumes there's something of value to be obtained.

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The EU demands something more than £17bn a year of the UK. Divided by 52, that comes to £350m a week. In fact we have "rebates", and there is also EU spending back in the UK. That brings our net contribution to £200m.

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Anonymous Coward

There are also various industries that are based in the UK because it is part of the EU. Other EU countries are now bidding to be their relocation centres. So there will be a loss of revenues and earnings that must also be factored in to the cost of leaving the EU.

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Yes, but since we're told how to spend the money that comes back Johnson's wording is correct that we will have full control of that £350M

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No it's not.

there are 3 main factors at work here:

1) the money that we owe the EU each week

2) The rebate that was negotiated

3) money coming directly back into the UK from EU schemes

there are also a bunch of other benefits which may/may not be benefits / costs - but lets look at the direct parts first.

the figure for 1) is 350 million (or it was - it actually varies due to the economic output of the country, but we can use it to start).

the rebate means that figure is reduced - i think by about 70.

IMPORTANTLY, it is not the case that we sent 350 and get 70 back - we only send 280.

we then get additional money back to spend on specific areas, as we pay into an EU budget for a program and then (sometimes) some of that money is spent in the UK. Estimates put this at about 50 (i think)

my basic understanding of how accounting works suggests that in fact, we would budget to spend the 280, not the 350. Counting like Boris does means that you are effectively spending that money twice.

To paraphrase Tim Harford:

"You walk into a shop to buy a TV with a price of £350. But there is a deal on at the moment, meaning that the TV is only £280 and you can get 50 of netflix vouchers. the "true" asking price may be £350, but you only need to spend £280 to get it. you then get an additional benefit of the netflix vouchers but have to spend that on netflix. You decide not to buy the TV and spend the money on something else. How much money do you have to spend on the other thing? Answer: £280, not 350".

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"we're told how to spend the money"

Yes but, no but...We spend the money on agreed programmes. e.g. Agriculture, infrastructure, regional development, which we would want to spend the money on anyway. And which May and friends say they will continue to pay. So are they going to be 'in control' in the future? Or if they're going to NOT spend the money on the schemes they've promised to continue supporting, then perhaps they should have told us before last June?

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Re: "we're told how to spend the money"

We spend some of the after-rebate money on approved schemes, but the rebate is taken off the full-price EU contributions and is ours to do with what we will. We already have full control of the rebated amount - it's not part of any EU contribution.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36040060

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No the £350 million is wrong. Firstly it is a figure that the UK has *NEVER* sent rebate or no rebate. It is currently way less than £350 million without the rebate. Secondly there is no dictation on what we send the rebate on. So aside the £350 million figure being wrong even without the rebate, with the rebate it is even more wrong and misleading. Sure we would have control over the majority of the money, but actually a significant chunk is going to have to be spent on replicating things that are taken care of by the EU, and putting in new customs arrangements (think a lot more like 5000 extra staff).

Also while we theoretically gain control, in reality at least for some considerable period of time we will have to keep the same levels of spending in the same places as the economic dislocation of not doing so would be ruinous.

Of course BoJo does not care, because he is sufficiently wealthy that it matters not to him.

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"The EU demands something more than £17bn a year of the UK. Divided by 52, that comes to £350m a week. In fact we have "rebates", and there is also EU spending back in the UK. That brings our net contribution to £200m."

And not forgetting that some of that net contribution pays for EU institutions that we used to have here and closed down in their favour and will now have to rebuild from scratch.

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"rebate"

Yes, "rebate" implies that you spend the money and then later apply for and get some money back. What happens in reality is we get a discount, ie pay less than the full amount.

I do wish the media would report this properly instead of parroting the politicians misleading PR.

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Facepalm

No. Boris is outright lying. It is flatly wrong, a lie, and if he wasn't a politician the ASA would have given him a ferocious gumming.

It is 280 million (approx.)

We have a discount voucher (instant rebate).

Consider this:

I join a club where the membership fee is normally £3.50 per week.

I am special so I get a discount and pay £2.80 per week.

If I leave the club, I have saved £2.80 because that's the amount I actually pay.

I also can't use the members' bar anymore so my bar bill doubles...

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Except that if Tories have control over how to spend extra money, it won't be on the NHS, Schools, Pensions, or Welfare. It will be on kickbacks to jails, banks, financiers, and offshore tax funds.

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After you take the net figure having subtracted all the subsidies paid to agriculture and other EU payments to various schemes. There remains the additional costs of managing things that once were managed by the EU and now you have to do yourself. Like for instance ensuring that you have a workable import/export system in place, and that you can administer your trade deals between 190+ countries. They'll also have the additional expense of doing immigration control of EU citizens, etc. They'll need to manage the legal system that they are reclaiming from the EU and they'll need to police those laws too. The extra administrative costs they are taking on are substantial.

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Agree - those additional costs to the taxpayer could easily be more than £350 million a week. Theres also the increased costs to private business of trading with the EU - those costs will be deducted off the tax take.

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Extra costs?

Exactly - how much will it cost to create and run a Medicines approval agency, which will have to duplicate everything that the existing EMA does. At the moment we pay a proportion of the cost, now we'll have to pay the whole thing.

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Apart from all of these concrete additional costs that you mention - and I have no idea how much they will add up to - unless we do manage to get all of these magical trade deals that offset the inevitable drop in our exports to the EU, the loss of inward investment in manufacturing that is currently predicated on our being in the EU, the loss of various jobs in the City and so on, it is likely that we will suffer a permanent drop in our GDP compared with what it would have been. IIRC, it would only need to be a 0.6% drop in GDP to wipe out the so called savings from our contributions.

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Background

This BBC Article tries to explain the £350 million rebate claim.

www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-36040060

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Anonymous Coward

It's worth noting that Norgrove is hardly some neutral mandarin, either. Sir David served as Thatcher's private secretary and her personal policy wonk between '85 and '88. As such he's the brains behind such far-left and europhile policies as the Poll Tax, Right to Buy and opposition to the ERM.

So when he tells you you're being a numerically illiterate partisan hack, you'd better believe he knows what he's talking about.

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Another worthless appeal to authority. Apparently because Norgrove was a civil servant when Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister, he's clearly far right. Actually, he was never 'her personal policy wonk' but her private secretary (think Bernard Manning in Yes Minister) responsible for organising her diary and personal correspondance.

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Devil

(think Bernard Manning in Yes Minister)

@Scary Biscuits

Keep taking the tablets.

I have to say I never saw the politically incorrect Bernard Manning aka comedian and night club owner on Yes Minister or Yes Prime Minister. The Bernard Woolley character however was PPS to the PM.

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"think Bernard Manning in Yes Minister"

Sorry, but that exceeds even my imagination.

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FAIL

Orwellian logic

Johnson's original quote:

"And yes – once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350 million per week. It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS, provided we use that cash injection to modernise and make the most of new technology."

Jane Fae:

"[Boris] is technically right: the UK will take back control of £350m which it could, if it chose, apply wholly to the National Health Service."

Do you see the problem here?

The ONS thought he was saying something else. Jane then waffles on, padding out the word count by giving The Register what it wanted, presumably, some Boris-bashing.

"Pointing to the small print – to the scale on the left, to the explanatory footnote – simply will not do. "

It is quite sufficient here since the ONS misread Johnson's quote, or didn't read it at all.

Post-truth journalism. Orwell would be proud.

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Re: Orwellian logic

Except we won't "take back control" of anything, for a two key reasons he's well aware of:

1) We don't pay that much in the first place; it is well established to be more like £200m

2) His maffs don't take into account the net loss due to slowing growth, predicted by the OBR and IFS and built into the treasury's models (i.e. official government policy -> his official policy)

It would have been *technically* correct to say "we will no longer write a cheque to the EU to the tune of £200m a week" but that is not the same as "we will get control of that £200m back when we stop writing the cheque".

That is why this is misuse of official statistics, that is why this is a breach of the ministerial code.

Besides, we all know fine well what he was really saying - no one is here is so naive to believe Boris Johnson, famously sacked multiple times for presenting fabrications as fact, is a literalist and a technocrat.

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Re: Orwellian logic

yes she was in advertising after all... Gruen would be proud !

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Technically right?

Maybe I misread: I thought this wasn't Register saying that Boris is "technically right", it is Boris saying that Boris is "technically right". And he isn't.

The sticker price of British membership of the EU is/was, let's say, £350 million a week. At the same time, the EU spends money on benefits to British activities such as agriculture, so the money comes back to Britain.

That isn't the "rebate". The rebate is that we got a perpetual discount on the membership price, theoretically "thanks" to Mrs Thatcher but let's face it she probably spent the money on wars and abolishing British industry.

So there isn't a £350 million cheque being written to the EU in the first place. It's £275 million, which is still handy money but a lot less.

You can see why a careless or stupid person would think that the EU costs Britain £350 million that's the price tag. But it's not what we pay. Why a more intelligent and better informed person would keep saying that it's £350 million, is, clearly, that they expect to benefit by lying. For instance, by keeping up the lie, some people may believe, or may choose to pretend to believe, that it's the truth after all. Although it isn't. And then there's the "appearing to be careless and stupid" thing, that you acknowledge if you admit the mistake

I say Boris Johnson isn't as stupid as he seems, and that's rather frightening.

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Anonymous Coward

Ah the old adage.

How do you tell if a politician is lying?

They open their mouths.

Now for some simple logic.

If we took out more than we paid in then what about the following questions?

Do you think the EU would want us to stay?

Would the remain campaign not have put it on a bus as well?

I am not taking sides, the 350m claim should have been scrutinised and explained that it was net which then leads to another question.

Why didn't the press want to take up the ridicule it deserved?

Well, maybe it was this quote,

"I once asked Rupert Murdoch why he was so opposed to the European Union. “That’s easy,” he replied. “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.”

https://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/anthony-hilton-stay-or-go-the-lack-of-solid-facts-means-it-s-all-a-leap-of-faith-a3189151.html

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the 350m claim should have been scrutinised and explained that it was net

I think you mean gross - nett is the £200 million (and falling).

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