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 …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good point, I got my net and gross the wrong way round, I could be a politician.

  2. Richard 12 Silver badge

    Net was about £160m at the time

    It's far less now because our economy is in the toilet.

    Why is it that we get downgraded every time Theresa gives a speech?

  3. ntevanza

    Affirmative Action

    Boris the clearest sign yet that the Tory party should finally consider limiting their affirmative action admission policy giving undue preference to airheads and bimbos. Those people have valuable contributions to make in other areas, like bake-offs, internet video and, in this particular case, shampoo advertising. Sadly, the Tories' worthy experiment in inclusion has shown that those skills do not always readily translate well into public policy.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    £350 million is currently closer to £320 million (it varies).

    The rebate is ~£100 million and that is money the UK government never passes to the EU, so has control over already.

    Then there is EU-directed (but UK-implemented, e.g. DEFRA) spending in the UK of ~£100 million that comes out of our actual contribution.

    So, we get to take back control of ~£220 million, of which almost half is currently spent on UK farmers, science, etc and would no doubt be better spent on shoring up our financial services industry (again).

  5. DontFeedTheTrolls
    Boffin

    88.2% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

    (Vic Reeves)

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Yesterday's man is a busted flush…

    Sorry for the mixed metaphor…

    Bojo lost the Tory leadership election last year and probably knows he won't get another chance. But he's getting board being a Minister with not a lot to do: most of the main aspects of the Foreign Office have been given to other departments.

    There's not a lot of mileage in the £350 million a week line anymore, viz. UKIP's collapse in the recent general election. The point of the article was to stir things up before May's heavily trailed speech in Florence at the end of the week. After that Bojo is likely to act as a stalking horse for someone like Rees-Mogg once it becomes clear in October that wheels have come of the Brexit bus: no progress on citizenship and no progress on the budget mean no chance of a trade agreement before March 2019.

  7. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Lies, Damn lies etc

    Let's face it, this is a Tory politician we're talking about, so "Damn lies" is the only bit that applies.

    [I say 'tory' politician, but politicians of many other parties are just as bad. The only difference is that a varying proportion of Labour, Liberal, SNP, PC MPs are actually reasonably honest and morally sound. ALL tories (and kippers) lie as naturally as breathing, and not lying is as hard as holding their breath for 10 minutes]

  8. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: Lies, Damn lies etc

    I've always found Jacob Rees-Mogg very open and honest about his beliefs and policies.

  9. Spacedinvader

    Re: Lies, Damn lies etc

    May be true but he's an absolute cunt.

  10. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Re: Lies, Damn lies etc

    But are you certain the eighteenth-century throwback is telling the truth? I remain to be convinced that he isn't a secret Pastafarian with shares in Durex

  11. JamesPond
    Unhappy

    Re: Lies, Damn lies etc

    "I've always found Jacob Rees-Mogg very open and honest about his beliefs and policies."

    I disagree, JRM uses comedy, whimsy, supposed eccentricity and latin to hide his vile far-right, racist, anti-equal-rights and anti-climate change views. He has similar political and theological leanings as the the NI DUP and the US Tea Party. He is an exceedingly dangerous politician who we ignore and laugh with at our peril.

  12. Sam Liddicott

    -50% / +100%

    The Boris figure is right to within -50% +100%.

    The actual amount is only an issue to those who don't care about the principle at stake.

    The EU cost could reasonable be as high as £660M per week: http://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/costs-and-liabilities-associated-with-the-european-union.

    But even if there were some idiots who somehow thought the referendum was on an NHS budget increase of precisely £350M per week, there were plenty of others who actually read the question on the ballot paper before voting.

    Even if the figure were not in dispute, as it was not on the ballot it would be part of the budget, debated in parliament (Gina Miller and the remainers would like that) and in fact could still be granted even now!

    On the other hand, Ted Heaths lies were lies in principle, not of quantity, but none of those remainers who get so very excited about "lies" care about that, it was before their time!

    http://www.theeuroprobe.org/2017-040-the-1971-fco-301048-heath-knew-it-was-treason/

  13. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Not backing up the buffoon but as he has set a precedent, I hope the Stats head honcho well be commenting on the numbers and claims by all other pols and civil servants.

  14. HmmmYes Silver badge

    I dont know why people are getting so excited about Europe.

    The EU is just a slush fund for farmers.

    Stop spending ~50% of a bunch of useless, corn chewing dossers - yes, I come from a rural background and know farmers - and Ill start getting a bit more excited.

  15. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    @HmmmYes

    A slush fund / insurance for farmers, the EU may be. Let me inquire: do you eat food?

    Even producing a product that everyone needs, farming isn't a great way to make money when your production is at the mercy of weather, pestilence, and the Berkeley Hunts literally riding roughshod over your goods in production in pursuit of what is now theoretically an imaginary fox. Pokemon Go with added horse crap.

    Subsidy uses tax to keep farms running to put food in our supermarkets whether each individual farm has a good or a bad year this year, which sounds smart to me.

  16. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Re: @HmmmYes

    The reason farming isnt a great way to make money is that the price of land has been bid up to use up the subsidy and the (UK) tax advantages.

    Treat farmign like a normal business rather than a expensive arm of the DSS - remove subs, remove the farming-only tax treatment and - TaRah! - you'll see farmers make profit.

  17. JamesPond
    Pirate

    Re: @HmmmYes

    @Robert Carnegie

    " in pursuit of what is now theoretically an imaginary fox."

    Not theoretical at all, definitely real fox. Driving between Whitby and Pickering (North Yorkshire for you saavaners) at the start of September and found myself stuck on a single-track road with a pack of hounds and riders chasing across it. Up on the hill was a definite real fox. So much for a hunting ban in the UK.

  18. John Lilburne Silver badge

    The EU is just a slush fund for farmers.

    Not quite true. It is a slush fund to mega agribusiness mainly located in the UK.

    For years the EU have wanted to cap the amount paid per farmer rather than having it based on acreage. The UK has always opposed this as the UK farming industry is dominated by just a handful of companies that own most of the industry. IOW the UK government has been supporting a transfer of money to the mega rich.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/01/farm-subsidies-blatant-transfer-of-cash-to-rich

    This is why BREXIT will NOT result in a reduction of payout to Tory sponsors.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BoJo is very right

    Let's use the EU figures:

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/external/html/budgetataglance/default_en.html#united_kingdom

    The UK contributed €18.21bn after the rebate. It also collected €4.27bn in customs and farm trade duty of which 25% was retained as a collection fee and €3.20bn passed on to the EU. This means (including accounting for our rebate) the UK sent €21.41bn to the EU. Today's exchange rate is €1 = £0.89. This means the UK sent £19.05bn to the EU, i.e. £366M a week.

    On exit, we regain control of that money. Of course, some flows back into the UK in CAP and project payments, but the UK government does not control that money.

  20. Mark 110 Silver badge

    Re: BoJo is very right

    "but the UK government does not control that money."

    I refer you to my earlier comment that our democratically agreed representatives agree how that money will be spent under treaty and budget. The UK also contributes to organisations like NATO, the UN, various Commonwealth organisations - we have very little control how they spend the money either.

  21. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: BoJo is very right

    "On exit, we regain control of that money. Of course, some flows back into the UK in CAP and project payments, but the UK government does not control that money."

    And a lot of those "EU mandated" projects are in the regions. Would you trust Westminster to spend it there or re-direct it to Crossrail or the Home Counties?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: BoJo is very right

    I never stated in my original email about whether the UK controlling the money over the EU was a good or bad thing. Just pointing out that Boris was completely and totally correct in what he said.

    I know as well as the next man that the net figure (which is relevant in other contexts) is lower.

    Interestingly, when you think about the income tax that you pay. Do you net off the services you receive from the government? The healthcare you receive? The roads you drive on? etc. If you don't, then it is hard to complain about using the gross figure we hand to the EU as a country. You hand your income tax to the government and they then control it. If they reduce your income tax, or abolish it entirely, you might have to pay more for your healthcare and other matters, but you control that money.

    In answer to the other question that was raised though, would I trust Westminster more to spend that money than the EU. The short answer is yet. The EU has a very long history of mismanaging its money and failing to reform. The CAP is the best example yet of that. And frustratingly, as a UK citizen, I have no influence over that spending. My government gets to send one representative to the commission, who is over-ruled on virtually everything. Tony Blair gave back half the UK rebate to the EU in return for an agreement to review the CAP, which crucially has not happened. At least if I disagree with the way the UK government spends my money, I get to be involved in direct elections to remove that government.

    But frankly none of this matters. All I did in the original post was show the actual figures, as published by the EU, to prove that BoJo did not lie. I have actually read BoJo's column in the Telegraph, and I found it refreshing that he was taking the decision the British people made and looking for ways to make the most of the situation. Rather than constantly talking the country down. Should you disagree with that, you are quite within your rights to send your own 4000 word position to the newspaper and hope they publish, or to ask elected representatives with the same viewpoint as your own to do the same.

    I find it disturbing though on the focus on this figure. Which incidentally looks worse and worse as we go forward. The OBR has published estimates for payments going forward. 2019 when we are scheduled to leave the EU, Gross is £375M, Net is £300M. By 2022, Net exceeds £350M if we aren't out. Yet where is the focus on the downright scaremongering lies from project fear? We are supposed to have 500,000 more unemployed by now - yet employment levels have gone up. Each family is supposed to be £4000 worse off, yet they are better off. The economy was supposed to have crashed, yet forecasts of the economy are all up. The mass exodus of the city is not happening, in fact in the latest survey of financial capitals of the world, London is in first place, and even further ahead of NY than it was pre-Brexit vote. Project Fear lied left right and centre, and Cameron even used government money to send around Project Fear predictions. It failed. It is time that people, quite frankly, accept the result and get behind their country.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: BoJo is very right

    >Each family is supposed to be £4000 worse off, yet they are better off.

    Really? In relative terms my salary buys less than it did last year. With inflation currently at 2.6% and the average salary increase this year 2.2%, most people are worse off this year than last.

    In absolute terms, someone on the average UK wage (~£27.2k) could buy 35600Euro on May 2016 (average exchange rate May 31 2016 1:1.31). To buy 35600Euro today will cost you ~£31.5k. A person earning the average salary in the UK is now ~£4,300 worse off than they were a year ago compared to the Eurozone. In USD, its about £2,200. However, you want to sell it, we have all had a pay cut compared to our colleagues and peers doing the same job outside the UK.

  24. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: BoJo is very right

    "Of course, some flows back into the UK in CAP and project payments, but the UK government does not control that money."

    I recall on the morning the result was announced a Leave-supporting MP whose constituency was receipt of EU funding was demanding that UK gov replace that funding. So, as far as that particular Leave campaigner was concerned (a) control meant only that it be spent in the same way as if the EU were still in charge and (b) that money wouldn't be going to the NHS.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: BoJo is very right

    "A person earning the average salary in the UK is now ~£4,300 worse off than they were a year ago compared to the Eurozone."

    Which is, of course, only an issue if you go and spend your entire salary in Europe. Whereas Boris is not guilty of cooking the statistics, you definitely are.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: BoJo is very right

    >Which is, of course, only an issue if you go and spend your entire salary in Europe. Whereas Boris is not guilty of cooking the statistics, you definitely are.

    But we are in Europe. Maybe not the Eurozone, but we are still part of Europe. And our money can buy us less stuff now than we could buy one year ago and less stuff than people who were on equal wages to us last year. So we are worse off, and compared to people in Europe someone earning the average salary is £4,300 worse off. Or in this global world of cross-continent business units should we only compare ourselves to our colleagues that just work in our country?

  27. kmac499

    BOJO'S ELECTION RESULT.

    BoJo was elected MP for Uxbridge and Ruislip with 23,716 votes (a moderately safe Con seat)

    a Fair old majority of 5,034 over the next candidate

    or even more fairly 50.8 % of the Vote.

    (from here on I approximate)

    But wait the turnout was 66.8% so of the approx 69,000 eleigible voters only 46,000 or so could be arsed to turn out at all.

    Iin fact out of 69k electors he got 23k votes or about 33% of the total possible.

    So using the BoJo statistical method 2 out of 3 people don't want him to be their MP.

    I trust Boris you will do the honourable thing and respect the overwhelming combined will and apathy of your electorate..

  28. Adam 52 Silver badge

    "the ONS line of responsibility is direct to Parliament"

    As of last week, Parliament gave control over Parliament committees to the Government. So that independence is now gone.

  29. Zippy's Sausage Factory
    Trollface

    I notice

    that Boris threatened to resign and the pound got markedly stronger straight away. As though the markets felt that however bad Brexit is, Boris is just going to make it worse.

    Time to resign, Boris...

  30. TVU Silver badge

    "BoJo, don't misuse stats then blurt disclaimers when you get rumbled. Norgrove was right: post-Brexit gross £350m a week? Nope"

    ^ In other words, the original claim was one big stonking lie. We know that but it was the only way that Leave could win; by lying or fear mongering such as the equally bogus claim that all 80 million Turks would swamp this country if the UK stayed in European Union.

    And to all the upset, selfish geriatric Leave supporters - I just don't care for your sheer ignorance, bigotry and intolerance.

  31. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "And to all the upset, selfish geriatric Leave supporters - I just don't care for your sheer ignorance, bigotry and intolerance."

    And I just don't care for your stereotyping. I may be on the old side but I'm not a Leave supporter.

  32. Scary Biscuits

    Surprisingly, for an article supposedly written by a professional statistician, no evidence is cited to support the claim that Boris has misused statistics, other than the allegation of the head of the statistics authority. As reg readers will know, this is nothing more than an appeal to authority, a logical error.

    The £350m isn't actually a statistic anyway: it's an amount, a bill we must pay in cash every week. Nor was there any small print, as this article misleadingly alleges. There was a sentence in the Telegraph that was clearly referring to the gross amount and the fact of control. The complaint from Norgrove and this article seems to be more about the referendum campaign, not the actual sentence in Boris's article. Whether you agree with this or not probably depends on your political views. Either way, don't be misled by people claiming to be experts, whether they be civil servants or journalists.

  33. JamesPond
    Trollface

    The £350m isn't actually a statistic anyway: it's an amount, a bill we must pay in cash every week

    @Scary Biscuits

    You've clearly not read the article.

    Mr Norgrove is head of the UK Statistics Authority.

    By definition, a statistic is " a branch of mathematics dealing with the collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation, and organisation of data." . Therefore doesn't matter whether it's an amount, a ratio, a percentage or a unicorn, it is still a statistic.

    I take it as you say the UK pays this in cash every week, you believe a lorry leaves the Bank of England every week full of tenners and drives to Brussels? Anyway as many have commented on here, it's no where near £350m per week as you have to deduct the 'discount' (it's not a rebate, we don't send a lorry with £350m cash every week and get £70m back on the return journey) plus other monies we receive back through direct and indirect investment into the UK from the EU. So depending upon which numbers you choose to believe, the actual amount seems to be £200m +/- £50m.

    And this is why Mr Norgrove is complaining that BoJo is misrepresenting facts as £350m p/w never existed, apart from as a 'fact' on the Leavers bus.

  34. Citizen99

    "Norgrove was right: post-Brexit gross £350m a week? Nope"

    Oh, should he have said £349, or £351 ?

    This is a side-load of politics into the Register; the views of one of the unelected 'experts' who see their power over us slipping away as we become a sovereign nation again.

  35. PapaD

    Erm

    "This is a side-load of politics into the Register; the views of one of the unelected 'experts' who see their power over us slipping away as we become a sovereign nation again."

    Are you suggesting that the head of the Office of National Statistics (a UK government organisation) is somehow actually an unelected european expert, and when the UK leaves Europe, we will no longer have the ONS (A british institution), because (and i hate to quote the moron who first stated this) we have had enough of experts?

    In all honesty, when i make a decision, i like to talk to experts in the relevant subject - i seek financial advice when making financial decisions, I seek medical advice when suffering a medical problem - I VERY much have not had enough of experts, and i really hope no-one is stupid enough to believe that ignoring experts is a good move when you are making decisions about things in which you have little to no knowledge.

  36. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Lies, Damned Lies and Politicians' speeches

    Like said one of them, "promises only bind those who believe in them", don't they?

  37. Roj Blake Silver badge

    With Apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan

    Boris is the very model of a modern Tory minister,

    He has information irregular, falsified, and sinister,

    Relieved of his duties for lying as a minister,

    Let me tell you how he became the prince of a town called westminster,

    He is barely acquainted with matters mathematical,

    His poorly crafted lies drive the ignorant hysterical,

    About unfounded brexit shit he is often in a lot o'news,

    With many dreadful 'facts' for those confirming their own racist views,

    Boris is the very model of a modern Tory minister.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No misuse

    https://icmvv6qxwpktq0do-zippykid.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Norgrove-fixed.jpg

  39. Jtom Bronze badge

    There's an old book titled, "How to Lie with Statistics," that is well worth the read. The basic rule is, don't believe anything you may infer from them. I have a second rule, never believe ANY numbers generated by a journalist (this after reading that crime had dropped 120% from the previous year. What? Were thieves returning items stolen from previous years?). Third rule, don't draw any conclusions from any percentages given without showing the actual raw numbers (story said, people diagnosed with 'x' jump 50% in one week. At that rate of growth, entire population at risk in just months. (Actual numbers went from two diagnosed cases to three, but wasn't reported.))

    Then there was an actual ad that said something like, "65% of smokers say "A" cigaretts are as good or better than "B" cigarettes. Perfectly true, but the numbers were: A better than = 15%; A as good as B = 50%; A worse than B = 45%.

    Look, most oeople are uncomfortable with numbers and oercentages, and you know if you are. If you are one, don't conclude anything by someone else's version of what they mean.

  40. Roj Blake Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Your cigarette percentages add up to 110%

  41. Libertarian Voice
    WTF?

    Baffled

    I really don't get why so many in IT (so many on here at any rate) support the EU? In IT speak it is blindingly obvious that the EU is tantamount a global variable with input from all directions constantly changing things and no idea who is changing what; why; and more importantly how to stop it. There isn't even anything in place to limit its scope; the very foundation of the EU is what makes it the truly corrupt organisation that it is.

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