Lies, damned lies, and left wing statistics

About 10 years ago on holiday in New York I saw a bus advert which claimed hundreds of thousands of people were homeless in New York.  “I vote made up”, I remarked to the person I was travelling with.  They weren’t convinced and said that the people behind the advert can’t have just made the number.  I did some basic maths and believed that the number they had advertised meant every street would have about 50 homeless people on it.  Since we hadn’t yet seen anyone homeless and had been in New York a few days it seemed unlikely the number could be real.  They still weren’t convinced.  When we got back to the hotel I looks up the advert details, which sadly I can’t now find, but I remember the word homeless included people in homes.  Homeless for this advert (although not mentioned on the advert), included people in temporary accommodation, people with housing insecurity (whatever that means), and it even included some people in a home just waiting for a new one!

Looking for the advert mentioned above I discovered an article in the Huffington Post which started in New York “Roughly 1 in 10 children attending the city’s public schools are homeless”.  This came out at a staggering 114,659 children.  The same internet search showed a more widely accepted figure of 60,000 homeless in New York as a whole.  Somehow almost twice this number were homeless in public schools alone, clearly someone needed to go back to the classroom.  The article gets around this little discrepancy by including the temporarily housed.  This new category included people in domestic abuse shelters, hotels, and homes of other family members.  Whilst these arrangements may be far from idea they are not homeless.  Fixing the problem of homelessness probably starts by not making up the numbers.

Poverty or just poor statistics?

The former Croydon Advertiser posted a headline of “The 1,000 Croydon babies who will be born into poverty, abuse and neglect in 2019”.  Now Croydon has its problems.  It also has problem areas.  I’ve run for office in some of them and I know them well.  Yet the idea that nearly a fifth of the borough’s children lived in actual poverty simply doesn’t stack up.

The article refers to The Director of Public Health Annual Report for Croydon.  The 54 page report mentions ‘poverty’ 16 times, yet extraordinarily doesn’t bother to define it.  A dictionary definition of poverty is “the state of being extremely poor”.  That we have over 1000 children in families who are extremely poor would be an outrage, if it was believable.  To be extremely poor, you presumably don’t have a home, but these children and their families aren’t homeless.  Indeed assuming Croydon falls in line with national averages there are a number of ways these families which represent aren’t extremely poor:

  • 98% of families own washing machines something my family didn’t have for much of my childhood.
  • 93% 15 year olds own a smart phone, is that extremely poor?
  • 86% of homes have central heating, again something not common as recently as the 1980s.

How can they be extremely poor and have more facilities than their parents, and many more than the middle class in their grandparents generation?

Of course despite not defining it, I suspect the report refers to relative poverty.  Relative poverty tends to refer to someone on less than 60% of median income.  They are considered in poverty because they cannot access activities and opportunities that average earners can.  In Britain the 5th richest nation on earth, where GDP per capita is about 20th or almost 200 nations, relative poverty is not poverty in any meaningful sense and average opportunities give a lifestyle far above average in any meaningful sense.

The report for the local council goes onto give examples like “more than a 1,000 babies born each year may be touched by the effects of poverty in their early years” without defining what this means.  It states “there were 864 Croydon children or expected children living in temporary accommodation”, again this probably not good, but it’s also not defined, temporary could mean almost anything.

The report also gives some rather meaningless statements like “adverse childhood experience can be anything from growing up in a crowded house to experiencing a trauma”.  Suddenly poverty gets linked to anything from having a few siblings to a trauma like having close relative pass away.  Neither of which are anything to do with poverty, or things we can fix.  The statics and numbers are meaningless, bringing up children in poor circumstances is a problem.  This report is in one London borough, but its essence is repeated time and time again.  Help should be targeted at those most in need, but can this be done, if problems are exaggerated to the point of meaningless?

“‘food insecurity’ is a meaningless phase use to describe anything and everything they want, except an actual lack of food”

The run up to Easter has seen the Extinction Rebellion block large parts of central London.  Their website has a section called ‘the truth’  The ‘truth’ goes on to say “Globally, the past four years have been the hottest on record, and the 20 warmest have occurred in the past 22 years”.  Since the Little Ice Age temperatures have been rising but we also know that Britain was warmer in Viking and Roman times than it is today.

The ‘truth’ also goes onto to tell us that “People across 51 countries and territories facing crisis levels of acute food insecurity or worse, requiring immediate emergency action”.  Unicef however show malnutrition rates are thankfully collapsing –  It becomes clear that ‘food insecurity’ is a meaningless phase use to describe anything and everything they want, except an actual lack of food.

Back to Brexit

No lesser place than the London School of Economics a university not unaccustomed to a left wing bias published that “The impact of the Brexit vote on the economy is now clear”.  What they decided was clear, was that “productivity and real wages, the UK is now in a much lower position” and as they explained “the UK’s GDP growth has slowed down”.  The Independent Newspaper also confidently told us that “Brexit has cost you £1,500 so far”. 

This however is against a backdrop of continued strong economic figures with higher wages, record inward investment, lower unemployment and higher GDP than the Eurozone.  How can these two sets of data coexist?  Once again the ‘left wing’ statistic don’t require the economy to have gone backwards, or performed worse than comparable economies.  It simply requires the economy to have not performed as well as the numbers these left leaning ‘experts; had decided on.

“Lies, damned lies, and statistics” today have an overwhelming source, from people whose politics, are to tax you more, control you more, give away our national sovereignty, and with it your democratic rights.  Whilst they also want to make sure you are scared of an impending environmentally and economic doom.  This group I have called the ‘left’, maybe the paternalist or globalists, is a term you prefer.  Whatever you call them, once they start quoting numbers, you can be damned sure truth has just walked out the room.

Michael Swadling Croydon Constitutionalists