Wrong, right? Wrong …

The British people are wrong about everything. So said Ipsos MORI’s Bobby Duffy in a piece slamming our ignorance about immigration, Muslims, teenage pregnancy, benefit fraud, and foreign aid.

In fact, the article (which is patronizing on an epic scale, as you’d expect) is not even wrong. Duffy’s problem is that he doesn’t believe us, but he does believe official statistics. Which are rubbish. As in …

Immigration
Wrong, right? Wrong …
Duffy says we believe 31% of the population are immigrants, while ‘the official figure is 13%’.
But the official figure is meaningless.
Tony Smith, former chief executive of the UK Border Agency admitted in April 2013 that “we just don’t know who’s here and who isn’t“.
And MPs recently issued a warning saying that our immigration statistics are “unfit for purpose”.

Foreign aid
Duffy says we think we spend more than we do. But actually, the state says we spend less than we do. Our aid spending (£8.6bn) should hit 0.7% of gross national income this year, making us the first the G8 country to hit that target.
But private donations added another £1.1bn last year. For some reason, this figure isn’t included in our aid spending. The official figures just tell us how much of our money the state spends.

Your number’s up
But the real point is that politicians and policy wonks see stats as the big story. And they’re not. They’re just part of the story. And an unreliable part at that.
So think on this:

  • There are lies, damned lies and official statistics;
  • If you torture your statistics for long enough, they’ll tell you anything;
  • 89.3% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

And finally …
The best way to handle statistics is to follow the example of the late Sir John James Cowperthwaite, a British civil servant.

As Financial Secretary of Hong Kong from 1961 to 1971, Sir John was tasked with finding ways the government could boost the then colony’s economy.

He rightly decided that the best thing the government could do was nothing. So he refused to allow his bureaucrats to collect economic statistics in case it encouraged them to meddle in the economy.

The result? Hong Kong became one of the most powerful financial centres in the world.

Sir John is my favourite civil servant, by some considerable distance.

I’d trade him for a hundred Duffys.

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Investigating journalism

Here’s an interesting piece of investigative journalism (video) that investigates journalism.

In fact, it investigates Guardian journalism, or, at least, Guardian finances.

It’s got some good footage of the Guardian’s shiny new building.

Just the outside, though.

They wouldn’t allow any filming inside.

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Staggering on at the Guardian

A piece in today’s Press Gazette carried this barbed (but entirely accurate) comment from New Statesman editor editor Jason Cowley on the Guardian’s … er … business model:

‘I could get 4m users a day if we were losing £40m a year and had 650 journalists.’

Yes. Exactly.

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Anti-northern bias: the Guardian speaks

The Guardian is on great form here. This piece laments the lack of ‘positive European journalism relating to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’.
I wonder why that is?
It couldn’t be the state-induced famines, could it? Or their electoral system?
The concentration camps don’t help either, I suppose. Nor do the executions.
Still, at least Pyongyang can count on the comrades at Guardian Towers to redress the balance.

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State urged to step in on exec. pay

There’s a head of steam building up behind the idea that the state should step in to curb executive pay.

Terrific idea – but does it go far enough?

Wages
The state might also have a go at setting other wages. After all, who knows better than a Whitehall apparatchik how much a shop assistant is worth?

Then there’s the thorny issue of prices. They keep going up. Surely the state could step in and keep them under control?

So, what we need is some kind of Government Strategic Planning Board.

We could call it Gosplan.

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Court battle looms over unredacted US embassy cables

It looks like we’re in for a long and nasty court case, as Wikileaks and the Guardian blame each other for the release of thousands of unredacted US embassy cables.

For example, Melissa Chan, Al Jazeera English’s correspondent in China, spotted the names of three Tibetan monks and an LGTB activist who’ve all been in contact with the US, and a Uighur woman, in the cables.

Yes, I know information wants to be free.

But so do people living under dictatorships.

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Huffpo and puffpo

Huffpo’s here. The Huffington Post’s UK site was launched last night at a gathering and twitterfest (#huffpostuk) of the great and the good.

Jobs lots?
So, another outlet for journalism, and more jobs for journos? Well, yes and no.

The good news is they do hire. The bad news is they don’t pay.

Sounds like
Still, it is another voice in a media landscape peopled by a rather smallish in-crowd?

Well, yes and no again. When I looked at it today, it had pieces by:

  • Ed Miliband (Labour leader…well, you might not know…);
  • Christina Patterson (Independent);
  • Mark Ferguson (Labour List);
  • Will Straw (Left Foot Forward);
  • Lily Bevan (London-based writer);
  • James Moran (London-based satirist);
  • Alastair Campbell (er…nuff said);
  • Roy Greenslade (Guardian);
  • Zac Goldsmith (MP);
  • Douglas Alexander (MP);
  • Jeremy Hunt (MP);
  • Louis Susman (diplomat);
  • Peter Tatchell (wouldn’t be a show without Punch…);
  • Will Watson (peace practitioner – no idea);
  • Louise Phillips (former Lib-dem apparatchik);
  • Paul McKeever (copper);..

There are more of the same. But at this point, I rather lost the will to live.

Let’s face it, it’s a bit dismal. Of course, some of the above may be worth reading.

But they’re not exactly voices crying in the wilderness, are they?

Looks like
I don’t mind the look. It’s bright and breezy, and doesn’t look as straight-laced as UK broadsheet sites tend to.

But the content? Same old same old.

It’ll huff. And it’ll puff.

But it won’t blow anyone’s house down.

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