Friday, October 24, 2008

Why statistics don't mean anything

We now learn that crime figures were manipulated to make the Government look pretty.

July was the month the whole nation woke up to find out they'd been wrong all along. All those cries and protestations that crime is rising and is getting more brutal turned out, or so it appeared, to be the product of paranoia. The Government, figures on hand, gave us their smug assurance - it's OFFICIAL: crime is falling. They then proceeded to unleash their own pack of guard dogs, led by chief zealot David Aaronovitch from The Times, lecturing readers on their "moral panic" and instructing the nation that "in so far as we can quantify it - [the problem] isn't much worse than it was".

Which, in turn, triggered waves of questions and soul-searching. How is that possible? Is the perception any different because the press are making a big deal out of it? Do our hysterical TV and papers perpetrate a climate of fear as they 'talk up' knife-crime and street murders? Are we all in the throes of contemporary-style paranoia?

The answer came yesterday and it was a simple one. Another brick in the wall of a political class that is doing anything possible to look supremely detached from the real world. Like in many cases before, from Iraq to the 'benefits' of PFI, from the Bernie Ecclestone saga to tuition fees, the Government lied, opting for their own virtual reality instead. We now learn that "most, if not all" of Britain’s 43 forces had played down the full extent of violent crime. GBH cases had been officially recorded as lesser assaults with the result that official statistics ended up looking positively tame by comparison. In the past year alone, there's been a "22 per cent increase in [the most serious violent crimes]".

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