Wednesday 4 March 2009

ONS Not Fibbing Enough, Says Minister

You gotta laugh. The Office of National Statistics aren't following orders and Phil Woolas is 'appalled', apparently.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has accused the Office for National Statistics of "playing politics" with population figures.

He said he was "appalled" at the release of figures showing one in nine British residents was born abroad.

The Tories have accused the government of "bullying" the ONS and trying to "suppress" embarrassing information.

Playing politics? I don't remember any Labour Minister crying foul when the ONS changed the way they publish information on attitudes to smoking restrictions in pubs.

Since 1996, they have split the responses between those who approve of an outright ban, those who favoured some restrictions, and the numbers calling for none at all.

The figures up to 2005 were:

2003: 20%, 70% and 8% respectively.
2004: 31%, 63% and 5%
2005: 33%, 61% and 5%

Note that the first figure is those in favour of what has now been inflicted on us. The significant majority didn't want it. This could have been embarrassing to Labour, in the wake of their authoritarian Health Act 2006, if the ONS hadn't changed the way they presented the stats ... which is exactly what they did. I'm sure they still asked the same questions, but tables were published showing 66% agreeing with restrictions (a flatline from the previous two years by their own admission), without any further detail.

Lo and behold, a majority now in favour, whereas before they were struggling for a third of those surveyed. As Paul Daniels might say, now that's magic.

Even that figure is routinely ignored by Labour when faced with the issue of pub closures, instead trotting out other stats which include places such as shopping malls, offices, hospitals and schools. Woolas said today,

"... the idea that there are figures that won't be used and abused by people is naive"

As a Labour MP, does this make him the pot or the kettle? I sometimes get confused.

UPDATE: The Rt Hon. Bill Quango MP has highlighted this Political Betting article from last month which explains why setting the ONS free from the shackles of Labour spin may have been a bit of an own goal.

So, prior to this, the ONS reported exactly in line with Labour policy, but now Phil Woolas claims they are "playing politics". The hypocrisy is stunning. They don't like it up 'em, Pike.


Curmudgeon said...

It is interesting that, while these surveys tended to show a majority in favour of "banning smoking in public places" (which the likes of ASH love to trot out), at the same time they always showed a majority in favour of allowing smoking to some degree in pubs and clubs. Suggesting that people do not regard these as genuinely "public places" but rather somewhere you make a positive choice to enter. You don't hear much about that from those claiming the smoking ban enjoys "public support".

Bill Quango MP said...

independent statistical body
PB did a good piece about the governments own goal on an independent statistical body.
Having manipulated the stats for so long and to the point that no believed a word any more, they were forced into it.
Ohhh the joy!

Dick Puddlecote said...

Thanks for the link Bill, worth an update methinks.