Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Every Minute, A Politician Lies

Behold a perfect example of exaggerated government statistics - massaged into the realms of fantasy for party political purposes - passing into urban myth territory when picked up by others.

This ad is currently being presented at cinemas. Look out for the tagline:

"Every minute, another young person is trafficked into sexual exploitation"

A simple calculation puts that figure at over 500,000 trafficked young people per year.

Yet according to studies into the issue, the true figure is nowhere even remotely close to that.

Two academics from the University of North London, Liz Kelly and Linda Regan, tried to estimate the number of women who had been trafficked in the UK during the calendar year 1998, an exercise which they honestly described as "problematic".

First, there was the problem of the word, which Kelly and Regan solved by accepting all variations of its meaning. Then, there was the shortage of facts. They spoke to specialists, studied news reports and surveyed police, who reported that 71 women had been "trafficked", whether willingly or not, during 1998. In Stopping Traffic, which they published in May 2000, Kelly and Regan argued that the real scale of the problem was probably bigger than this and, in the absence of any accurate data, they made various assumptions which they themselves described as "speculative".

At the very least, they guessed, there could be another 71 trafficked women who had been missed by police, which would double the total, to 142. At the most, they suggested, the true total might be 20 times higher, at 1,420.
In October, I wrote about how the figure eventually quoted by Denis McShane in a Westminster debate had climbed to an incredible 25,000 in order to 'sell' their policies on trafficking, despite the fact that a nationwide inquiry failed to find even ONE trafficked prostitute.

As if that wasn't mendacious enough, an unsourced and unsubstantiated total of over half a million is now being broadcast to a receptive public in movie theatres.

If this is a global tally, there is no mention of it, especially since the object of trafficking in this video is a nice, middle class, English schoolgirl. Therefore one must assume that whoever commissioned this ad is quite happy for the public to believe that one British schoolkid is trafficked into prostitution every minute.

And even if this is a worldwide total, how are we supposed to believe that when politicians such as Denis McShane, acting on Harriet Harman's anti-male initiatives, spout such egregious scaremongery? Because, as the Rajendra Pachauri debacle illustrates, this is a worldwide problem, and regular readers of this blog will know of lies and distortions being foisted on us in many other spheres of policy.

Politicians have been lying to us so wildly, for so long, that all trust in them has long since been misplaced. One day it will evaporate entirely.

Crying wolf too often tends to have that effect, so when the metaphorical sheep really do begin to be ripped to pieces, we know where to apportion the blame.


thespecialone said...

Completely agree with you. I never believe any statistics from any organisation that is:

1. A government
2. Wants taxpayers's money
3. Has a specific agenda.

Swainson said...


"Politicians have been lying to us so wildly, for so long, that all trust in them has long since been misplaced. One day it will evaporate entirely."

That one day has been and gone; about the time I started listening to the words they were saying and not what they were implying.

Bucko said...


tomsmith said...

I called stopthetraffik to ask about this clip and their funding.

Apparently the 500000 figure is from an estimate (by the UN) of the total number of people under 18 involved in forced labour. 500000 is the number estimated to be in sex related forced labour. It is a total figure, not a rate of change (1 per minute recruited) as the clip would suggest. It is also a workwide figure and nothing to do with the UK.

Government funding of stopthetraffik is quite low. It's just the usual charity over exaggeration and BS.