Thursday, 12 February 2009

Lies, damned lies, and Keith Vaz

The Office of National Statistics has published figures showing how the number of foreign workers in the country has increased in the past year at the same time as it published the latest unemployment figures.

'Senior Government sources' have briefed that they are, like a Cabinet of Kola Kubes, 'fizzing' with anger, because they believe that the National Statistician, Karen Dunnell, published the figures with the intent of embarrassing the Prime Minister.

No proof is offered for this conjecture which, in anonymously ascribing improper motives to a civil servant who cannot effectively answer back, is a smear of the dirtiest kind. It also smacks of bullying and intimidation of an office holder who, by statute, is independent of the Government.

And now pompous little Keith Vaz has gone into print on the issue in the Times. In a masterclass of NewLabour-ese he tells us (and I can't resist another fisk):

I’m not against the publication of statistics

That's a relief. It is the ONS' statutory function, after all.

but they have to be accurate, relevant and very clear.


So I think that to put out figures on foreign-born workers on the same day as the release of unemployment statistics is not helpful. The danger is that such information could be misconstrued or misused by those who do not support the view that Britain should be a diverse and multicultural society.

A magnificent string of non-sequiturs, and classically, pathologically, New Labour. First: so what? Statistics can be, and are, misused and misconstrued by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. That's not a reason not to publish them. Second: it is not the job of the ONS to defend or promote the idea that 'Britain should be a diverse and multicultural society' or indeed, and importantly, to be 'helpful'. Indeed, I'd be worried if I thought such an independent body was being, in the Government's view, helpful. Third: note the inference - if information, pure data, can be used to support the arguments of those who 'do not support the view that etc', it should not be released.

While we should be transparent about statistics, organisations such as the Office for National Statistics should be careful to make sure that they are always accompanied by a detailed explanation.

No, no, no! The job of the ONS is to produce raw data in an intelligble form. It is not its job to provide 'detailed explanations'. That, rather, is the instinct of Mr Vaz, who cannot bear the idea of pertinent information being produced shorn of spin.

New Labour: 'the data is unhelpful, therefore, do not publish the data'. Pathetic.


Rexie said...

Excellent fisking.

Captain Haddock said...

What's a fisk?
(Sorry to be an old fart...or is that ageist?)

Jonny Mac said...

Thanks Rexie.

Cap'n - Wikipedia, as ever, has the answer