Saturday, 6 February 2010

Take Statistical Advice

If you want to make a decision you need information. So you may choose to look for help from statistical experts, say for information on crime statistics. You also need to know how the statistics are collected. Take something easy like car drivers breaking the speed limit. It may be that numbers caught go down because drivers are used to the speed cameras or become better drivers. It may be that numbers go up because there are more speed cameras or there is an initiative by the police to catch more people. Do we want more drivers to be caught or do we want better driver education to prevent police intervention? This is a political decision but the bottom line is that you have to have a healthy scepticism when dealing with any figures.

Experts in the field tell us that the Conservatives have presented misleading figures on crime. The Tories are trying to tell us that figures for violent crime have increased but the UK Statistics Authority confirm that the figures used are "not directly comparable" and "likely to mislead". The Conservatives are adamant that the figures "show a big increase in violent crime over the past decade" and they are "going to carry on saying that."

The trouble with the Tory stance is that if you don't take advice from the Authority, refuse to apologise and continue with a misleading stance then the result is that you can't be believed on anything. It doesn't do the Tories any good and unfortunately it doesn't do politics any good.

Change the world

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