The University of York’s Department of Mathematics suggests the quotation wasn’t Disraeli, but may have been Sir Charles Dilke in 1891 — though they find analogues going further back.
Even so, there are things more deceitful, more lying than statistics: graphs. We had fine examples appended to Isabel Hardman’s piece, Jobs figures: good news on employment, bad news on wages. Significantly she saw the issue entirely in terms of “the political debate”. If there’s anything deliberately more misleading than a statistical graph, it is a political-statistical graph.
The upper one, allegedly on job creation, is as specious as it gets. As the next line down says, we are not talking of jobs being created, we are looking at “cumulative change in employment level”. When that is decoded, it’s not the same thing.
On Tuesday of this week, we had this:
Figures from the IPPR thinktank show that the growth in self-employment in the UK has been the fastest of all western European countries over the past year, a trend that is expected to continue when official labour market figures are published on Wednesday.
The number of self-employed has grown by more than 1.5 million in the past 13 years to 4.5 million and now accounts for more than 15% of the labour force.
When Sarah O”Connor of the Financial Times got her sharp little teeth into that, she was less than impressed:
An average 7,700 people in the UK became self-employed each week over the past year. If these trends continue, the UK will soon look more like southern and eastern European countries, which tend to have much higher rates of self-employment, the think-tank said.
About 17 per cent of the Spanish and Portuguese workforces are self-employed, while the proportions in Italy and Greece are 23 and 32 per cent respectively.
… economists disagree about why this shift has happened and whether or not it will persist after the economy fully recovers.
Some argue that many of the newly self-employed are in fact barely working at all, which would suggest there is more slack, or untapped potential, in the economy than the 6.5 per cent unemployment rate would suggest.
Put that another way: for many, self-employment is just a waiting-room, either for a delayed retirement or for a properly-paid permanent job. It is certainly not a sign of a healthy, properly-functioning, industrially-based economy.
Elsewhere, courtesy of the Resolution Foundation, the FT blows the gaff:
That shows the further one travels from London, the less likely one finds a permanent job; and therefore one has to turn one’s hand to other ways of staying ahead of Iain Duncan Smith’s “reforms”.
Which brings me to my second observation.
My first proper teaching job was in the North-East. I was told by a colleague that the book to read was Sid Chaplin’s The Day of the Sardine. My original copy has long gone AWOL, and a re-read is well overdue.
More to the point, Alan Plater took the outline from Chaplin, added songs by Alex Glasgow, and came up with the superb Close the Coalhouse Door. Productions still tour, and still pack ’em in. Several fine songs came out of that: the one making my current ear-worm is Ours! Ours! Ours! Ours! Ours!. And, yes, I have been here before. The point of the lyric (which recites the progress to the 1947 nationalisation of the pits) is that the miners, like the rest of us cogs in the machine, are doomed to perpetual disappointment:
— When its ours, Geordie lad, when its ours:
There’ll changes bonny lad, when its ours!”
— Are you sure we’ll be all right? Is the future really bright?”
— (Oh, for God’s sake, man) We’ve won this bloody fight!
An’ its ours, all ours!
By the time I was in the North-East all those nationalised pits were being closed. The Wilson government was thrashing round to provide alternative employments — the running jokes in the back end of Coalhouse involve the Great Teesside Conurbation and par-foom factories.
What goes around, comes around.
Where that second graph above is so corrupt, so weaselly, so misleading is the sure-fire assumption that we are now at the bottom of any wages cutting. From here on, it’s all onwards and upwards.