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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Statistics, elections and smear stories

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

The matter of lack of witnesses is implicit in today's reporting on the Jimmy Saville abuses at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in the 1970's. In the 1970's there was a huge PR machine behind Jimmy Saville amounting to a manufactory of consent for whatever he planned. Now in the 21st Century there is a manufactory of consent via The Sun, The Mail, and whatever, for the smear stories soliciting General Election voters to make life ever harder for the economically not so advantaged.

With a General Election coming on Thursday 7 May 2015, we should be extremely cautious about statistics that are given out by government ministers and errors that are by accident or design. With the smear stories concerning obese people as benefit claimants, we should learn from Health Minister Lord Warner's 'administrative error' regarding obesity. Community Care magazine reported in February 2004:
The government has apologised after massively overstating the number of obese people claiming benefits.

Earlier this month, health minister Lord Warner said that 900,000 claimants of incapacity benefits were obese, prompting headlines in the national media.

The Department of Health now says that the actual figure is 900 and that this only relates to people who receive incapacity benefit as a result of obesity. It blamed an “administrative error” for the blunder.

It added that the total amount paid to this group a week is £70,965 rather than the £70.9m figure initially used.

— February 25, 20004: Minister cuts the fat from figures

Full Factcheck, anyone? Fact-checking is another vital form of witnessing.


  1. Thanks, Antoine.

    I read the Lord Warner story back in early 2004 when I was on a 'train the trainer' City & Guilds Level 2 qualification with a focus on teaching adults Disability Equality Training.
    Two much more recent but too little known stories involving statistics:
    NHS sets aside quarter of its budget for medical negligence claims
    Benefit sanctions: Britain's secret penal system