The Reporter
Issue no 485 | 28 October 2002
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Lies, damned lies and Labour party websites
 

The Labour Party has been systematically manipulating statistics to show that things are, as their 1997 election song promised, ‘getting better’ for all of us. Academics at Leeds compared the misuse of figures on the party’s website to the rewriting of history by the ‘Ministry of Truth’ in Orwell’s 1984.

Danny Dorling“What was the stuff of fiction in 1949 is commonplace ‘spin’ in 2002,” said professor of geography Danny Dorling (left). “These figures have been online since 2001, and the fact they’ve gone unnoticed until now shows how we’ve come to expect this kind of behaviour from our politicians.”

Type in your postcode or constituency on the Labour party website (www.labour.org.uk) and a range of performance indicators appear, covering crime, education, health and economic prosperity, all proving things have got better wherever you live. But to show improvement, the webmasters have jumped between different timescales, and local, regional or national statistics, to find the figures which show the government in the best light.

Crime offers a good example. Using figures from police- force areas, the website shows that under the Tories (1979-1997) crime rose in all areas. For the period since 1997 under Labour, they use two scales: for most constituencies, figures are from police-force areas; for the rest, the figures cover England and Wales as a whole, because crime fell nationally, but in only two-thirds of police-force areas.

“The manipulation isn’t very sophisticated,” said Professor Dorling. “For example, they didn’t try to show a greater improvement in hung constituencies; in fact they banked on the fact that no-one would make comparisons at all. The whole thing would not be so worrying if the party was able to admit that, just for one thing, in one place, at one time, things had not got better …”

Looking beneath the spin and statistics - Danny Dorling

 
 


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