The problem with Labour and statistics

The problem with statistics is not that 97% of them are made up nor is it that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. No , the problem with statistics is that they only record what is measurable, not what is important. This is a basic concept this government has failed to grasp.

Not since the creation of the Domesday book have we been governed by people so obsessed with recording every minutiae of data, yet this government uses its statistics not to inform its decision making, instead of this it uses its recording and reporting of statistics to justify its actions and to make excuses for its mistakes. Aren't these the same things anyway ? Well no.

If statistics were used as a guide to assist in policy planning the government would not yesterday have introduced a flat 18% capital gains tax rate which has been shown 24 hours later to be a potential death threat to workers share save schemes. Likewise if they had been planning their mini budget for "some time", as Labour say, their own statistics should have shown them that the abolition of taper relief would also have the effect of discriminating against the very enterprising groups the government is seeking to encourage.

No, this government uses statistics more to justify what it does and ignores those that go against what they want to impose. Worse still though, the government uses statistics to make excuses when things go wrong.

Take education as an example. Schools with low pass rates in their SAT's and GCSE's used to be assessed not only on their results, but this was cross referenced against the economic and social conditions the pupils were coming from. It took account of the number of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and also the number on free school meals ( a recognised measure of social deprivation). But no, not this government. The latest warnings from government is that these aspects, these social factors are not important or relevant. Instead, the government are making threats to local education authorities to attack schools, make threats, intimidate schools where necessary, in order to force results up through fear. The government know that the SAT's are not a measure of a school, indeed, that is why they included the "added value" criteria in the results. However, by now ignoring this "added value" and looking at the pass or fail results only, they want to find schools to blame, in fact, they want to use the statistics to blame schools, teachers, governors, pupils and parents for their own failings in properly supporting, funding and helping schools in socially deprived areas.

Why are they able to do this ? Because their statistics and figures record what is measurable, but not what is really important.

Then there is what happened in the hospitals in Kent in the news today. A hospital trust so obsessed with meeting government targets and so prepared to jeopardise patient care in order to jump through government hoops, has been caught out. But how were they caught out ? Was it through government statistics. The evidence the government constantly collects in order to monitor the work of the NHS ? No, of course not. They were caught by the media, by patients groups and by relatives who could not believe the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust were literally getting away with murder.

The government targets this NHS trusts were seeking to hit were, in the great scheme of things, not important. What was important was not letting 90 people die. But do the government's statistics actuall record what is important ? No, of course they don't, as clearly the evidence in this case proves. No, they mrerly record what is easily recordable, what is easily used in Labour spin and press releases and what makes headlines. The NHS fails to record what is important.

When the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust were even issuing press statements claiming that the patients were themselves at fault for contracting the C-Dif infection and dying, it shows you the fear in the NHS trusts. they know they themselves have to explain why the government's own statistics have not been met and will go to any lengths to get themselves of the hook.

Sadly, when it comes to the NHS and Education, the two areas supposedly at the heart of what the Labour Party are about, there is a giant vacuum of interest or understanding.

The NHS does not need to constantly be meeting needless targets and education could do with a moratorium on new strategies for 10 years in order for schools to get to grips with the multiple other strategies the government has introduced on an almost yearly basis.

Given the low chance of a Lib Dem government in the short term, I have always felt that a Labour government is, at the very least, preferable to a Tory one in every circumstance. However, I am starting to think I was wrong.

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