Friday 5 May 2017

Some people don't do numbers

A few days ago, Diane Abbott was being interviewed, in her capacity as shadow Home Secretary, about police numbers. She said they plan to add 10,000 cops. She was asked the obvious question, what will this cost? She said £300,000. This works out at £30 each. The interviewer challenged her on this, and she ummed and erred a bit, and came up with £80 million. That's works out at £8000 each, which still sounds a bit low to me. And the interviewer pointed that out.

So Abbott said that in year one, they'll recruit 250,000 policemen. Huh? Where did that come from? Challenged on that, she came up with "2,000 and perhaps 250". And she's clearly lifted off into total improvisation now.

At that point, I think someone must have given her a piece of paper, because she reeled off a series of very precise and more realistic numbers. "In year five, the cost will be £298 million."

Which sounds like her original 300 thousand, except she should have said 300 million. Now that's an easy stumble to make, and she might have said "Oops, did I say 300 thousand, I meant 300 million" But she didn't. What she did, was invent a whole slew of imaginary numbers.

So today, she was interviewed again, about the depth of the anti-labour landslide in the local elections. “At the time of us doing this interview, I think net losses are about 50,” she said. The interviewer said that it was actually 125. And Abbott replied “Well the last time I looked we had net losses of 100 but obviously this is a moving picture.”

Hey, Diane! If the last time you looked it was 100, why did you say 50? This isn't a "maths fail", it's a complete disregard for that fact that some numbers are a lot bigger than others.

Two things follow. First, Diane Abbott is *hopeless* with anything to do with numbers. She seems to think that all numbers have an equal status. Second, anyone interviewing her over the next few weeks, is going to get her onto numbers as quickly as they can.

And I shudder to picture someone who is this cavalier about numbers, in any position of authority higher than school crossing patrol officer.

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