Bristling Brock speaks out...


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The government have issued a swathe of statistics this last week ranging from air quality, balance of trade, through examination results to immigration figures - and some more !   Strikingly, throughout all these declarations is a common theme - they all have targets that are trying to be met.  Someone, somewhere, must be doing some sort of rudimentary calculation to set a performance benchmark for all the institutions of national and local government activity as if 'performance achievement' is some sort of pinnacle of success.  Politics is, almost inevitably, driven by how statistics can be manipulated and presented - what they include, what they don't include, the terms of reference and so on.  It's how governments paint a picture of how they are doing to the electorate.  The big question then is: how convincing do these statistical declarations appear to the electorate ?  When you look in more detail at some of these figures and their terms of reference you see that they are mainly contrived to suit a message.  The message is, of course, designed to be nebulous, capable of being interpreted in a variety of ways so that some spokesperson can wriggle away under questioning as to their true meaningfulness.  Yet the critical theme of the message is usually 'success' - look at what 'we' have achieved on your behalf, look at what your government is doing against the odds to improve your lot.   It's meaningless babble on the whole as the figures certainly don't reveal the true picture but that doesn't stop the flow of official declarations when they imagine there's a political point or two to be earned.  That we as an electorate generally don't challenge many of these statistical statements says much about our apathy towards the underlying stories beneath the figures and our general lack of comprehension as to what government - at all levels - is being held to account upon.  More fool us....

Short critique today - more to follow soon.

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