Thursday, February 12, 2009

Stats Office Squares Up To Spinners

While it wasn't only the sea bass being grilled in the commons, served with lashings of Brown sauce, the row brewing at Westminster is how that reckless lot at the ONS had the cheek to publish clear, accurate and relevant jobs and immigrant figures, without letting Downing Street spinners get their grubby little paws on the press release. 

Yesterday's ONS release has left ministers "fizzing with anger" about the publication of numbers showing how many UK jobs go to immigrants.

The figures show the number of foreign workers increased by 175,000 to 2.4 million last year while the number of British workers fell by 234,000 to 27 million. Not good news for ministers still smarting from the BJ4BW protest. 

Such a release would have been unthinkable during the Campbell/Blair years and indeed up until very recently. But that was before home secretary Smith's political advisor was slammed by a commons watchdog after ordering the release of misleading knife crime figures

Then ministers and Downing Street spinners were blasted for 'corroding public trust'  using 'selective' figures to claim they are winning the war on the streets as ONS officials tried in vain to stop the government's 'reckless' release. 

The ONS is desperate to prove its independence and restore public confidence but juggling with any figures within a tight and highly skewed criteria set by the government has made a complete mockery of any government statistics, which no-one believes anymore, anyway. But well done guys for trying. 

Playing the numbers game has been a low point of the powerful Downing Street spin machine with obsessive control over what, where and when any information is released. 

Now it seems the spinning top had no idea what is coming out of the Office of National Statistics, as it fearlessly goes its own way. 

As usual, Mike Smithson over at politicalbetting puts his finger on the issue: "Isn’t this also a measure of the decline of Labour’s power? Whitehall has a strong sense that the game is up and bodies like the UK Statistics Authority can launch moves without fear."

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