One in the eye for Nelson

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has been caught out being cute with the stats in a piece immigration and employment for a right-wing mouthpiece. Again.

Spectator editor Fraser Nelson has been caught out being cute with the stats in a piece on immigration and employment for a right-wing mouthpiece. Again.

You may remember during the election campaign Left Foot Forward’s debunking of Fraser’s claim that “98 per cent of jobs created in the UK since 1997 have been taken by migrant workers” – now he’s claiming “there were 243,000 fewer UK-born workers between January and March” and “the number of Eastern Europeans working grew by 25,000 over the same period”.

And the source for his claims, made in his latest News of the World column? “Official figures, seen by yours truly”; or, as independent fact-checking website Full Fact managed to tease out of him, “an unpublished source that he was reluctant to reveal” – needless to say, he doesn’t link to or publish the full figures.

Full Fact go on to explain:

“…the main difference between Mr Nelson’s figures and those published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) is that the published data includes people over 65 while Mr Nelson’s do not.”

Yet, in his embarrassing u-turn over his ’98 per cent’ claim, he acknowledged that it was fair to include pensioners:

“…my original post had both working-age (99 percent of new jobs to foreign-born) and another version of all ages over 16 (including pensioners). This reduces it to 72 percent as there have been fewer pension-age immigrants.”

Of the claim about A8 workers, the quarter-on-quarter rise to January was 27,000, with the number of UK workers down 220,000, stats Full Fact concede are “broadly in line with the findings set out in the News of the World” – but the Office for National Statistics makes clear that the figures are not seasonally adjusted, adding it they do not comment on quarterly comparisons of non-adjusted data, as they “could potentially be distorted by seasonal movements”.

Cue the killer blow from the fact checkers:

“We were instead advised to consider annual comparisons between the same quarters of different years. Such an approach indicates a different trend to the one suggested by the Spectator Editor.

“For the period January to March 2010 the number of UK nationals in employment was 25,039,000 down 244,000 from the same period the previous year. But comparing employment levels for A8-born workers over the same period, rather than a rise, there was a fall of 13,000.

This means that from 2009 to 2010, the number of UK-born people in work fell by one per cent, while A8-born workers declined by 2.5 per cent.

Lies, damned lies and Speccie-tistics…

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.