Boris Johnson’s use of statistics are designed to mislead the public

Len Duvall, leader of the Labour group on the London Assembly, explains how London Mayor Boris Johnson’s use of statistics is designed to mislead the public.


Len Duvall AM is the leader of the Labour group on the London Assembly

The opinion polls this week have clearly got London’s Tory Mayor spooked. Yesterday’s under-reported press release from Boris Johnson is the sign of a desperate man seeking to mislead the public about his record and smear our candidate Ken Livingstone. While we may not expect probity from the man who described the chair of the UK Statistics Authority as a ‘Labour stooge’, his relationship with the truth has clearly reached a new low.

The first dodgy claim is on police numbers.

It is distinctly odd for Boris’s team to claim he has increased the number of police by 1,000 on the day the Mayor himself admitted he had cut the number of police officers by more than 1,700 (in fact by 1,782).

Just in case you have any doubt on this figure, you can look on the Metropolitan Police Authority’s own website. In March 2010 there were 33,260 police officers in London, and the most recent monthly figures show the total at 31,478.

His team’s attempt to deny reality is simply staggering.

His second claim is that crime has come down more than 10% during his time as Mayor. Instead of using the traditional and well established statistical method of comparing the base year of, say, 2008, with his record in 2010/11, Boris Johnson’s team have decided to attempt to add all the recorded crimes together for 44 months of each Mayoral term.

This is misleading as it overestimates the crime levels that Boris inherited and ignores the real fall in crime that took place between 2004 and 2008.

As the Metropolitan Police Authority’s figures for recorded crime show, in 2007/8 there were 862,866 recorded crimes in London. By 2010/11 this had fallen to 822,478, a 4.7% fall in the total level of crime that is not disputed. But this is a fall of less than half the 10.6% that Boris Johnson claimed.

Crime has also fallen less quickly under the current Mayor than it did in the previous mayoral term.

In 2003/4, there were 1,060,927 recorded crimes in London and this fell to 862,866 recorded crimes in 2007/8. Overall this was a fall of 198,061 crimes, a total fall of 18.7%. Even allowing for the fact this was over three years rather than four, Boris Johnson would have to reduce the number of crimes this year by more than 120,000 or 14.7% just to match Ken’s record.

If we take the recorded crime figures for the last full year of each of the candidates, the picture is even starker.

In Ken’s last year as Mayor, the number of recorded crimes fell by 6.3% – more than during Boris Johnson’s entire time in office. By contrast, a comparison of Boris Johnson’s last year shows crime is only falling by 1.5% – more than four times as slowly. This also does not tell the story of the significant rises that are being seen in burglary, robbery, rape and knife crime.

The third, and perhaps most dishonest claim has been made about Ken’s record as Mayor.

Those with faint memories of the last general election might remember the criticism Chris Grayling received as shadow home secretary for using sets of crime statistics that you simply cannot compare. Boris Johnson has sought to deliberately mislead the public in the same way, comparing pre 2002 statistics with figures after the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) was implemented nationally.

As House of Commons Library research shows, the NCRS figures are estimated to have pushed up recorded crime levels by 10% overall, and the levels of violent crime by 20%.

The dodgy use of statistics is the desperate refuge of a campaign that is on the run. It seems Boris is becoming increasingly aware he has a poor record to defend, prompting him to inflate his own achievements and smear those of his rival. But the public are not fools, and Boris Johnson’s attempt to mislead them can only backfire.

See also:

Fact Check fact checked: London’s fares CAN be cutTom Copley, January 25th 2012

Ken stays ahead as Boris doubles-down on blaming young people for youth unemploymentAlex Hern, January 23rd 2012

Boris Johnson’s words show he doesn’t care about young peopleVal Shawcross AM, January 20th 2012

Ken pulls ahead of “increasingly out of touch” BorisShamik Das, January 19th 2012

Boris, the bankers’ mayor, backs his chums over small businessesJenny Jones AM, January 17th 2012

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