Chris Grayling: "We don't make the statistics"

A weak defence against claims that the Tories manipulated violent crime figures.

The Tory shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, went on the Today programme this morning to deny that the Conservatives have been using misleading statistics on violent crime.

The dispute is over a claim, made by Tory Central Office, that violent crime in "broken Britain" has risen by 70 per cent in the past decade. But the statistics used to reach this conclusion are not directly comparable, due to a big change in the way the numbers were recorded with the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in 2002. The BBC's Mark Easton, who uncovered the discrepancy, explains:

Before 2002 the decision as to whether an incident was a violent crime had been taken by police. After 2002, officers were obliged to record all incidents as violent crimes if the alleged victim said that is what it was. The aim was to stop police fiddling the figures and to get a better picture of violence. The obvious consequence was to send the raw numbers shooting up.

Grayling's defence this morning was as follows:

There are certainly changes in the recording methods, but the point is that they are the only comparators available. They are published by the Home Office . . . As an opposition party, we don't make the statistics. We can only use what the Home Office publishes.

This is a slightly disingenuous line of argument (these are the only two sets of numbers, so we should compare them, even though to do so is inaccurate . . . ?). As Easton points out, the Home Office document cited clearly highlights that "figures before and after [April 2002] are not directly comparable". Grayling's fellow Tory Iain Duncan Smith agrees with Easton that the NCRS "changed recording methods significantly and has rendered direct numerical comparisons with pre-2002/03 levels inaccurate".

The numbers, distributed to Tory MPs to use in local campaigns, imply a 236 per cent rise in violent crime in Milton Keynes, translating to roughly one attack every 90 minutes. This is inaccurate, as it includes very minor public order offences -- which is a shame, really, as an attack every hour and a half sounds rather reminiscent of the violent American TV show the Wire . . .

Grayling has got more. He dismissed the findings of the British Crime Survey, which found that people were experiencing roughly 50 per cent less violent crime on 1995 levels, arguing:

If you talk to anybody in the streets, and particularly in the poorest areas which are most affected by violent crime, you will find people will absolutely say that violent crime has risen sharply over the last ten years.

The reality is that that is the life they are experiencing. The problem we have got to deal with is not debates over statistics. It is actually sorting out these problems.

Excellent. Man implicated in statistics fiddling row says that statistics aren't really the point at all. Case closed.

 

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Hillary Clinton can take down the Donald Trump bogeyman - but she's up against the real thing

Donald Trump still has time to transform. 

Eight years later than hoped, Hillary Clinton finally ascended to the stage at the Democratic National Convention and accepted the nomination for President. 

Like her cheerleaders, the Obamas, she was strongest when addressing the invisible bogeyman - her rival for President, Donald Trump. 

Clinton looked the commander in chief when she dissed The Donald's claims to expertise on terrorism. 

Now Donald Trump says, and this is a quote, "I know more about ISIS than the generals do"

No, Donald, you don't.

He thinks that he knows more than our military because he claimed our armed forces are "a disaster."

Well, I've had the privilege to work closely with our troops and our veterans for many years.

Trump boasted that he alone could fix America. "Isn't he forgetting?" she asked:

Troops on the front lines. Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger. Doctors and nurses who care for us. Teachers who change lives. Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.

Clinton's message was clear: I'm a team player. She praised supporters of her former rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, and concluded her takedown of Trump's ability as a fixer by declaring: "Americans don't say: 'I alone can fix it.' We say: 'We'll fix it together.'"

Being the opposite of Trump suits Clinton. As she acknowledged in her speech, she is not a natural public performer. But her cool, policy-packed speech served as a rebuke to Trump. She is most convincing when serious, and luckily that sets her apart from her rival. 

The Trump in the room with her at the convention was a boorish caricature, a man who describes women as pigs. "There is no other Donald Trump," she said. "This is it."

Clinton and her supporters are right to focus on personality. When it comes to the nuclear button, most fair-minded people on both left and right would prefer to give the decision to a rational, experienced character over one who enjoys a good explosion. 

But the fact is, outside of the convention arena, Trump still controls the narrative on Trump.

Trump has previously stated clearly his aim to "pivot" to the centre. He has declared that he can change "to anything I want to change to".  In his own speech, Trump forewent his usual diatribe for statistics about African-American children in poverty. He talked about embracing "crying mothers", "laid-off factory workers" and making sure "all of our kids are treated equally". His wife Melania opted for a speech so mainstream it was said to be borrowed from Michelle Obama. 

His personal attacks have also narrowed. Where once his Twitter feed was spattered with references to "lying Ted Cruz" and "little Marco Rubio", now the bile is focused on one person: "crooked Hillary Clinton". Just as Clinton defines herself against a caricature of him, so Trump is defining himself against one of her. 

Trump may not be able to maintain a more moderate image - at a press conference after his speech, he lashed out at his former rival, Ted Cruz. But if he can tone down his rhetoric until November, he will no longer be the bogeyman Clinton can shine so brilliantly against.