Letter to The Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser, 05/02/16
I see that M Wilkinson engaged again in that well known political technique of deflection, or “Look, Squirrel!” as it is sometimes referred to. I wrote in to this newspaper about reports of alleged bullying within Airdrie SNP which have been already reported in the national press and he tries to deflect this by focusing on something else entirely. It’s all too easy to be deflected so that the topic initially discussed, alleged bullying, quickly becomes forgotten.
Another popular political technique is to throw big numbers at people in the hope the sheer size of the number will stun the voters into thoughtless acceptance. I don’t know about anyone else, but start adding noughts on to numbers and my eyes usually start to glaze over. Couple this with the “Apples and Oranges” technique of trying to compare two apparently similar figures which are actually completely different and you usually have a sure-fire winner. Take last week’s column by Coatbridge MSP Elaine Smith. In it she bemoaned the current housing crisis and belittled the Scottish Government’s record, citing that in 2013 they had presided over the building of a mere 14,885 homes, the lowest number since 1947. What’s more she said, Labour have a plan to build 60,000 houses over five years to help end the crisis. We’re all saved! Hang out the bunting! Haud on a minute…
Like most things Labour say these days, things just don’t add up. I first wondered whether Mrs Smith’s figures were accurate and went online to investigate. I read that house building figures in Scotland peaked in 2007, just before the banking crash and have never regained those heady figures achieved under the umbrella of the boom and bust Blair/Brown government. Since then completions have risen and fallen slightly; in 2010 it was 16,911, in 2011 it was 15,226, in 2012 it was 14,981, in 2013 it was 14,885, in 2014 it was 15,562. Complete figures for 2015 are not available yet, so the total for the last 5 complete years is 77,565.
Mrs Smith’s column shows both “Big Number” and “Apples and Oranges” in action. Having thrown the big, shiny number of 60,000 in, Mrs Smith is relying on you not doing some basic maths; that 60,000 over 5 years is only 12,000, way below the 14,885 all time low she complained about. She’s also compared an annual housing figure with a five year target, rather than compare like with like; five yearly target versus five year figures, and so on. So Labour’s answer to the crisis in housing is, if I am reading this right, to build 17,565 LESS houses than the SNP, and to berate them in the process. One has to admire the sheer brazenness of it. Unfortunately that’s all there is to admire about Labour these days. They have become the political equivalent of the Boy Who Cried Wolf; one day they will actually tell the truth and no one will believe them.