Now onto Owen Jones’ latest video, on Copeland and the nature of by-elections- here…
He’s twisting the stats. If course, that is one of the chief purposes of stats as anyone doing A/S Maths or GCSE English/Media can tell you. So what are stats?
How can statistics help us?
A statistic is a value that has been produced from a data collection, such as a summary measure, an estimate or projection. Statistical information is data that has been organised to serve a useful purpose.
Statistics is also a term that refers to the practice of collecting, analysing, interpreting and communicating data. It is the science of interacting with data.
How can statistics help us?
Statistics represent a common method of presenting information helping us to understand what the data are telling us. […]
Inferential statistics are used to infer conclusions about a population from a sample of that population. Inferential statistics are the result of techniques that use the data collected from a sample to make generalisations about the whole population from which the sample was taken.
Inferential statistics include estimation, and hypothesis testing.
The above information has been taken from here. The bold/italics are my own. So can we assume Jones is talking of generalisational conclusions? Interpretations of data? And what hypothesis has he forwarded that he wishes to back with stats? Well, read on…
Firstly, he is using ONE by-election as the basis of his assertions- a narrow premise at best.
Politics has changed beyond recognition since the referendum; even Laura Kuenssberg , the BBC’s suspect political editor admits this; and people (for people read media outlets for the most part) are very slow to catch up- and ‘lost seats’ is wrong, it is ONE seat among a stack of gains and holds right across all elections- mayoral, MP seats, Council, parish etc.
The ‘New Statesman’ a notoriously anti-Labour outlet, was forced to concede:
“This brings us neatly to the Oldham West parliamentary by-election, where Labour defied widespread expectations of an only narrow win by romping home against a very disappointed and deflated United Kingdom Independence Party. Labour’s majority, at over 10,000, was seven per cent up on May, a result that on the face of it flies in the face of everything we see in polls, polling internals and local by-elections. But any reliance on such a superficial impression would display, once more, a failure to see these things historically. In the Oldham East by-election, held nine months into the last Parliament, Labour’s vote went up by 10 per cent; at Barnsley Central, two months later, the Party’s vote increased by 13.5 per cent; and two months later, its vote went up by more than 12 per cent at Leicester South.” These figures are all since Corbyn became leader. For more on this, check here. Jones does not even provide this much context in his VT.
Even at the 2015 general election under Miliband Labour gained more seats (10) than they lost (9) to the Conservatives.
More on this can be found here, on the Conservatives’ own website.
Secondly, by-elections do NOT follow the trends we are ‘used to’.
Post referendum, never mind post Corbyn’s accession, have seen a noticeable and overt shift to single issue politics, since politics became recognisable as we know them today, from the 19th century- we STILL have ‘rotten boroughs‘ which were a product of a system that did not want change, where fathers passed on constituencies and the power to their sons like property inheritances , where people could not vote for whom they wanted to due to the lack of a secret ballot or challenging candidate. Now while The 1832 Reform Act swept away these constituencies, they sound a little familiar don’t they?
The modern equivalent term is ‘safe seats’ which is a product of First Past The Post politics. Look at the rumblings of voting discrepancies in Copeland, where the votes were counties by a supposedly independent company connected to Con MP Peter Lilley, and the issues behind the corruption of many Con seats that is still under investigation! BUT to make no differentiation (and believe me, I was listening) between vote haemorrhaging under New Labour and what has actually been happening since Corbyn became leader AND post referendum makes a mockery of the points he is attempting to make. The fact he also makes no mention of the announcement on Question Time of a Copeland Labour hold is also telling. More on this will be in the Copeland v Stoke blog.
Thirdly, by-elections cannot be seen in the context of protest voting any more.
By-elections being a ‘finger up to the Government’ no longer applies. People™ got a lot of that protesting angst out at the referendum, one reason why the ‘leave’ vote won. They have run out of anger and protest except about the referendum AND have little left to go and vote again in a by-election ravaged by Storm Doris and battered by Con lies about Copeland. Little remains for the NHS, which was the main ticket on which the LP ran here.
Add to that the ‘traditional’ low voter turnout and thus usual apathy at by-elections (here we have by-election turnouts since 1997 and some are as low as 18%! How is THAT a bona fide way to obtain an MP mandate?) that DOES seem to be continuing, then we have an erosion of ‘safe seat’ principles, but sadly for the wrong reasons: feeling disenfranchised and ignored only has momentum (no pun intended) for one big push like at the referendum.
See the graphic below, a screenshot from an email I got well before the actual vote in Copeland from the Con Party HQ (yes I’m on their mailing lists, no I don’t vote Conservative)- THIS IS IMPORTANT- pay special attention to their claims in this,highlighted by the red rectangle, that the very things Labour DO stand for as listed as only achievable under an Con MP. Anyone who has any political nowse knows this to be untrue, and the fact that outright lies can be told leading up to any by-election is also proof of both corruption of the process and a reliance on only stirring the voters, who would have voted anyway for the Cons, or who are those ubiquitous ‘waverers’ or floating voters to vote Con. Those who are apathetic would disregard such emails or believe such emails, but not enough to put the X in the box. What alternative did Labour have in Copeland- Troughton. For more on her and how in my opinion she was toxic to any kind of radical or reformist Labour candidate option, giving voters little choice as to they type of MP they would end up with, please see the blog on Copeland v Stoke by-elections and the tag for that below.
You will note I’ve hardly mentioned Stoke (yet- there will be a blog post on comparing the two very soon). But Jones barely mentions it either in his VT, something else I think is disingenuous. Thus his clips and ‘stats’ of it being decades since a by-election was lost by the opposition (much emphasised by the MSM too) has little credence, and in my opinion both furthering MSM narrative and being politically dishonest. This VT was over 20 minutes long so was not presented as a summary or preamble to an analysis. This was meant to be the complete package- an analysis on what the loss of Copeland ‘means’ to Labour and Corbyn.
But I am not going to do what many commenters are doing- calling him ‘right wing’ or a ‘Blairite’ or a *sigh* ‘traitor’. This simplistic kneejerk response is just as unhelpful.
Thirdly, his assertion that Labour are losing more votes proportionally under Corbyn.
The trend of ‘losing votes’ has not accelerated under Corbyn across the board. Jones is using the Copeland percentages to say that it is. The figures at Copeland in fact (just) go against trend. In 1997, Labour obtained a huge 11.9% swing
after years of close battles against the Cons. But Cunningham, now a Lord, could not keep it, the swing went back 7.4% to the Cons in 2001, whilst enjoying a small fillip in 2005 of 2.3% when Jamie Reed took over, though with a reduced voter turnout of approximately the same percentage. In the 2010 general election voter turnout was up by 5% to 67.6% but Reed’s majority swung away by 4.9% which went back down by 4% turnout i the 2015 general election and a further swing loss of 1.2%. So we are actually at a worse place than 1997 by 2015. If such things were plotted on a graph, the prospect of a Labour hold looked unlikely, factoring in the ‘traditional’ lower voter turnout at by-elections. And so it proved. The 51% that did turn out returned Copeland to the pre 1997 status quo of a close Con/LP fight, with a swing of 6.7% to the Cons that was enough to win the seat. All this data can be found here.
This is not interpreting the data, this is just citing the data, something Jones did not do. And this is not his only omission.
- The ‘wreck the economy’ paragraph in his VT speech was finally dealt with in PMQs just yesterday.
- The ‘pretty graphs’ he dismisses also show how much worse the borrowing and debt is under the Cons and shows that austerity politics does not work.
- And to top it off, he does not cite a SINGLE source that forms the bases of his assertions.
Fourthly, that progressive, even radical social and economic policy stands and falls on Corbyn’s position as LP leader.
His non sequitur that because Corbyn is espousing progressive policies they will die when he ‘falls’ is an MSM tactic. It was irresponsible of him to NOT attack such narratives, but rather- add to them. Most People’s™ complaint (also an MSM putsch) is that they say Labour has NO policies, and when they are told the policies but not told which party has them, over 80% of respondents think they are good policies. He even later says in the VT that people don’t know his policies. So which is it? That Labour has no identifiable policies or that these policies are irrevocably attached to Corbyn and they will collapse ‘when’ he does? Or that People™ know the policies, attach them to Corbyn and if/when they peter out, they will do so because they are seen as ‘Corbyn’s? The policies will NOT cut through, as he asserts, ‘despite the MSM’ when only The Mirror, The Huff Post, The Telegraph and WalesOnline outlets bother to mention them. None have since, and these mentions were only in the context of the second leadership election against Owen Smith n 2016. Jones did not mention the ten pledges himself- that would have gone some way to show he’s looking for an actual solution. I have posted them below and here is the extra information and video to back that up from Corbyn, and they are very easy to find- ten seconds on Google is all it takes. (Note that till a general election year, policies remain as pledges- the opposition party cannot make policies.)
WHAT person from the ‘left’ could take over? (As Jones insists.) The MSM is already practically calling Corbyn a communist! The ONLY acceptable ‘replacement’ to the ‘establishment’ would be another ‘moderate’, another ‘centrist’, another neoliberal.
He does not say which polls (or stats) he’s using to get the ‘facts’ from later in the video either. ‘Every bit of evidence’ fgs! That is a clumsily worded and vague piece of substandard oral structure. And the clips and wording he’s used are all out of context. Where is his analysis of the other parties? The whole thing is insidious, a doomsayer with no solution. And he is not differentiating enough between New Labour and Corbyn’s Labour.
Finally, where are his solutions?
Why is he adding to the MSM toxin and using their narrative rather than providing a leftist platform to improve the situation? A quick Google search shows the perils of even using the term or talking of the ‘leftist platform’ which was victim to years of scaremongering as something to be derided by Tony Blair. Jones is no fool, he will know this. And yet while denigrating the current Labour left as opposed to the so-called ‘centre ground’ or ‘moderates’ (ha!), all he seems to be wanting to do is keep his job. Understandable in these perilous times- but who created this level of job uncertainty? I’ll leave you to guess that one.
The ‘terrorism’ angle he uses in the VT is reprehensible and to not even define terrorism (here’s one) and peace talks- which expand the space for dialogue about building peace and resolving conflict-, in which Corbyn excels, is beyond remiss. Demosthenes, one of the greatest rhetoricians in history, trying to warn Athens of the perils of Philip of Macedon who changed the face of Greece and destroyed democracy , must be turning in his grave. Jones thinks he’s Demosthenes but he’s a Cicero. When Cicero spoke people said ‘how well he spoke’ and nodded wisely to each other, but when Demosthenes spoke, people MARCHED, as noted orator Adlai Stevenson said, introducing John F. Kennedy in 1960. Jones did not need to parrot ‘friend of HAMAS/IRA‘ for people to know exactly what he was referring. Even Snell, the Stoke Central LP candidate Tweeted this exact comment. (For more on this see the Copeland v Stoke blog.) Never mind that Google can furnish 1000s of articles and images of leaders like Cameron, Thatcher, Blair and Brown ‘sharing platforms’ and even inviting to tea some of the ‘greatest’ dictators, abusers and ‘terrorists’ of the age. At least Jones did remind people of Corbyn’s frequent pushes for social justice against apartheid and for LGBT+ rights, (but not issues closer to home like the poll tax or his role in the IRA peace process) but to those who did not know he’d done those, they were lost in Jones’ need to make oratory. Here are more times Corbyn was on what even Jones admitted was the ‘right side of history‘.
I’d give this a C+ must try harder grade at GCSE (or a ‘5’ as the GCSE grades are now in numbers out of 9). And yes I can do this, as I mark essays as part of my living. It would pass in an exam, but barely. But this is not a GCSE piece, only seen by an examiner, it’s an adult with a large public platform providing yet more negativity with no solutions that make any sense, no, not ‘lefty nonsense’ as he tried to tell us people accuse him of (an obvious tactic to try and give him left wing credentials he simply does not have) but a pro establishment message wrapped up in a reasonable tone and with points we’ve all heard 100 times from the MSM (of which of course he is now a part, as Guardian correspondent) before masquerading as leftist philosophy.
Now while I would not describe his vlog as ‘demonising’ ideology, I think he should heed his own words a little more (see photo at the top of the page) before he makes another one.