Polly Today

So, what\’s the ol\’ gel got for us today?

Great lies, bold, bare-faced and unapologetic, are relayed every day by every orifice of the media in ways that would make Kim Jong-il proud.

Which orifice is publishing your essays then Pol?

Badaboom tish. Yes, thank you, I\’ll be here all week and I recommend the fish special.

The latest crime figures suggest an opposite story: crime has plummeted since the mid-1990s in a way unknown for generations. We live in extraordinary times, with less theft and less violence.

Isn\’t the whole argument here over which crime figures we look at? Reported crimes or the annual population survey?

Regular viewers of the increasingly sensationalist BBC "flagship" news programme might not glean that firearms offences fell by more than 600 last year, or that serious injury from gun crime fell by 11%.

I\’ll admit I\’m no expert in these figures but didn\’t gun deaths rise? Ah, yes, they were up by 18% year on year.

A horrible spate of teen-on-teen slaughters needs reporting – but news editors prefer powerful anecdote to inconvenient contrary facts.

Columnists too it seems.

But these fairly self-evident complexities are not the problem: it is opposition politicians, their press and sensation-seeking news desks who cherry-pick and distort shamelessly. If the Press Complaints Commission were not the proprietors\’ patsy, it would proactively censor and fine misreporting of crime figures designed to deceive.

I beg your pardon? Fines for not offering the public the revealed truth? I\’m sorry, did a liberal columnist seriously just suggest that you should be fined for exercising your right to free speech? Put aside the fact that it would be our Polly who would be dragged up in front of such a body twivce a week and think rather of the enormity of the very suggestion. The free press of a free nation should be fined for what they say? Has she finally and entirely lost the plot?

The Office for National Statistics should forbid this deliberate abuse of official figures:

Will they do this for everyone who abuses ONS numbers? Like, perhaps, the writers and reporters for a certain left of centre newspaper who continually insist that women working part time earn 37% less per hour than men? When in fact it is that women working part time earn 37% less than men working full time….and 11% less than men working part time. Figures which come from the very same ONS tables that are used to calculate the first number? Or those who use such numbers and refuse to point out that there\’s an age distribution to the gender pay gap (in women\’s favour at the start, pretty much neutral until the prime child rearing years, then wide, then closing again)? You mean that sort of distortion of the numbers then Poll?

Britain spends more per capita on criminal justice than any other nation worldwide.

We do? Looks like the US and Switzerland to me you know.

The prison population soared again last week to a new high of more than 81,000. And yet Home Office research shows that prison has a negligible impact on crime figures.

Gosh, lessee: prison numbers up and as Poll insists, crime numbers down. And, err, prison doesn\’t work?

Why is crime falling here and all across the west? Cars and homes are locked up better, but mainly it\’s the economy, with less youth unemployment. The Home Office watches economic growth figures more closely than police numbers for its predictions: it warns to expect flattening or rising crime over the next years of tighter spending and lower consumption.

Now that part is true. It\’s a very strong argument against one of Polly\’s bete noires: that increasing wealth, the growth of the economy does not make us happier. Actually, as she says, growth reduces unemployment (which very much does reduce unhappiness) and it also reduces crime (ditto). So, growth makes us happier.

5 comments on “Polly Today

  1. “I’m sorry, did a liberal columnist seriously just suggest that you should be fined for exercising your right to free speech? ”

    No, Polly Toynbee did…

  2. Has the right to freedom of speech ever included the right spread falsehood though? We have defamation laws to protect people from having lies spread about them, why shouldn’t there be something similar when an individual isn’t involved?

    (I don’t know how feasible it really is, to enforce etc, and there is the slippery slope argument as well.)

  3. Prison has a negligible effect because of the short sentences, early parole, and arbitrary release to relieve overcrowding.

    Nevertheless, prison does have an effect of some size, so perhaps increasing sentences, making parole later, and building more prisons to relieve overcrowding might be the answer.

    If Polly believes that reducing prison places will reduce crime, then I’d seriously challenge her to show how that theory works and what evidence it is based upon.

    Also consider, in the world of Freakanomics, that abortions have been on the rise too, perhaps this may be affecting crime figures ?

  4. Toynbee: “would proactively censor and fine”

    American Heritage Dictionary: “Proactive: Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty…”

    Q: So is Toynbee recommending punishment before the “crime” or is she merely illiterate?
    A: Who says one has to exclude the other?

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