Are You Better Off ... Without Politician Maths?

You know the scene. Contract renewal time. Budgets must be re-submitted. Procurement rules demand re-tender. All preferred suppliers invited to bid.

Whether incumbent or insurgent, I realise there’s a tactic you can pull from current UK general electioneering to potentially rise above the fray.

It’s all about the numbers. Or as Clinton’s fabled 1992 chad put it, “it’s the economy, stupid”.

Then there’s the famous Reagan question. From the last tv debate a week before voting day in 1980 against President Carter. “When you’re in the poll booth, ask yourself … are you better off than four years ago…?” Widely credited with helping him to a large margin of victory.

And so I land on Politician Maths.

A cheeky phrase BBC Radio 4’s laconic Eddie Mair gleefully adopted from economics broadcaster and author Tim Harford.

He rigorously fact-checks candidate statistical claims.

The urge comes from hearing those in power say they have nothing to do with the bad things, but take credit for the slightly better things, whereas challengers apply negative impacts on only small sections of society across the broad base of everyone.

Wildly different interpretations duly emerge from the supposedly same raw data.

Growth metrics this time around include how much better off the average person is … 0.2pc apparently. The plenty of jobs having been generated in this parliament; 1200 jobs a day compared to only 900 under Blair and a loss  of 500 with Brown. The UK unemployment rate at a mere 5.5pc and falling. Yet are they good jobs or bad jobs? But productivity, oops, worse than both France, and the G7 average – and falling. Somehow. The UK’s slow recovery shows output per hour down and lower than in 2007.

You pays your money and picks your stat.

And so it often is with your solution’s RoI statements.

When you’re being quizzed on the numbers, you too can evoke politician maths. You can hint at how you’ve thought harder about them, and can allude to the deeper vigilance yours exhibit.

(At a slight tangent, I’m reminded of this cheeky ‘bad numbers‘ barb).

And how about using the fond quote of Chancellor Osborne about Sixties US President LBJ’s first rule of politics, “you have to be able to count”.


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