We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Samizdata quote of the day

What’s interesting about this Florida school shooting is that events are revealing themselves in such a way that not even the most statist of gun controlling media types are able to spin the narrative to their ends. The old adage that “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away”… well, that’s a pithy line, and it hits home. It also assumes that the police are minutes away. Not in this case. In fact, the police were seconds away, yet they didn’t intervene. In Parkland, it wasn’t that the state couldn’t protect you – no, it could have. Actually, the state wouldn’t protect you. You were on your own.

What message should the ordinary citizen take away from this? That it is clear and painfully obvious they need to protect themselves.

Best justification for the 2nd Amendment in my lifetime at least.

James Waterton

The strange lack of any media or political noise about the Las Vegas shooting

Like Matt Walsh, I remain baffled at why the slaughter of concert-goers in Las Vegas a few months ago, and the almost total lack of evidence or data on the killer’s motives and actions, haven’t caused much in the way of a media/political firestorm, contrasting with events of recent days:

If you recall, dozens upon dozens of people were gunned down in Las Vegas on October 1. There were 58 fatalities in total. Another 422 injuries. That’s 480 casualties — 480 casualties — and I’m not even counting the hundreds more injured by trampling or shrapnel. It was the worst mass shooting in modern American history by a mile. It had more casualties than Orlando, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and Parkland combined — times two. And it was carried out in the middle of a major American city.

Yet that terrible massacre seemed to fade from the headlines rapidly and inexplicably. The country had almost entirely moved on by the beginning of the following week. It seemed to me that we had forgotten about it within three or four days, but I’ll say a week just to be safe. The media is so obsessed with Parkland that several of its survivors are now practically household names. Does anyone remember the names of a single one of the Las Vegas survivors? Did any of them do media tours? Did CNN hold a “town hall” about Las Vegas? Was there an extensive conversation about potential law enforcement failures in Las Vegas, as there has been about their failures in Florida? We’ve all had quite a bit to say about the police officer who waited outside while kids were gunned down, but what about the police officers and armed security who made it to the shooter’s hotel room while he was still raining shots down on the crowd, but stood outside the door for an hour before entering?

From my vantage point, it seems that fairly early on, the media seemed to give up a hunt for explanations and for holding various people to account. Consider this point: Vegas hotels are famously packed with CCTV to foil thieves and crooks of various descriptions. And yet a man was able to get a large cache of weapons into a room and do what he did.

The trouble with even writing about this topic now is that I feel that I sound like a conspiracy nut, which I am emphatically not.

All very odd.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Moreover, an assault-weapon ban (along with a ban on high-capacity magazines) would gut the concept of an armed citizenry as a final, emergency bulwark against tyranny. No credible person doubts that the combination of a reliable semiautomatic rifle and a large-capacity magazine is far more potent than a revolver, bolt-action rifle, or pump-action shotgun. A free citizen armed with an assault rifle is more formidable than a free citizen armed only with a pistol. A population armed with assault rifles is more formidable than a population armed with less lethal weapons. The argument is not that a collection of random citizens should be able to go head-to-head with the Third Cavalry Regiment. That’s absurd. Nor is the argument that citizens should possess weapons “in common use” in the military. Rather, for the Second Amendment to remain a meaningful check on state power, citizens must be able to possess the kinds and categories of weapons that can at least deter state overreach, that would make true authoritarianism too costly to attempt.”

David French, at National Review.

All together now: if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear

Sorry for the unoriginal choice of title. This is about the fourth Samizdata post with a title related to that slogan, and the umpteenth to mention it. Don’t blame us. If the authorities would stop repeatedly proving that slogan to be a cruel travesty, we would be happy to stop going on about it.

Until that day arrives, the Guardian has a good report on the latest example of what innocent people have to fear:

Police made ‘appalling’ errors in using internet data to target suspects

Police have made serious errors getting search warrants for suspected sex offenders, leading to the targeting of innocent people and children being wrongly separated from their parents, an official report has revealed.

The errors – highlighted by the interception of communications commissioner, Sir Stanley Burnton, in his annual report to the prime minister – had “appalling” consequences and related to some of the most intrusive powers the state can use against its citizens.

In one example, two children were separated from their parents for a weekend while the parents were questioned as suspects in a child sexual exploitation case. It later emerged that police had raided the wrong address due to an error on the documentation and the parents were innocent.

Digital devices belonging to innocent people were also forensically examined by police, Burnton said.

The errors identified were mainly because details were wrongly entered into software that helps police work out the location where a specific IP (internet protocol) address has been used.

But IP addresses are routinely reassigned by internet providers. Burnton warned investigators not to rely on them when trying to work out who is hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to commit crimes.

He wrote: “These [errors] are far more common than is acceptable, especially in cases relating to child sex exploitation. The impact on some victims of these errors has been appalling.”

Thoughts on why Britons and Americans have different views about guns

An interesting, and to my mind convincing, posting by Eric Raymond:

Decentralized threats are the mother of liberty because the optimum adaptive response to them is localist and individualist – the American ideal of the armed citizen delegating power upward. Centralized threats are the father of tyranny because the optimum response to them is the field army and the central command – war is the health of the state.

There is an implication for today’s conditions. Terrorism and asymmetrical warfare are decentralized threats. The brave men and women of Flight 93, who prevented September 11 2001 from being an even darker day than it was, were heroes in the best American tradition of bottom-up decentralized response. History will regret that they were not armed, and should record as a crime against their humanity that they were forbidden from it.

He links to this essay by Dave Kopel.

A book comparing and contrasting UK and US experiences with guns, by Joyce Lee Malcolm, is also worth reading. Here is her website. 

“Due to officer safety it was not safe or legal for them to enter the site”

What are Cambridgeshire police for?

“Police find stolen caravan hunt too risky”, reports the Times:

An owner was forced to retrieve her stolen caravan from a traveller site after police refused to enter, claiming that it was unsafe.

Officers from Cambridgeshire police were called by Helen Cox, 44, after her family caravan was taken from a farm near her home in Ely.

The force told her that they had spent five hours trying to gain access to the site, in which the caravan had been spotted by a local farmer, but that the travellers “wouldn’t let them in”.

Instead, Mrs Cox’s mother arranged for a microlight to fly overhead and capture images of the caravan hidden by some trees. She gave the photographs to police but officers still refused to enter, claiming that they had too little information to obtain a warrant.

In the end, Mrs Cox launched a social media campaign to try to retrieve her property. Several people said that they had seen the £9,000 Hobby Excellent caravan, and shortly afterwards it was found dumped in a nearby field. Mrs Cox said that a dozen travellers had surrounded her when she went to collect it.

The same story was reported in the Mirror:

“Woman tracks down her stolen £9,000 caravan to travellers’ site using microlight after police ‘too scared’ to enter camp”

…She [Ms Cox] added: “I had posted the stolen caravan all over Facebook and that is why I have it back.

“In the words of the PCSO who accompanied us to the caravan, ‘I’ve never seen a caravan returned to its owner in x number of years’.”

A Cambridgeshire Police spokesman said: ‘Officers attended the location of where it was believed the stolen caravan was and also used a drone to look over the site, however these attempts were unsuccessful.

“Due to officer safety it was not safe or legal for them to enter the site.

“There was insufficient information for officers to be able to obtain a warrant to access the site, however the caravan has since been recovered and returned to its owners.”

A masterful use of the passive voice there. “Has since been recovered and returned to its owners.” A reader who did not know the whole story might even think Cambridgeshire Constabulary had something to do with it.

I won’t add an extract from the Daily Mail story (“Caravan owner is forced to track down her stolen £9,000 vehicle to a travellers’ site with a MICROLIGHT after police refuse to send officers fearing for their safety”), as it is almost identical to that of the Mirror and very similar to that of the Times. (Despite the demonization of the Mail as “fake news”, this similarity is not uncommon.) Both the tabloid newspapers quote a comment on social media from Larry Locke, who said, “I would like to know what we are paying the police for […] if that had been in my house they would soon be in, even if I said you could not come in. Is there a law for one and not for another?”

That bewildered question has been heard in this context for a while now. Back in 2011 in a post called Guardian readers hate gypsies and travellers”, I wrote, “If you want to poison a human soul with racial hatred, just do that. Tell him that the laws that burden him do not apply to them.”

The punchline

The New European thinks its cartoons are a selling point:

I disagree that Stanley Donwood’s cartoons are “fantastic”. The drawings are a tolerably executed pastiche of the style of 1950s cartoons, but there is no clever visual imagery; they merely depict one human being hitting another. Or try to depict it: in the first cartoon the chick’s arm looks too limp to have just knocked that big guy off his feet, but fear not, there is a flash to show that impact did indeed occur. In the second one the word SLAP performs the same function. If you like seeing pictures of your political opponents being hit and sworn at, you will like this!

As for the words, the “punchlines” are nothing but verbal supplements to the punches. Did I say “punchlines” in the plural? There is only one between the two of them. In “PUT THAT ON THE SIDE OF A BUS, FUCKWIT!”, the point is that upon the word “THAT” the woman returns the man’s Leave slogan back to him by hitting him, and in “HOW’S THIS FOR ‘WILL OF THE PEOPLE’ YOU EUROPHOBIC FUCK!”, the point is that upon the word “THIS” the woman returns the man’s Leave slogan back to him by hitting him. While the visual formula of a pretty young woman knocking seven bells out of a fat old man can be repeated ad infinitum, quite soon one is going to run out of Leave slogans and demonstrative pronouns.

Overall, I am not impressed. Nor am I that much bothered. I am confident that the readers of the New European will confine their beatings of Leavers to the realm of imagination; they have plenty of practice in living in a fantasy world after all.

To be honest, the claim made by Nigel Farage to Breitbart London that the cartoons are “glorifying violence against those who voted for Brexit” is a stretch. Both the initial hard-hitting cartoons and his pulling no punches in his objection to them are best seen as just part of the good old knockabout fun of politics. But, as the saying goes, those who live by the sword die by the sword. As it says in the Breitbart article, the New European has been having the vapours about stuff like “the direct correlation between political messaging and violence” since its foundation. In this very issue it has yet another piece saying that real world harm is done by images, in this case denouncing “the complicit culture of Lad’s mags”. It is entertaining to see it being slapped down for the very same offence.

“Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife.”

So goes an old Portuguese saying, I was told. With the violence of the Spanish State towards the organisation of a referendum on independence for Catalonia, declared to be against the Spanish Constitution, which refers to the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, as well as adding in lots of social justice evil, the ugliness of the Spanish State is quite clear.

My first reaction to the Spanish State’s conduct was that this was the best way of going about winning a battle and losing a war. The Spanish Prime Minister, Rajoy, is of the Popular Party, often described as heirs to Franco, but they are more simply the ‘not-socialist, not-communist’ Spanish party. Rajoy seems to have the attitude and beard of a Communist in power. Quite why the powers-that-be did not simply say that the Referendum was void, not properly conducted, biased in favour of independence and having the sampling error that any unofficial poll would have, with mostly only those dedicated to taking part doing do, and hacked by the Russians, is a mystery. It could have ignored it and got along with surcharging the officials involved for wasting public money, but bear in mind that after Franco’s death, the officials responsible for scrutinising increases in public spending were sacked.

The only part of Spain that has, so I understand, actually ever voted, on a limited franchise, to be in Spain is Ceuta. Ceuta was Portuguese from 1415 and after King Sebastian‘s insane expedition into Morocco left the Portuguese throne vacant and Spain annexed Portugal until 1640, when the Portuguese rose for their independence. At this point Catalonia also rose, but was defeated. Ceuta opted to join Spain. So here we are 377 years later, with a dodgy referendum against a dodgy central government. Given yesterday’s events, I wonder how many minds have changed thinking that the mistress of independence is more attractive than the bullying bride Spain?

Today’s incident in Parson’s Green, London

Some of you know that I work in the Parson’s Green area of Fulham, west London, which is mainly an affluent area from where people commute into the City and other parts of London. It has a significant population of people from places such as France, and many of the cafes around here might as well be in Paris or Lyons.

Well, any such activity will not be happening today; there has been an attempted bomb explosion, so it appears, on a Tube train in the station. It looks as if the device did not fully detonate – but even so, people were burned, and several injured in the scramble to get out of the train. A suspect is, according to reports, on the run and a manhunt is under way.

I am safe, and my colleagues are safe. But I cannot help thinking that in the first six months of 2017, 34 people have been killed in terrorist incidents. We are in danger of treating these horrors as some sort of normal, like rainy weather in August in the UK, yobbish footballers or naff UK television sitcoms. And that is the appalling thing.

In 2005, I was on a Tube train on my way to the Guildhall in London, and I got off the train about 10 minutes before dozens were murdered by Islamic fanatics. Whether we are in the middle of a financial district, a suburb, beach resort, shopping mall, tourist site or concert venue, there is no escape from these nihilists, nor any quick solution.

Oh well, let’s at least hope that the good folk of Fulham will be spared another fucking  “candle-lit vigil”.

It is almost certain that this was the act of some sort of Islamist terrorist, and the savage irony is that this attack occurred in a station that is a few yards away from a small mosque; on Fridays, as today, I often see Muslims off to, or depart from, their prayers, and I occasionally stop and chat to a few of them and this area has always seemed a friendly one. The maggots who carry out attacks are as dismissive of the lives of Muslims as they are of anyone else, let it not be forgotten.

Can happen to anyone? Yes. Equally likely? No.

Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick of Heriot-Watt university has written a quietly important article for the London School of Economics (LSE) blog: “Can homelessness happen to anyone? Don’t believe the hype”.

She writes,

The idea, then, that ‘we are all only two pay cheques away from homelessness’ is a seriously misleading statement. But some may say that the truth (or falsity) of such a statement is beside the point – it helps to get the public on board and aids fundraising. Maybe that’s true (I haven’t seen any evidence either way). But myths like these become dangerous when they are repeated so often that those who ought to, and need to, know better start to believe them. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard senior figures from government and the homelessness sector rehearse the ‘it could happen to any of us’ line. This has to be called out for the nonsense it is, so that we can move on to design the sort of effective, long-term preventative interventions in homelessness that recognise its predictable yet far from inevitable nature.

This caught my attention. A couple of years ago I wrote:

Yet it is possible to acknowledge the right of those put up these spikes to do so, and also have sympathy with the homeless. Ms Borromeo’s statement that “anyone, for any reason, could end up on the streets with no home” is the usual hyperbole (she need not worry about the chances of it happening to her), but it is true that things can go wrong for a person with surprising speed. There is probably at least one of your classmates from primary school who has lost everything, usually via drugs or alcohol.

And way before that, so far back that my blog post about it is lost in the waste of words, I had noticed well-meaning posters on the London Underground that stated that “wife-beating”, as it was then called, can happen to women of any class and any level of education. What is wrong with that? It is true, isn’t it? Undeniably, but “can happen” is very different from “equally likely to happen”, and if efforts to stop violence against women from their partners are equally spread across all demographics then fewer women will be helped than if resources are targeted to those most at risk.

Suzanne Fitzpatrick’s piece also gives another reason why framing the appeal in terms of “it can happen to anyone” is not a good idea:

On a slightly different note, the repetition of this falsehood seems to me to signal a profoundly depressing state of affairs i.e. that that we feel the need to endorse the morally dubious stance that something ‘bad’ like homelessness only matters if it could happen to you. Are we really ready to concede that social justice, or even simple compassion, no longer has any purchase in the public conscience? Moreover, it strikes me as a very odd corner for those of a progressive bent to deny the existence of structural inequalities, which is exactly what the ‘two paycheques’ argument does.

I might disagree with what seem to be Professor Fitzpatrick’s views on social justice and structural inequalities, but she is right about the morally dubious nature of the stance that “something ‘bad’ like homelessness only matters if it could happen to you”.

On similar grounds, I think it is a fool’s errand to try and promote a non-racial patriotism by claims that “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” or by exaggerating the number of black people who lived here centuries ago. I am all for non-racial patriotism, but, sorry, no. The arrival of a few tens of thousands of Huguenots or Jews did not equate to the mass immigration of the last few decades. The migrations into Britain that were comparable in scale to that were invasions. And while there were certainly some “Aethiopians” and “blackamoores” living here in Tudor times, for instance, their numbers were so low that to most of the white inhabitants they were a wonder.

For those that know their history, to read the line “Britain has always been a nation of immigrants” promotes scorn. When those who at first did not know the facts finally find them out, their reaction is cynicism. Worse yet, this slogan suggests that love of country for a black or ethnic minority Briton should depend on irrelevancies such as whether the borders were continually porous through many centuries, or on whether people ethnically similar them happen to have been here since time immemorial. (The latter idea is another “very odd corner” for progressives to have painted themselves into.) If either of these claims turns out to be false, what then?

Better to learn from the example of the Huguenots and Jews. Whether any “people like them” had come before might be an interesting question for historians (and a complex one in the case of the Jews), but whatever the answer, they became British anyway.

A thought experiment on how private road owners would deal with the threat of terrorism

When dealing with complex political issues I often find it useful to ask myself what would happen in the absence of the state. This is not because I think that the glorious libertarian revolution is just around the corner but because such an exercise can at least give us some clues as to what the state should be doing in the here and now.

So, what do I mean by private roads?
Roads where the owners may decide who uses them, under what circumstances and have the means to enforce their decisions. The type of ownership could include purely commercial enterprises – out for a profit, individually-owned roads and – what I think will be the most common form – club-owned roads.

A lot would depend on people’s propensity to tolerate acts of terrorism. My guess is that this would be pretty low but I could be wrong. But that’s the great thing about the free market: it is a wonderful way of finding out what people really want. If the propensity is high then I would guess the outcome would be very similar to what we have now. Terrorism would simply be something that people would have to get used to. But let’s assume that the propensity is low. A commercial road owner would therefore have a very strong incentive to prevent terrorism.

Why?
Because, if a competitor was better at preventing terrorism then more people will want to use his roads.

But what of a road owned by a club?
This is an important example if I am right that most private roads would be in this form. The governance rules might be in the form of one frontage one vote. But it may be that the number of votes is proportional to the fees charged.

Now a road club will not have the same incentives as a commercial road – they would not exist to make money. But they would have incentives enough. The principal one would be that their members would want to preserve the value of their properties and one factor in that would be how likely it was that their properties became subject to terrorism.

Individual road owners, we can assume, would be in much the same position as clubs.

So, assuming there are strong incentives to prevent terrorism how would road owners go about it?
Obviously they would want to stop the terrorists. But they would also want to make it as easy as possible for non-terrorists to go about their business. And they would want to keep the costs down.

A key moment is what happens when someone enters the road – or road network – from one of the inevitably large number of frontages. You could have a guard on every frontage searching every person entering the road. However, this would be expensive. Not only that but it would be unlikely to be effective. Guards would get bored and become inattentive and would themselves become likely targets.

Another approach might be to deny access to anyone suspected of being an active terrorist. But this is fraught with difficulty. How would you know who is who?

Far simpler and more effective would be to ban anyone harbouring any terrorist sympathies whatsoever. Effective terrorist campaigns can always rely on a sea of sympathisers who are not themselves terrorists to aid and abet those who are. These sympathisers are usually easy to identify. Exceptions might be granted for children and members of the older generation. Or maybe there would be a system of vouching for people, guarantees of good behaviour or even the taking of hostages. The chances are that if private roads came about tomorrow terrorist sympathisers would wake up to find their properties surrounded by barbed wire.

The next issue would be those seeking entry from another road i.e. a road owned by another entity. What you would probably see is a system of guarantees. One road owner would guarantee the non-terrorist nature of their road users to other road owners. Obviously, there would be some fairly hefty compensation should one road owner’s users engage in acts of terrorism on another road owner’s territory. That would mean that road owners would be very careful who they let out.

There is a precedent for this – sort of. Those familiar with the movie The Day of the Jackal will recall that the idea that they might be letting a terrorist loose on foreign soil scared the living daylights out of the British government.

So, what would happen to the terrorist sympathisers?
It is difficult to see how terrorist sympathisers would be allowed to use non-terrorist-sympathiser roads. They would therefore only be allowed to use terrorist-sympathiser roads. As terrorist sympathisers tend to be poor and geographically concentrated, they would have an immediate problem over what to do for an income especially in the absence of a welfare state. Faced with poverty some would choose to leave for terrorist-sympathiser majority countries while others would choose to change their beliefs. Of course, there is the issue as to whether such conversions would be genuine. I have no answer to this.

But what if the terrorists engaged in acts of terrorism from their own roads?
They could for instance mortar bomb non-terrorist-sympathiser roads. My guess is that they would get mortar-bombed back. Just to greater effect.

Why Labour lies about crime in 2017 succeeded where similar Tory lies failed in 2010

BBC Radio 4 puts out a well-regarded programme on statistics called “More or Less”, in which presenter Tim Harford looks at uses and abuses of statistics. The most recent episode was a topical one covering the general election just past.

Here’s a link to the “Post-Election Special” on BBC iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08wr7ss

That link won’t last long and may not be playable outside the UK. Downloads of this and other episodes will be available indefinitely here.

If you cannot or prefer not to listen to the programme, I have transcribed the section I wanted to post about below. Typing it all out was slow work. I bothered doing the work for two reasons.

One, the BBC came much closer than it usually does to saying out loud that that the Labour Party knowingly lied on an important matter during the election campaign. We can tell with unusual clarity that Labour knew they were lying because they were lying in exactly the same way that the Tories had lied in 2010, only then the Tories were called out on it.

Two, that there has been an interesting change in the chances of such a lie being challenged before it is too late. When the Tories were telling this particular lie in 2010, they were doing so in the pages of the press and on TV, seen by millions all at once – and talked about all at once. But when Labour told their equivalent lies in 2017, they did it on Facebook posts that are passed between individuals. Though a great number may eventually see the original video, they do so as individuals. If they find it convincing, they pass it on to other individuals, and there is no reason why the recipient should be any better informed than the sender. Compared to a broadcast or news article, or even a blog post, it is less likely to come to the attention of those who know enough to rebut it. Even if it does and they do, the rebuttal is less likely to ever come to the attention of those who saw the original.

Often this sort of campaign by social media ends up as “a tale told by an idiot; full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”. People who already agree with each other are stimulated to agree ever more vehemently only to discover the morning after the election that the people who didn’t already agree weren’t listening. However when, as in this case, the video appears to be heavy with facts and to come from a non-partisan source, it can work very well.

Time I got round to talking about the specific claims at issue. The section of the election episode of “More or Less” that I’m interested in starts at 17:35 and lasts until 23:06.

Tim Harford, the presenter, says,

“It is widely believed that the youth vote boosted the Labour party and one of the things that may well have been influencing young people were viral videos on social media. In the last few days before the election, we were contacted by a loyal listener who had seen one of these videos. It was on Facebook and it was being promoted by the Labour party. And it had received 1.4 million views.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to get to it before the election, but these elections seem to be a bit like buses; there may well be another one along in a minute. And in any case, there’s never a bad time to talk about the truth.

“The video in question featured an event where an official from the trade union Unison, Ben Priestley, was giving a speech. Mr Priestley represents union members who work for the police or as prison officers, and he was sitting next to Shadow Cabinet minister Keir Starmer.

“Here’s a clip from the speech.”

We then hear the voice of Ben Priestley saying,

“Since 2012/13 there’s been a 29% increase in possession of weapons. This is police recorded crime. These are the crimes that the police themselves, through a rigorous process, have deemed to be crimes. A 29% increase in possession of weapons. A 65% increase in violence against the person. A 38% increase in assault with injury. Sexual offences are up 97%. Public order offences are up 54%.

“Now, if those figures weren’t shocking enough, this government which has claimed repeatedly, and also claimed in the Conservative party manifesto, that crime is falling. But nothing could actually be further from the truth. The government relies on the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which is an opinion poll which disregards homicide, it disregards sexual offences, it disregards crimes against business. It is a very, very small proportion of overall crime.

“So the government relies on those figures to tell the electorate that crime is falling, whereas recorded crime figures tell exactly the opposite story.”

Then it cuts back to Tim Harford, who says,

“Strong stuff. And Jeremy Corbyn’s twitter account tweeted a link to the speech with the text ‘Watch: national police officer Ben Priestley destroys Tory lies on crime rates.’

(Here is that video: https://www.facebook.com/JeremyCorbyn4PM/videos/1707133912914014/. Note that Ben Priestley is not a “national police officer” in the sense of being a policeman himself. He isn’t even a trade union representative for police officers, who are forbidden to join ordinary trade unions. Mr Priestley is Unison’s National Officer for Police and Justice, dealing with the workplace rights of civilian employees of the police. Whether intentionally or not, the description of him as a “national police officer” in Jeremy Corbyn’s video stream was misleading.)

Hartford continues,

“But are they lies? The accusation here is that the government is ignoring police recorded crime statistics and relying on the Crime Survey for England and Wales and that this is a lie because police recorded crime is a better measure. But that’s wrong. Neither method is perfect, but most crime stats nerds will tell you that the survey is better.

“The UK Statistics Authority looked at police recorded crime statistics in 2014 and decided that they were so unreliable that they should no longer be counted as an official national statistic. On the other hand, the Crime Survey for England and Wales is an official national statistic. It is not a small ad hoc opinion poll, it’s a nationally representative survey that measures the extent of crime by asking households whether they’ve experienced any crime in the last twelve months. In 2016/2017 approximately 50,000 households will be selected to take part in this research.

“And it’s just bizarre to suggest that it covers a very, very small proportion of overall crime because it captures more than twice as many crimes as the police data.

“But what about the shocking figures that the video quotes from the police recorded crime stats? Is that a true rise in crime or just a rise in the recording of crime? Since the Statistics Authority criticised the police recording of crime stats there’s been a big rise in the reporting of crimes that the police were not recording properly, such as low level violence and public order offences. The Office for National Statistics is very clear. They say, ‘Due to the renewed focus on the quality of crime recording by the police, this crime series is not currently believed to provide a reliable measure of trends, owing to the ensuing efforts of police forces to tighten recording practice and improve recording processes.’

“So the video suggests crime is rising by using cherry-picked, unreliable statistics, while dissing the more reliable statistics that serious policy wonks pay attention to. The true picture? Well, I think we got that from the crime policy writer Tom Gash, earlier on in our series. ”

Tom Gash then speaks, saying,

” I think what we’ve seen over the last twenty five years is this very, very steady fall in crime. Over the last two or three years we’ve certainly seen a plateauing of that fall in crime in a number of areas, but particularly in terms of serious violence.”

Back to Tim Harford, who concludes,

“These videos are important. You often see them after your friends share them, so they come with a recommendation.

“What’s interesting about this claim of Tories lying about crime figures is that Labour politicians weren’t making it in debates or in political interviews. It was made in a Facebook video of a press conference, where it was far less likely to be challenged.

“In 2010, the then Conservative shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, made a similar criticism about crime under the Labour government, using police recorded crime stats rather than the Crime Survey. But because his claims were made in a more public forum they were rebutted by the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson, and in a letter from Sir Michael Scholar, then Chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, who said, ‘I must take issue with what you said yesterday about violent crime statistics, which seems to me likely to damage public trust in official statistics.’

“But in the era of social media, all political parties can make claims that are far less likely to get properly examined – unless, of course, our loyal listeners put us on the case. ”

One might wish they had got round to following up on what their loyal listener had alerted them to before the election.

Remember it was mentioned that the man who was sitting next to Ben Priestley when he made that speech was Keir Starmer, or to give him his proper title, Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC MP? You can see him sitting on Mr Priestley’s right on the Labour video, looking at his hands and taking the odd note. Well, Keir Starmer isn’t just any old member of the Cabinet. He has specialist knowledge. Back in 2010 when the Tories made their false claims about crime statistics, he was Director of Public Prosecutions. Analyses of how the final figures for convictions were related to numbers of prosecutions and the underlying crime rates must have came across his desk almost daily. Here he is in 2013 writing for the Guardian about just these issues in relation to rape and violence against women. I find it hard to believe that as Sir Keir Starmer listened from two feet away to Ben Priestley’s claims about the National Crime Survey being merely an “opinion poll”, he did not know better, and that he did not also know that Mr Priestley’s claims about a 97% rise in sexual offences and so on were rubbish. I find it hard to believe that he did not remember from 2010 the cutting response made by the then Labour Home Secretary to similar hyped-up allegations when they came from the Tories:

Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said the British Crime Survey indicated that violent crime had fallen by 41% since 1997. “It’s one thing to make a slip-up on your figures – it’s quite another to deliberately mislead.”

Yet he remained silent. Is he happy to be associated with this video?