Thursday, 9 June 2016

More Dodgy Data

It has been a common complaint during the EU Referendum debate that the data and information provided by both sides has been unreliable, or even deliberately deceptive.  That complain was again raised today on the Daily Politics as, Andrew Neil quizzed Tory MP Sarah Wollaston over her decision to switch from being a supporter of "Leave" to supporting "Remain".  During the discussion another bit of dodgy information was put forward, and it is an example of something I have discussed before.

During the interview Wollaston said that one of the things that had changed her mind was that her father had recently required the services of the NHS.  Not just that, and "Leave's"  use of dodgy data over the £350 million per week sent to the EU, which "Leave" say could go to the NHS, had changed her mind, she said.  The other thing, she said, was that her father, who is now 81, had trained as a mine clearance diver, and so the issue of avoiding further wars in Europe was important to him, and had influenced her thinking.

During the rest of the interview there were various further references to that, including by Andrew Neill, who spoke about her father's obvious bravery during the war.  Well, as soon as the reference was made, it was obvious to me that this was another piece of dodgy data.  I have no reason to doubt Wollaston's claim that her father trained as a mine clearance diver, as a teenager, and still less to doubt that she knows how old her father is.  But, then if as she says he is 81, that means he was born in 1935.  That then means that when war broke out he was 4, and when the war finished six years later, he would still only have been 10 years old!!!

So, he may well have trained as a mine clearance diver, but either he did that at a very, very young age, to have played any part in WWII, and the claim that he trained as such in his teens is wrong, or more likely he trained in his teens, but actually that would not have been until around 1951-3, nearly ten years after WWII finished.  That's not to say that he didn't perform those functions during some war, but it is pretty impossible for it to have been WWII.

What was more surprising was that also being interviewed was historian Andrew Roberts, who also failed to question the information.  As I have pointed out before, that is what happens when so many people in these positions are so young that anyone over the age of 60 is considered old, and anyone aged 75-80, is considered truly ancient, who must have been around to take part in the war.  Its a symptom of the fact that the war itself is now slipping further and further into actual history, but the references to it, in the media make it seem more recent than it actually is.

Its a bit like I was saying to someone recently that for those of use who grew up at the time, the music of the 60's, seems still like its modern music, but the fact remains that its now more than half a century old.

Andrew Neill should have recognised that someone only 81 could not conceivably have played any role in WWII, but in general could we now recognise that no one younger than 90 could have played any significant role in the war, which means that there are very few people who actually did still around.  Just because people seem relatively old compared to younger people does not mean that they are that old.

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