Can we stop doing politics by numbers, please?

Can we stop doing politics by numbers, please?

VOTESBYWOMEN_V13From 10,000 new police to £350 million for the NHS, the random figures that politicians dream up aren’t helping anybody

Diane Abbott was criticised this morning for fumbling her figures on Labour’s promise of 10,000 new police officers. And rightly so – that number is ridiculous. How did the party decide that 10,000 were needed, rather than 9,999 – or 232.5? What will happen if they only find 8,012 viable candidates – will they have to import some from abroad?

The party can’t seem to stop pulling random round numbers out of its arse – just look at Jeremy Corbyn’s 10 Pledges to Transform Britain on the Labour website. First off, Jez is going to create a million good-quality jobs by investing £500 billion in infrastructure. Then he’ll build a million new homes, including half a million council homes. And now 10,000 more five-oh.

These arbitrary figures are a particularly bad look for Labour in its hard-left phase, with echoes of Stalin and his five-year plans. Or Dr Evil in blackmail mode. But they’re far from the only ones at it. Just think of the £350 million promised to the NHS by Brexiteers who said this was what EU membership cost us. Then denied it, in spite of the fact THEY WROTE IT ON A MASSIVE BUS AND DROVE IT AROUND THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.

And let’s not forget it was David Cameron’s Tories who promised to cap net migration at tens of thousands, because: well, probably because it sounded good. Now the Conservatives are having to distance themselves from the pledge, realising they might need immigrants to pay inflated university fees, work in the NHS, and generally do stuff Brits can’t be bothered with.

Meanwhile the Lib Dems have found 3 million people who will be £2,500 a year worse off after Brexit. Wasn’t it going to be £4,300 according to George Osborne? And wasn’t that kind of “scaremongering” said to have been a vote-loser ahead of the referendum?

This is not to disagree that Brexit is likely to leave ordinary people worse off financially, or that we need more jobs, or new homes. The point is that when you try to get people on board with those issues, it’s not a great starting point to assume the electorate is too thick to find a decimal place.

Let’s raise the bar a little higher, dear leaders, and use figures that relate to our actual needs. Otherwise, as Diane Abbott found, it’s only you who will end up looking stupid.

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