How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part III: "The Switch"

This is the third in a series of posts about exactly how the Mail article '120 immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria arrive in Britain every day to be circus stars' misleads the paper's readers. The other parts of the series are linked at the bottom of the post.

This has been pretty extensively edited since I originally posted it. I had stupidly swallowed one of the implications of the article - that the government had predicted 40,000 more Romanians and Bulgarians would arrive in the rest of this year. They haven't. Somebody else did, and they were talking about what would happen if there were no restrictions. There were.

After the opening that talks specifically about Romanian and Bulgarian immigration, the article begins to shift between talking about that and general immigration form Eastern Europe, starting with a less than clear switch.

The switch

The actual switch comes in the sentence:
At the same time, the flood of migrants from other eastern European countries shows no sign of abating. More than 49,000 entered the UK in 2006, putting the total number registered with the Home Office at 630,000 - a far cry from the Government's initial estimate of 13,000.
Notice how the article has started talking about immigration from the other Eastern European (A8) countries without mentioning that the figures for this will come from a different report and are measured in a different way. As far as your average Mail reader will know, these figures are taken from the same report.

False claims within the switch

Something I missed initially is the neat little claim in there that more than 49,000 entered the UK in 2006. This is a little bizarre. It's probably a mistake rather than deliberate, but it is odd. See, there was a total of 234,565 applicants, with 227,710 approved last year, according to the latest Accession Monitoring Report. So that's just a little bit more than 49,000. It seems the article is referring to the 49,000 applicants so far this year.

But mistake or not, the figure creates a lovely link between this and the sentences leading up to the switch. Remember, before the switch the article mentioned a prediction of 40,000 for the rest of the year. That would make an overall prediction for 2007 that is remarkably close to 49,000. So a connection is created between an annual number of around 50,000 and a total over three years of 630,000. Nice mistake, eh?

Plus, it's a small point, but the paper habitually counts every applicant, even those turned down, in its calculations. The total number of approved applicants from A8 countries is 605,375. Close to about 25,000 less than the impression the paper gives.

Beyond that - the paper hasn't even given a little caveat to show that a large number of this 630,000 will have already left the country. Nothing. As far as its readers are concerned, 630,000 Eastern Europeans have been added to the population in three years.

Finally, the government didn't initially estimate that 13,000 people would come to the UK from Eastern Europe in three years. That was an annual estimate of net migration from those countries, adjusted for the number who left. That would give a total of three times the Mail's claim here, at 39,000. PLus, the prediction was of what would happen if the other countries in the EU didn't introduce restrictions, whereas most did. This is not to say that the government estimate wasn't woefully, woefully out of whack. It was. It just wasn't as bad as the Mail has claimed. Again.

How the switch creates confusion between four sets of figures

Comparing initial estimates from the government with actual numbers registering from the A8 countries serves to make a connection for the reader between four differently calculated sets of figures. These figures are:
  • The Accession Moitoring Report from the government, which includes those from the A8 countries applying to the Worker Registration Scheme. These do not include the self-employed, students who aren't working, the self-sufficient or any family members unless they've applied to the scheme too
In the two sentences leading up to the switch, the article mentions a prediction of 40,000 Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in the rest of the year. In my initial post about this, I said that this was a reference to a government prediction. That's because I swallowed the article's implication that it is. It isn't. It's actually most likely to be from a prediction made by the IPPR - before the government decided to intriduce restrictions, and assumed the same rules that apply to those from the A8 countries would apply to Romania and Bulgaria. They don't.

To give an idea of why IPPR prediction is incompatible with the actual Romania and Bulgaria figures, the number of people who have applied under similar circumstances as the A8 countries - that is to say excluding the self-employed (I'm chucking in students and the self-sufficient and all family members because the difference is so great as to not matter) is about 6,700. For there to be 40,000 more in the rest of this year, the rate would have to be double the first quarter of this year in every following quarter.

How the article uses the confusion between four sets of figures

The prediction figures are incompatible, as they all measure different things in different potential circumstances. But the reader is clearly expected to connect the 40,000 prediction figure with the result of 630,000 over three years. Whether that's by connecting the 40,000 with the 13,000 initial government estimate for A8 countries, or the 49,000 the paper erroneously claims arrived last year isn't relevant. The whole point of all this is to make the prediction seem wildly underestimated and give the impression that we're likely to see around 630,000 Romanians and Bulgarians over the next three years.

Just in case the numbers themselves aren't enough, in between the sentence about the 40,000 estimate and the switch, we have the one that says:
For rather than the plumbers and builders many expected [yadda yadda yadda about circus performers]
Which is there to link the two sentences with an example of how people were wrong about what they expected from the Romanians and Bulgarians, casting doubt on the prediction that isn't relevant anyway.

This may well be getting confusing. To boil things down, the article has said here:
  • There's been a prediction for 40,000 to arrive in the rest of the year
  • Everybody expected them to be plumbers and builders but they were wrong
  • There were around 49,000 A8 migrants arriving last year (which is damn close to the prediction for this year from Romania and Bulgaria)
  • The government predicted 13,000 to arrive from the A8 countries
  • 630,000 have arrived in total so far from the A8 countries
Whichever way you slice it, the switch is clearly intended to make the reader connect any prediction with a ridiculously high actual rise in population. The confused jumble of figures is used in the same way as the confused jumble in the bait. To imply that the government figures are a mess and can't be trusted.

How the article uses the switch

The next sentence makes this claim:
But officials admit this could be the tip of the iceberg, as the figures do not include the self-employed, spouses, children or those who do not bother to register.
Aside from being unnecessarily scaremongering and possibly lying with the 'tip of the iceberg' claim (I seriously doubt any official has said this, given that the 630,000 number doesn't count the number who have returned home or some 25,000 rejected applications), this sentence makes a beautiful implication about the unreliability of the Romanian and Bulgarian figures.

The switch connected the measurement of A8 immigrants with Romanians and Bulgarians by using some slick implications. Remember, the reader of this article is highly unlikely to know that there are in fact four sets of figures here, and that the methods of measuring are different and count different things - and the paper has not made this clear. So most regular Mail readers will not know that self employed Romanians and Bulgarians are counted, as well as some family members, and will think these figures are also the tip of the iceberg for the same reasons that the paper is putting forward for the A8 figures.

The switch has been performed. The paper started talking about one report and shifted to talking about another - using two other reports along the way - without even letting the reader know that more than one report exists.

Slippery, eh?

Click below for the further thrilling instalments in 'How the Daily Mail lies about immigration'!

How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part I: "The Context"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part II: "The Bait"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part IV: "The Big Little Lie"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part V: "The Quotes"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part VI: "The Final Chapter"

No comments: