How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part VI: "The Final Chapter"

This is the last 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.

Okay, so far we have a few quotes, attributed and unattributed (or genuine and made up, if you're being uncharitable) compounding the confusion over whether the article is dealing with Romanian and Bulgarian immigration or immigration from the other Eastern European countries. Leading up into the article's withdrawal, we have some nice misleading statistics to muddy the waters and create the impression of a bunch of workshy scroungers.
Lies, damn lies and statistics

The article leads up to the inevitable withdrawal with some slippery statistical shenannigans. I don't need to quote it here in full, but there are a couple of points that need to be made.

Firstly, as Obsolete points out - the number of Eastern Europeans on benefit for being out of work are incredibly low. A fantastic quote:
As you can see, the numbers claiming benefits for being out of work are still so minuscule as to be almost entirely negligible. The Express and Mail have instead thrown their toys out of the pram about the numbers claiming child benefit and tax credits, which on the surface do look large, leading the papers to claim that this is adding up to around £100m in benefits going to migrants. What neither paper bothers to tell you though is that the accession statistics (PDF) also tell you how many national insurance numbers have been allocated since 2004 for employment purposes, through which they'll be paying tax. These stand at 610,751. That means that over 500,000 migrants are taking nothing out while putting far, far more back in than the others are claiming back. And anyway, why shouldn't those 90,000 migrants that are paying tax just the same as the rest of us are not be allowed to claim the same benefits that we're entitled to?
There. Stats trashed. Job done. It would be nice to see a comparison of taxes paid and benefits received by the eastern European countries, even if the Mail and MigrationWatch would dismiss it if it weren't negative.

Secondly, look at the hyperbolic language here. 'Raking in child benefits'. Just over a tenner a week per child is 'raking it in'. To qualify for £200 a week you'd need nearly 20 kids! And £200 a week is hardly raking it in. And look at the term 'state handouts'. Nice. No mention, of course, that
610,751 National Insurance numbers have been issued. This actually stands at more than the number of applications for work permits that have been allocated. This could be because people exempt from the registration scheme have applied for National Insurance numbers, or that some were allocated before applications were rejected, or that some have been allocated to people whose application is outstanding. All sorts of reasons. Still, even more people than are registered with the Worker's registration scheme are likely to be paying - or to have paid - National Insurance and tax.

The other point to make is that the access to benefits for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria is more restricted than for the other Eastern Eurpoean countries. The two are not equivalent. We know that the paper is trying to imply that they are, but they're really not.

The closing sentence

The closing sentence tails off the article perfectly, and brings its focus back to the accession of the two new countries, nicely downplaying any impression that the reader might have that the two sets of migrants are different, treated a different way with different rules. It's also a perfect example of using the 'Withdrawn!' tactic at the very end of an article to make it look as though the person quoted is either lying or wrong. Here is is in all it's glory:
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "While it remains too soon to evaluate the full impact of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, the early indications are that our policy of restricting access to the UK's labour market is helping to ensure that only those who have something to offer the UK are allowed to work here."
We already know what the paper thinks of that statement. It has gone to great lengths to contradict it throughout this and innumerable other articles about immigration.

This article is a brilliant example of how the fallacy equivocation, or the bait and switch technique, works. Liam Byrne's statement is broadly accurate if you think that migration from Romania and Bulgaria should have been restricted to a lower level than the other A8 countries. This isn't just a case of it being my partisan choice to go with what Liam Byrne says. I'm not a Labour supporter anyway, although I am left wing. These figures really do show a vast difference to the figures for A8 migration. They count a lot of the people the government was lambasted for not counting in the existing Worker Registration Scheme for A8 countries, and they're significantly lower than those figures. The government knows more about these migrants than the others, and they're less likely to be able to claim benefits - although whether the amount claimed by other Eastern Europeans is significant is certainly debateable. But the Mail has gone to great lengths to trash them, and hasn't once used a valid argument to do so.

To recap

I'll end with a quick recap of all the dishonest tactics this article uses to misrepresent the new government figures. Here goes.

Out and out false statements
  • 120 Bulgarians and Romanians a day have come to the UK to be circus stars
  • Over 120 a day in total have come to the UK
  • 10,535 have come in total
  • The government figures cover the last five months
  • The top profession listed by Romanians is circus artiste (remember, it's only the top of a certain subsection, not all Romanians)
  • The top profession listed by Bulgarians are chef and carer, with a couple of others thrown in (for the same reasons as above)
False impressions the article creates by equivocating
  • The actual number of immigrants from te two new EU countries must be absolutely huge, since 120 a day have applied to be circus stars
  • The 10,535 total number (itself mysteriously 115 higher than the real total) must be a massive underestimate because of this
  • Since most Romanians have applied to be circus stars, they must be lying
  • Since most Romanians must be lying about being circus stars, the system must be really easy to cheat
  • The govenment has predicted that 40,000 more Romanians and Bulgarians will arrive by the end of the year
  • This prediction is likely to be as wrong as the original estimate of 13,000 a year from the other Eastern European countries
  • Since 40,000 a year is nearly 4 times as high as 13,000, the actual number could end up almost 4 times as high as 630,000
  • Officials have admitted the figures for Romanian and Bulgarian immigration is the tip of the iceberg
  • These figures do not include the self-employed
  • Damian Green said the Romanian and Bulgarian figures blow the government's 13,000 a year prediction for other A8 countries out of the water
  • Critics warn that the Romanian and Bulgarian migration could now put public services under pressure
  • The government has implemented restrictions on migration from these countries because of the 10,000 that have arrived so far
  • The government can do little to stop people coming to the UK from these countries if they claim to be self-employed
  • David Frosts's quote was in reaction to these new figures, specifically those about Romania and Bulgaria
  • The numbers of Eastern Europeans already here who claim benefits is astronomically high
  • This creates a burden on the existing non-Eastern European population
  • The proportion of Romanians and Bulgarians who claim benefits will be equivalent to those from the other Eastern European countries
  • This means the 'benefits bill' will shoot through the roof
  • Liam Byrne must be having a laugh to claim that the new restrictions must be successfully keeping the numbers migrating from these two countries lower than from the other Eastern European countries
There may be others I have missed, but as you can see, most of the false impressions this article creates are accomplished by implication and equivication rather than out and out lying. And I hope I've managed to show that the lie that seems most pointless and dismissable at first - that 120 a day have come to be circus stars - is actually the lie that enables the equivocation and shoddy implications to be made in the rest of the article.

Equivocation is the favourite tool of the tabloids - especially the Mail. Complain about any of the second set of false impressions in this article, and you'll get the reply of, 'but we were talking about the other set of figures then,' even though the fact that this was never made clear shows that the paper isn't really interested in allowing the reader to make the distinction.

I was talking about this article with my other half last night - because we have a dynamite social life - and she said, 'but that's not reporting the news - that's just propaganda!'

She was dead right.

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 III: "The Switch"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part IV: "The Big Little Lie"
How the Daily Mail lies about immigration. Part V: "The Quotes"

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