Friday, 27 June 2008

Henley-on-Thames by-election

The results are in from yesterday's by-election in the constituency of Henley-on-Thames; previous incumbent one Boris Johnson, now mayor of London. The numbers are as follows:-

John Howell - Conservatives, 19,796 (56.95%, 3.46% increase on 2005 general election share of vote)
Stephen Kearney - Liberal Democrats, 9,680 (27.85%, 1.84%)
Mark Stevenson - Greens, 1,321 (3.80%, 0.54%)
Timothy Rait - British National Party, 1,243 (3.58%)
Richard McKenzie - Labour, 1,066 (3.07%, -11.68%)
Chris Adams, UK Independence Party, 843 (2.43%, -0.07%)
Bananaman Owen - Monster Raving Loony Party, 242 (0.70%)
Derek Allpass - English Democrats, 157 (0.45%)
Amanda Harrington - Independent (Miss Great Britain Party), 128 (0.37%)
Dick Rodgers - The Common Good, 121 (0.35%)
Louise Cole - Independent (Miss Great Britain Party), 91 (0.26%)
Harry Bear - The Fur Play Party, 73 (0.21%)

Electorate 69,086 - Turnout 34,761 (50.32%, -17.58%)

The significance of these results is not that the Tory candidate won by a vast margin, that was always going to happen, but rather that the Labour candidate was pushed into fifth place behind the Lib-Dems, Greens and BNP. He lost his deposit.

Also interesting is that the BNP came from nowhere to take 3.6 percent of the vote - nowhere because they have never previously contested this constituency. This make them the fastest growing party of them all; and Labour the fastest shrinking.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Lies, Danm Lies and Retail Statistics

Yesterday the Pimlico, London-based Office of National Statistics reported that last month (May, 2008) retail inflation was running at 3.5 percent for that one month alone. The year-on-year number is 8.1 percent.

This is a staggering leap in retail therapy by a public still reeling from petrol prices at £1.20 a litre, and gas prices predicted to rise by 40% this coming winter. We haven't seen this level of retail inflation in the UK since the dog days of the Callaghan government in 1979. However, as a statistic, it is also completely unbelievable, since despite Gordon Brown's best efforts we aren't living in Zimbabwe yet.

Sir Philip Green, owner of retail chains BHS and Arcadia, said the figures were bizarre, given the economic situation. "These figures in no way reflect the current trend. They are totally misleading. I have no idea where they collect this information from. I'd love to know." (Link)

So how can we account for this ONS brainstorm? Well, I did mention at the top of the post that the ONS is based in Pimlico in Central London. (They have another office in Hampshire but that only concerns itself with the ten-yearly UK census.) But they are not long for London; they are moving lock, stock and barrel, to Newport in Wales.

Now I'm sure Newport is a fine place, but I suspect the ONS is hemorrhaging its skilled staff who don't fancy living and working so far from the bright lights of London town. In short, one must assume that the ONS is now staffed only by its tea ladies who are plucking statistics out of the bottom of their teacups.