On the selective use of statistics

Having glanced at Mick’s thread yesterday I decided to take a closer look at the latest NISRA statistics measuring deprivation within local communities across the north of Ireland.
Some results from the measure of multiple deprivation seem to have been missed:

One-fifth of the most deprived forty SOAs are in Foyle. The SDLP have held the MP position for the area uninterrupted since 1983. Should we deduce that the attendance of the sitting Wesminster MP throughout that period was an unqualified failure?

8 of the top 23 most deprived SOAs are in North Belfast. Unionists have been returned as MP for the area since time began (Stratton Mills’ brief period as an Alliance MP apart.) Does this suggest that the Unionist MPs throughout history have failed abysmally their constituents, catholic and protestant? Certainly Mick’s point about the jealous guarding of land by unionist politicians here will have exacerbated the deprivation problem in local areas within this constituency.
The answer to both questions may well be a yes, resounding or qualified. But what is hard to justify is the use of deprivation statistics to gauge the performance of one elected representative alone. What do the statistics tell us about the performance of the government and statutory bodies, charged with improving the lives of the local residents? Furthermore, what about the other elected representatives whose constituencies overlap partially or completely with that of the sitting MP- councillors, MLAs, even MEPs?

The problem, of course, with using such statistics to assess the performance of elected representatives is that such a course of action fails to appreciate not only the limits to what elected representatives can achieve, but also how deprivation is not alone an issue for the local MP but also all others concerned- Ministers, civil servants from senior to local at central/ regional/ local government level, educators at local schools, health professionals etc.

I would hazard a guess that a similar statistical profile of local communities in Britain would find that the most deprived would be represented fairly consistently by Labour Party MPs. Should we be deducing that this indicates a higher level of performance at MP level by those representing the wealthy? Certainly that would be the logical conclusion of Joe’s comparison with the affluent Malone area of Belfast.

All of this is not to say that elected representatives should not be challenged over how they intend on addressing the stark levels of relative deprivation highlighted through such comprehensive research documents. But drawing the types of conclusions inferred in the thread and subsequent comments’ narrative from such statistics is hard to sustain when all other factors are taken into consideration. Nice try though……:>

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