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……:>

  • It would be interesting to know how ‘deprivation’ compares between the Northern and Southern Irish territories.

    Most social inequality is structural and the idea that you can lay it at the door of the local MP does not hold water but in the case of SF MPs it is fair to say that they did lead ‘their’ people into an insurrection and as a result they may have had to pay and continue to have to pay an economic price for the IRA campaign.

    Equally there can be little doubt that the high profile and high regard the IRA leaders (Adams and Mc Guinnes ) are held in internationally does facilitate economic interest and investment in those areas most affected by the insurgency and that economic activity is unlikley to flourish in a society riven by state sponosred inequality and historical unevnenness which the GFA has gone a considerable distance to put right.

    Protocol warning: Please adjust your mindset
    For those of a particulalry tribal and/or sensitive disposition and those unable to judge an arguement on it’s merits please be aware that the term Unionist in my name is not an entrirely accurate reflection of my political views though it should also be noted that my paternal grandfather was a keen supporter of the Union and I am invoking the FIFA grandparent rule and am opting to call myself so. (I’m sure he would have approved.)

  • LabourNIman

    by it’s very nature, sectarian politics will fail it’s constituency. Different issues face each side of the divide.

    For instance – how can a unionist help a catholic area move on from the ira’s hold over it? It can’t, by their very nature if they have to do it for catholics, they would have to go into prod areas and upset the mighty loyalist gangs as well.

    NI constituencies need a ground movement, on the ground workers that believe on moving on need to stand as independents. They won’t get elected first time round but it will raise the profile of working class issues.