James Slack adds a million immigrants to the electoral register in just the time it takes to bash out one article

There are certain things the Daily Mail is actually very good at, especially when ‘Home Affairs Editor’ James Slack is in the writer’s chair. One is using figures to mislead its readers into thinking that numbers connected to immigration are higher than they actually are. Another is just giving the reader enough information to come to a conclusion without actually directly stating what it wants its readers to think.

A perfect example of both pops up in today’s ‘Immigration adds a million new voters to the electoral register in just two years as total hits record 46million’. See, immigration doesn’t add a million to the electoral register in two years, something the subs on the dead tree version were clearly aware of, since the paper version’s headline is ‘Migrants help swell electoral roll by 1m’. That’s more accurate, but it’s wonderfully ambiguous. You could still interpret it as meaning that migrants help swell the electoral roll by adding a million to it.

The article itself is actually incredibly vague. The central concrete point of the article is that 1 million new people have been added to the electoral register in the last couple of years and some of them are immigrants.

"Some of the new people added to the electoral register are immigrants, Mister Holmes? I say, I am almost certain that your assertion contains the minimal amount of faecal matter," said Watson.

The whole article is an exercise in throwing different stats around to confuse the reader. We learn that:
Hundreds of thousands of the new electors are immigrants who have been granted British citizenship or who poured in from Eastern Europe.
How many hundreds of thousands? What’s the split between British citizens and eastern Europeans? Surely the Mail doesn’t have a problem with British citizens voting?

Anyway, this is supposed to lead to the conclusion:
Critics said the increase made the case for changes to the electoral rules allowing non-British citizens full voting rights.
So, because hundreds of thousands of British citizens have been added to the electoral register and some eastern Europeans have been given limited voting rights, we should change the rules giving non-British citizens from places that aren't eastern Europe unlimited voting rights. That makes sense. Go to the top of the class, Logic Boy.

Since the other group mentioned in the vague 'hundreds of thousands' claim are eastern Europeans and they’re not allowed to vote in General Elections, this begs the question – which electoral register has had a million people added to it in the last two years? Local or general?

Ready for the answer? Neither. Okay, I’m being uncharitable. The article later reveals that 976,000 have been added to the electoral register for local elections in the last two years, which is nearly a million – and that 679,000 have been added to the register for general elections, which is closer to half a million. (Remember, we’re talking about the total number of people added here, not the number of immigrants). Hands up who thought the headline referred to General Elections when you first read it. How many hands can I add to my own? Of course, that's the whole point of the story.

The general election stats are presented in a nicely subtle misleading way, too:
There is a separate register for general elections only, which was boosted by 307,669 last year. It had 223,172 additions in 2005 and 371,770 in 2006.
See how last years stats are presented first, and far apart from the figures from the previous year? That way, you're less likely to notice that the number has dropped, just as the number for local elections has. This is why the article combines the last two years rather than just reporting 2007's rise. If it didn't we'd actually be able to see that the number of additions is dropping rather than dramatically rising.

Earlier, I asked if the Mail had a problem with British Citizens voting. The question wasn’t rhetorical, and here’s the answer:
The growth in the overall register also reflects how immigrants coming to the UK since Labour came to power are now being granted citizenship.

With passports being handed out at the rate of 100,000 every year, all these people can vote.
Oh noes! All ‘these people’ can vote. All these British citizens. Notice how the first sentence there is utter balls? According to the paper, passports are ‘handed out’ at the rate of 100,000 a year – or 200,000 in two years. An addition of a million people to the electoral register in two years somehow reflects this? Only if the mirror you hold up is one of those comedy funfair ones that makes you look five times bigger than you actually are.

The story doesn’t once tell us how many of the 1 million added to the register are immigrants. It doesn’t tell us how many are new British citizens. It doesn’t tell us how many are old Commonwealth citizens. It does say that 150,000 eastern Europeans a year have been added to the register for local elections, so could be that the paper has the missing figures, but doesn’t tell us. Of course, it’s equally likely that the 150,000 is a nonsense figure James Slack made up earlier, like his £9bn cost of immigration figure, but I haven’t the time to check.

To muddy the waters and frighten Mail readers a bit more is this article, ‘Two million Muslims now live in Britain and 10,000 are millionaires, reveals Home Secretary Jacqui Smith during visit to Pakistan’. This is a separate article on the website, but in the dead tree version a somewhat abbreviated version is just added to the electoral register story without its own headline, in bold print.

We’re clearly supposed to associate these figures with one another. That there are now 2 million Muslims in the UK (which Smith never actually said – she just said the figure ‘may be as high as 2 million’ – so it’s clearly not a concrete definite) is supposed to be digested alongside the news that immigrants have added 1 million to the electoral register, so [cue the ominous music please] more Muslims can vote now.

The figures the Mail use in the article about the number of Muslims are classic scaremongering. Look at how percentages are used to inflate the impression of the number of Muslims who pray every day here (in the dead tree version of the article):
There are 4.2 million Catholics in England and Wales, and 25 million baptized Anglicans.

But only 6.3 per cent of Christians in the 2001 census said they went to church weekly compared to 51 per cent of Muslims who prayed daily.
6.3% compared to 51%? Wowsers! That’s loads more Muslims, eh? Except no.
6.3% of 29.2 million is just over 1.8 million. 51% of 2 million is 1,002,000. Notice also how the numbers for Christians are taken only from England and Wales, and the number of Muslims is the vague, upper limit figure for the total in the UK.

As if that weren’t enough, going to church every week is compared to praying every day. The two are different, since one takes more effort. And both lots are way outnumbered by the ones who don’t pray every day, don’t go to church, mosque, synagogue, temple or anything else.

So, what’s all this scaremongering for then? Why include a snippet about the number of Muslims in the UK under the same headline as an article about the number of immigrants added to the electoral roll? This is where the paper shows off its ability to push an idea without explicitly stating it, just giving its readers enough information to come to the conclusion themselves.

There’s a bizarre conspiracy theory that abounds in the comment boxes of the right wing tabloids, one that is espoused by Richard Littlejohn. It goes like this – immigration is high because Labour is importing voters from overseas. Because all immigrants – from the wealthy financier working in the city down to the lowliest office cleaner – are guaranteed to vote Labour. Somehow, this includes eastern Europeans, despite their not being allowed to vote in general elections. In Littlejohn’s version, Labour started importing immigrants ten years before they had the power to do so, in 1987.

This article doesn’t say that Labour is importing voters, but it does include this to give us readers enough to arrive at the conclusion:
Pressure group Migrationwatch UK said one million votes could swing a close electoral campaign.
Why else would the paper take the figure for the number of people added to one electoral register or another and focus straight in on the fact that some of these people will be immigrants without actually knowing how many are immigrants in the first place?

Deliberate or not – it’s worked. Here are some random comments:
This has been obvious to anyone who cares about England the mass migration has been about votes for Nu-Labour and the English has had to pay with our sovereignty.
- Mike, UK

Small wonder that this discredited Labour Government are so enthusiastic about uncontrolled immigration, they want to force a demographic change to make sure that they stay in power. Could there be a more unscrupulous Government?
- Chris H, Preston, Lancashire

One million immigrant voters who will doubtless be saying a big "thank you" by voting Nu Labour. I see this as a temporary blip, considering the record numbers of Brits who are saying a big "something unprintable" and leaving the country.
- Glyn, Southampton, U.K.
If I tried to reproduce all the similar comments I’d be here all day.

Thinking about it, though – although the idea is David Icke stuff, I can see why it could be attractive to some people. I mean, we’re told over and over that the government lies about immigration, that it knows that nobody benefits except the immigrants and it’s ruining the country for the rest of us. The Mail’s headline last week shouted about Labour’s lies about immigration – not mistakes or things it was incompetently wrong about, but lies.

If you think the government is deliberately lying despite knowing that immigration is ruining the country and that the crazy Muslims are going to take over, you need a motive. This is as good a one as any.

As for the paper pandering to it – that’s its job, according to Paul Dacre. If the public believe crazy nonsense, that paper must reflect it. Except it really is bizarre crazy nonsense, which the paper would much rather pander to than have the 'honest dabate' it pretends to want to have about immigration.

*UPDATED* meant to mention this earlier, but the version of the story on the website seems to be one version tacked on the bottom of another. It begins with:
One million voters have been added to the electoral register in only two years, taking the total to a record 46million.

Hundreds of thousands of the new electors are immigrants who have been granted British citizenship or who poured in from Eastern Europe.

Critics said the increase made the case for changes to the electoral rules allowing non-British citizens full voting rights.
And then halfway through, starts again with:
One million new voters have been added to the electoral register in only two years – taking the total to a record 46 million, it emerged last night.

Hundreds of thousands of the new electors are immigrants who have been granted British citizenship, or have poured in from Eastern Europe.

Critics said it made the case for changes to the electoral rules – which allow non-British citizens full voting rights.
The article carries on covering the same ground that led up to the whole thing starting over again halfway through.

There have been 77 comments so far, quite a lot repeating the nonsense about importing voters, but it seems nobody's pointed out that the article starts all over again in the middle. Remember what I've said before about people not reading the whole article?


Anton Vowl said...

I always enjoy the way the Mail says 'but critics have claimed that in fact immigration is a BAD THING' and then can't find any 'critics' to 'claim' it, other than MigrationWatch and David Davis, and their own unstable readers. I'm sure there are plenty of 'critics' who'd say that James Slack is an idiot, but unfortunately they never seem to get interviewed.

Neil Barber said...

There is an article about a new suicide in Bridgend that refers to 17 in the town in the past year. I posted a comment (yeah, I'm a sad twat) that pointed out the 17 suicides took place in County Borough of Bridgend, a small but perfectly formed county of some 375,000 souls.

At the time of writing the story has since been dropped from the listing on their online but can still be googled...


However, it says no comments have been submitted. Lying toerags.

Mind you, they've never printed any of my other comments.