Before I go on it would probably be good to get a couple of general points out of the way.
This latest white flight story is an example of the paper taking a pre-existing narrative it had only hinted at with innuendo and clever juxtaposition of pictures a little further in explicitly referring to race. It is not an example of the paper merely discovering interesting new statistics and reporting them, since it had previously published a similar story that promoted the exact same idea before it had access to these figures.
Given that, the story is another example of how the actual figures don't matter. The statistics are subordinate to the narrative the paper's trying to push. Since this is the second story that explicitly refers to white people leaving the country, it suggests that an editorial decision has been made to do that rather than imply, which is what the paper did before. Over and over and over.
In the scheme of things though, a drop of about 70,000 in the white British population in 2005-2006 due to emigration isn't actually very scary compared to the hundreds of thousands the paper had previously implied had left, which is why the paper has to distort a bit to increase it - but adding 5,000 to the total by including white Irish people makes little difference and the actual numbers don't matter anyway - so why do it at all?
The key is in one phrase, which shows the second part of the narrative in any immigration scare story in the Mail - and one that I haven't really focused on before properly since I'm normally looking at the main one. Here's the relevant phrase:
The figures have been calculated for every year back to 2002 - and this was the biggest decline yet.The only way the paper can say that the most recent figures represented the 'biggest decline yet' is to include white Irish people in the calculations. And that's the second part of the narrative in any immigration scare story. That the most recent figures are the highest ever and the situation is getting 'out of contrtol'.
The paper adds to this impression in the story by following up with:
In the previous year, there had been a drop of just 42,300.This makes it look as though there had been a steady fall of around 42,000 every year and things have shot up in 2005-06 - along with another unusually high spike in 2004 that it does actually mention.
In reality, the 42,300 is the unusually low figure. If we look at the actual figures for the number of white British people emigrating (going through the trouble of adding Irish people in the mix would be following the paper's less than honest agenda - plus, I cannot be arsed - but you can see that the 2004 including Irish people is still lower than all the other years for just British people), we can see the following drops due to emigration:
These figures would make a much better scare story about the numbers of white British people emigrating in recent years. Look! It's loads! Thing is though, the 'biggest decline yet' is the most important thing the paper is pushing. A more immediate story is likely to have more impact than one that looks in depth at previous trends.
Of course, in most immigration scare stories, some details get left out if they contradict the impression the paper's trying to give. In this one, the paper is scaring us by giving the impression that the white British population is dropping quickly, with this year being the biggest decline yet - while other ethnic groups are growing. Run to the hills!
The important detail, which would give a vastly different impression than the one the paper is trying to give, is the natural change in the white British popoulation - ie, the number of babies born compared to the number of deaths. While the paper does mention that:
Even though there were more births than deaths, the white British and Irish population still fell by almost 15,000 in 2006.(This is inaccurate, since the paper has confused itself what with all this adding Irish people and not adding Irish people. The 'almost 15,000' only applies to white British. It would be closer to 25,000 had the paper included Irish people). This doesn't let us know how this compares with previous years. Having a look at the white British population, we can see that the overall change in population including natural change and emigration shows a very different trend:
While this year isn't the lowest drop yet, it's the second lowest - and less than half the level of the third lowest drop.
Had the paper been honestly interested in the fall in the numbers of white British people in the country, it would have mentioned these figures - but it's more important to push the 'biggest decline yet' idea, so only one year gets a mention - the figure from the same year we've been told is the 'biggest decline yet' in the white British population.
To be honest though, the level of contorting figures in this article is pretty low compared to others. It's not as if it pretends that over 10,000 people came to the country in three months to be circus stars when the real number was 55. But it shows the shift to explicitly worrying about the number of white people leaving the country, and shows pretty clearly how the paper trims stories to fit ongoing narratives rather than making stories shape those narratives. It's a subtle difference, but an important one. Alongside the playing down of reporting murders of brown people if they're not in gangs and playing up the number of black people accused of knife crimes as the paper has been doing recently, it's a worrying one as well.