Editor’s newsletter: Politicians use stats to win arguments and make policies - but they can’t always be trusted

While politicians are unlikely to question a statistic if it suits their argument, it's important for journalists to use more scrutiny

When a government minister talks about an official statistic, often to make a political argument, it usually goes unchallenged. But what if there’s a problem with the official data?

At NationalWorld we believe it’s important to question how this data is collected and classified, especially if it’s going to be used by the government to shape policies which affect everyone in the country.

A case in point is an investigation on charge rates for rape, from our data and investigations editor Harriet Clugston, who found that lesser crimes were often being counted as rape, leading to an artificially high charge rate - sparking fears the criminal justice system record on rape could be even worse than official figures suggest.

The story was picked up by Labour’s Emily Thornberry this week, who cited Harriet’s work when she asked the Attorney General in parliament to confirm whether suspects who are never actually charged with rape are being included in official figures.

While we await the Attorney General’s full response, here Harriet explains why this matters:

“As a data journalist who writes regularly about violence against women and girls - and sexual violence more widely - I have long been frustrated by statistics published by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which I believe likely give a distorted picture about the number of suspects it is prosecuting for rape, by including all cases in which there was an allegation of rape, even if they never took that particular charge forward. Unfortunately there is no way to get better data from the CPS - it simply does not collect it.

“Instead, we turned to police data, and the (until now) unpublished figures we have been able to get hold of highlight just why this is a problem. In hundreds of rape cases, officers have recorded that charges were successfully brought against a suspect - even though nobody was actually charged with rape. It's likely many of these have also been reported as rape charges by the CPS. In recent years, campaigners have been driven to take the CPS to court over a ‘catastrophic’ drop in rape charges and prosecutions - in part motivated by statistics we now know may have been overstating the already bleak picture the whole time.

“Look out for more updates from us on this concerning state of affairs soon.”

You can read Harriet’s original story from last month here.

How to save on travel costs

Yesterday saw the highest number of flights leaving the UK since 2019, with over 3,000 departures. It’s clear that people are getting their appetite for travel back after the limitations imposed during the pandemic. Whether it’s a culture-packed jaunt to Copenhagen or Berlin, a long haul voyage to Asia or a week of sun-worshipping on the Med, everyone seems to have cast off those Covid concerns of old to get a change of scenery.

But anyone who has attempted to book a holiday recently will be acutely aware that there are few bargains to be had. When demand is high, so are prices, and the days of budget flights and cut-price hotel deals are ancient history. 

That being said, there are still some ways to save on your holiday budget, and so our Travel Editor Katrina Conaglen has drawn on her experience and research to pull together this list of 32 easy ways to save money while planning holidays, which is full of nuggets like the fact that the cheapest rate for a hotel room is usually to be found just 15 days ahead of your stay.

The flipside to all this of course is the environmental impact of air travel. In the week that France announced a ban on short-haul domestic flights between cities with existing train routes, it is also worth considering more sustainable ways of travel, or at least how we can make less impact as tourists on arrival, from avoiding areas suffering from overtourism, to

📺 In this week’s episode of our Screen Babble podcast, Alex reviews Poker Face, Steven remembers The Mighty Boosh, and Kelly recommends Malpractice and Maryland - as well as offering a few predictions for the hugely anticipated Succession finale.

🌍 Have an enjoyable weekend - wherever you are in the world.