The Daily Mail's (or at least it's journalist* and editorial staff's) grasp of simple arithmetic has been starkly shown up again. And of course the errors relate to an immigration story.
'Two passports a minute are given to foreigners as 1.5m issued since Labour elected' bellows the headline**, except this is patently not true. For a start, roughly 6,619,680 minutes have elapsed since the Labour government were elected on 1 May 1997 (counting up to 1 January 2010, as the ONS statistics that the article is based upon relate to figures for last year). So, 2 passports a minute would mean 13,239,360 passports in total?!? Something wrong there?
Maybe he means 'since the last election'? In which case that would be 2,404,800 minutes between 5 May 2005 and the beginning of this year. Which is 4,809,600 passports. Except that it is not, because if you actually read the article it says, "Passports were given to foreigners at the rate of two a minute last year." So, in fact he means that there were 1,051,200 or so passports issues last year (525,600 minutes x 2). So what evidence is there for this startling figure.
Well none actually.
What the paper does say is that "Officials approved a record 203,865 citizenship applications, 58 per cent more than in 2008. Another 190,000 immigrants were given the right to settle in the UK in 2009 – a rise of 30 per cent on the year before." So maybe Slack means a passport issued every TWO minutes? But then again, 203,865 x 2 = 407,730, so it can't be that either.
Frankly, we are a total loss to understand what this idiot actually means by this bizarre attempt at rudimentary schoolboy calculation. Unless of course one tries to calculate the whole thing on the basis of a civil servant's 40 hour working week in a year with 4 weeks holiday allowance. In that case it comes out at 115,200 minutes in the passport office, which could equate to roughly 203,865 passports being issued (allowing for the odd lunch and tea break).
* Our old mate James Slack 'by name, slack by nature' again (he really could not have a more appropriate name).
** Interestingly, the online version's tag is 'Number of asylum seekers arriving in Britain falls by 30%', which is a very different take on the ONS figures, something that the article itself doesn't explain in as plain terms as that. Instead it allows you to do the maths for yourself - "In the year to June 2009, 146,000 British nationals emigrated and 87,000 came back to the UK. This meant that net emigration was 59,000, down from 89,000 in the year to June 2008 – and a peak of well over 100,000 in 2004. In the same time period, net immigration by non-British nationals was 206,000, down from 257,000 in the year to June 2008." Probably just as well really!
Five Chinese Crackers have also covered this story at greater length and they too share our contempt for Slack and his ilk.