The recent referendum campaigns for both ‘Stronger In’ and ‘Vote Leave’ reminded me of the phrase ‘Lies, lies and damn statistics’ in the manner in which information was twisted to put either case in a better light. As someone with a strong mathematical background and a real sense of fairness and accurate representation, I’ve been appalled in the way both sides have tried to mislead the general public.
It started with George Osborne and his implication that by voting for Brexit every household in the country would have to get the cheque book out (those that still have one) to write a cheque to HMRC for £4300. When in fact this figure was derived from financial growth forecasts that showed staying in would be incrementally beneficial over voting out (which would still show growth but not as much) by a gross amount which if divided by approximately 25 million households in the UK would equate to a sum of £4300 per household. A somewhat different scenario and one that, I can’t help thinking, would have been better presented to the public as voting to remain in the EU will mean that each household is £4300 better off. From the outset Project Fear could have been a vote winning Project Growth!
The next whopper was the Vote Leave battle bus and the £350m paid each week to the EU. This figure was of course the gross not nett figure. As the campaign moved onwards the words changed from ‘let’s spend this money on our priorities, such as the NHS’, as quoted in the Electoral Commission Referendum advisory booklet that every household received, to ‘let’s spend £350m on the NHS’ as seen in the Boris ‘gotcha’ photo so prominent on social media.
On results day, those older generations that had voted leave were lambasted by one and all as stealing the future of the younger generations based on analysis that 75% of 18-24 year olds had voted to remain yet only 39% of the old duffers who won’t be here much longer voted the same way. Yet according to other sources only 36% of the youngsters turned out and bothered to vote – probably distracted by things like Glastonbury, meaning in absolute numbers that the voting apathy amongst the younger age group was something of an own goal. Perhaps we should accept that most of the millennial generation seem incapable of doing anything without an App or Offline and if we have to submit our Tax Returns online then perhaps they should be able to vote via their smartphones too. I did encourage my own two daughters to get to the Polling Station as ‘you get what you vote for, not what you tweet or post about’.
My last example of far too many was the Independent's article published under a headline that racist crimes had ‘soared by 57%’. Now I clearly abhor anything to do with racism but I also think it is irresponsible to inflame an already sensitive situation particularly in light of the political and economic storm. Yet the 57% was derived from a website that stated that in the four days since Brexit compared to the same four days in the previous month ‘reported’ incidents had risen from 54 to 85 in a population of over 63 million. Many of the increased reports were later confirmed as incidents of graffiti from way back that were only reported after the vote. Did this headline fuel later 'reported' incidents? It certainly added to the angst of a divided country. Keep calm and keep things in proportion say I.
The referendum has shown the true colours of many and exposed the huge disconnects across the country - the most worrying of which in my mind is that the Parliamentarian Assembly, irrespective of political party and whether you voted remain or leave, does not represent the true views of the British Public. Might it be time for proportional representation?
So where does this leave me. Well here's a thought. If golf truly is a sport based on honour, integrity and courtesy where competition is truly played in the ‘spirit of the game’ then perhaps an indicator of ones suitability to represent the people is having ‘Golfer’ listed in the ‘Hobbies and Interests’ section of the CV of any prospective parliamentary candidate. All golfers know that the scorecard is the same for all players – you can’t represent it with a statistical twist, it’s an absolute measurement of performance – as was the vote – and once recorded needs respecting. As for a second referendum, then ask yourself how you would reply to a request from Jordan Spieth to replay the 12th hole at Augusta .
What now? As in golf the result is the result and given the outcome it’s time for everyone to crack on, look forward and exploit every opportunity the decision could bring. For example, with the pound/dollar exchange rate representing excellent value for export opportunities ETIQUS looks forward to an increase in sales to the US market where there are some 29m golfers instead of ‘just’ the 6m in Europe. Whatever your views prior to June 23rd it’s time for everyone to believe in each other and in our country.
So let’s look forward to The Open … in Scotland … oh dear ... let’s not go down that rabbit hole.