Today at Mayor’s Question Time, Boris Johnson was asked by Joanne McCartney MLA:
“Given that there has been been misuse of the figures, given that you have been called into question once before by the UK Statistics Office [sic], Will you now sign up to the Code of Practice for Official Statistics as all Government departments do?”
He replied: “There’s this guy called Scholar who writes me letters, who appears to be some sort of Labour stooge. I will certainly look at what you suggest. I’m not minded to. Put it this way I’m not impressed by the conduct of that particular body and its chief, if I may say so disrespectfully.”
Full Fact is an independent, non-partisan factchecking organisation, with senior supporters of all parties on our Board.
In trying to get misleading claims corrected we have taken a number of issues to the UK Statistics Authority. It was Full Fact that made the original complaint to the UK Statistics Authority about the Mayor’s use of crime figures. Our experiences with the Authority prompted our Director Will Moy to make the following remarks:
“The Mayor’s slight on Sir Michael Scholar is hugely misplaced. He is a former civil servant, was a Permanent Secretary under Conservative and Labour governments, and a Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher (see his biography). More importantly, he has carried out his important duties robustly but with impeccable impartiality. He has criticised senior members of both parties when that was called for by the Code of the Practice for Official Statistics. People who care about public trust in official statistics will be disappointed by today’s slur on one its champions.
“In Full Fact’s experience, we have seen the Authority take determined action to enforce the Code in response to some of our complaints, and in other cases conclude that, for example, it is only a situation where further research is needed. They will not be told what to do by anyone, nor do they pursue agendas of their own.
“I think very highly of Sir Michael Scholar. So do others who follow the Authority’s work. If that is not obvious already, the fact that he was asked to stay in post following difficulties identifying a sufficiently impressive successor should speak volumes.”
Full Fact believes that Boris Johnson should withdraw his remark and, for reasons we have given before, should sign up to the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
Update: The UK Statistics Authority has now responded to the Mayor’s remarks. A spokesman for the Authority said: “The Mayor is entitled to his views. The independence of the Statistics Authority and its Chairman are evident from our published correspondence and reports.”