You may have heard the radio interview that Diane Abbott (Labour Shadow Home Secretary) took part in on LBC radio. It starts with the journalist, Nick Ferrari, asking her about the plan she had just announced for a new Labour government to increase the number of police officers by 10,000 in the next parliament. I told the Core Maths class this and also said that when politicians announce new ideas they are always immediately asked how much it will cost and how they will pay for it.
I told the class that this interview didn’t go well. Here is the task:
Task: Write down all of the numbers that are used in the interview and afterwards write a report explaining why certain numbers are incorrect and which are plausible.
Here is the webpage: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2017/may/02/diane-abbotts-error-filled-lbc-interview-on-police-funding-video
Below are some of the things my class noted:
10,000 police officers cannot possible cost £300,000 because that would be £30 per police officer (per year!).
£80 million is also not enough because that is only £8000 per officer. There is the sound of papers being shuffled in the background, so she has obviously lost her pieces of paper and is searching for them while she speaks. If she was estimating how much it would be in the first year, for four-year roll-out of the plan then £80 million for 2,500 new police officers seems more possible.
Diane Abbott then said 25,000 new officers per year over four years (and Nick Ferrari didn’t pick up on it). That would be 100,000 new officers in total.
The 250,000 new police per year would end up being a million in total.
Finally, when she found her papers, Diane Abbott said the following:
- Year 1 would be setting up and wouldn’t cost anything.
- Year 2: £64.3 million (presumably for about 2,500 new police officers). This is £25,720 on average.
- Year 3: £139.1 million (5,000 officers). £27,820 on average.
- Year 4: £217 million (7,500 officers). £28,933 on average.
- Year 5: £298 million (10,000 officers). £29,800 on average. [NB: I would prefer to round these numbers off.]
The students then Googled police salaries and decided that these were about £22,000 per year on average. The additional money in Year 2 might then be needed to pay for training, uniform, equipment, national insurance, etc. The new officers would get pay rises as they became more experienced, which could be why the numbers rise in subsequent years.
Finally, they noted that the final figure (£298 million) could be rounded to £300 million. At the start of the interview Diane Abbott said £300 thousand. Maybe she was distracted at the beginning because she was trying to hold a phone conversation while searching for her notes and said “thousand” instead of “million”.