We’re hoping to use the summer break from parliamentary politics – isn’t it amazing how political news dries up when MPs are absent? – to think about what stats our parliamentary representatives work with. What is the basic equipment an MP needs to operate as a legislator, select committee member, policy debater, constituency activist and so on?
We’d like your ideas. For example, MPs fixate on figures to do with electoral prospects. They and their staff swim daily through shoals of data, including sometimes dody surveys from interest groups, firms and fellow politicians. So don’t they need to understand the basics of sampling and margins of error?
Political argument is often about risk – the likelihood of an event occurring. Does that imply MPs should have an adequate grasp of probability?
Statistics get used to beat opponents around the head. That’s OK, as long as we’re clear what the baseline is, or the denominator if we are talking about ratios. We’ll be looking through Hansard, the record of parliamentary proceedings, for examples of statistical use and misuse and talking to our contacts and colleagues to find out what would be most helpful.