The BBC, in its wisdom - and mindful of an ever-tightening budget for original programming - has decreed that Sunday Politics will end its run for good before the end of this month, with the last broadcast on 22nd July. So there will be no further opportunities for viewers to enjoy the opinions of those who Andrew Neil laughably called “the commentators who count”, which is probably as well, as one of whom can’t count at all.
We know who you are, thanks
To no surprise at all, the pundit having problems with sums that should not be beyond anyone who has passed GCSE Mathematics (or, in the case of those of us of A Certain Age, “O” Level) is self-promotion specialist Julia Hartley Brewer, who has decreed that the usual rules of elementary sums do not apply to Herself Personally Now.
Ms Hartley Dooda, who appears on the Sunday Politics tomorrow, has taken grave exception to a claim that “The UK economy is already more than 2% smaller than it would be if we had voted to Remain in the EU & @JuliaHB1 keeps tweeting everyone knew what they voted for”. She knew better than that, and indeed better than everyone else.
“Oh bless you, sweetheart, but no it isn’t. It’s grown since Brexit but, thanks to the uncertainty and dithering, it’s grown by a tiny *2% less* than it might otherwise have grown. I know these percentage thingummijigs are complicated but do try to keep up”. Patronising, much? But reality was about to close in.
Jon Woods was the initial bringer of that reality. “She didn't say the economy had shrunk 2%. It’s the case that the economy is 2% smaller than it would have been, though”.
Given the choice between being right and being ideologically acceptable, Ms Hartley Dooda did not hesitate. “No. The economy is not 2% smaller than it would have been. Economists claim the *increase* in the size of the economy is 2% smaller. So a tiny percentage of a small percentage rise that was predicted, ie. far less than 2% (and who knows if the prediction was right anyway?)”. Yeah, experts, eh?
Sadly, as VoxEU has pointed out in this helpful graph, Ms Hartley Dooda is wrong. The economy is indeed 2% smaller than it would have been. And by now, real economists were lining up to correct her howler, with Mark Gregory of Ernst and Young one of them.
“No, it is 2% smaller. It is not the increase is 2% smaller, but 2% of growth has been lost. If it’s easier, think of it as about £350 million a week of loss as a good estimate”. Hmmm, that’s an interesting number. Wonder where I’ve seen it before?
Meanwhile, Jonathan Portes was actually impressed, but not in a way which favoured Ms Hartley Dooda: “The degree of economic and arithmetic illiteracy on display here is impressive”. He was even prepared to defend her against claims she had been abusive in her dismissal: “I don't think @JuliaHB1 was being abusive. Patronising & rude - which was amusing given that the original tweet was entirely correct, and @JuliaHB1's was based on an arithmetic error which would fail GCSE maths”. Ouch!
And the Tweeter known as Eurosluggard simply told “I regret to inform you that Julia Hartley-Brewer is self-owning again”. The commentator who counts? She can’t.