Paul: Simple answer to 'why this' is 'because it's the one I read' :) You're right that it's by no means the only sort of mistake like this made, and they're made by people across the political spectrum. On benefit fraud in particular, what I've blogged about before is how misleading it is to give more attention to fraud than to administrative errors given their relative size. DWP press releases mention fraud far more than tackling administrative errors, for example - which is something I've blogged criticising them for.
Dear Readers’ Editor,
A couple of factual errors seem to have slipped into Polly Toynbee’s article yesterday. She writes of:
The reality of welfare cuts the Institute for Fiscal Studies calls “without historical and international precedent”
However, when The Guardian previously reported that quote from the IFS it was different into two key respects. First, it was “almost without”, not “without”. A small but significant change, as “almost without” of course means ‘there have been some precedents’, whilst “without” on its own means ‘there have been none’.
What’s more that previous report cited the quote as being about the government’s overall spending plans and not specifically welfare cuts.
I realise that neither of these corrections are likely to change people’s views on her overall point one way or the other. But as a basic point of journalistic accuracy, shouldn’t things like this be corrected? After all, how does it serve the readers to drop the word “almost” without telling them?
(By the way, I know you’ve not responded when I’ve pointed out other misleading comments in her pieces in the past – see here, which I also emailed to yourself - so if there’s a general rule that misquotations and misquoting of statistics is fine in comment pieces, perhaps you could let me know for future reference?)
UPDATE: Kudos to the Readers’ Editor; story now being corrected.