National politics

Why did Labour darling need to lie about suicide?

A lady called Jessie Joe Jacobs became the darling of the Labour party conference on Tuesday with a passionate speech on how young women and the North East have been affected by a Conservative government.  Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn approvingly tweeted out a clip of her speech on Tuesday night.

Suicide is a terrible thing and not something to discuss lightly. Any rate above zero is too high a rate. There is much to take issue with in the clip but her use of suicide statistics was very misleading.  Misleading to the extent of lying really.

She said:

The suicide figures are very well understood national statistics of the highest quality based on recorded deaths.  The latest version, “Suicides in the UK: 2017 registrations” was only published this month giving figures for 2017.  These figures go back to 1981.

This chart gives female suicide rates broken down by age in terms of rate per 100,000 population.

The bottom line on this chart is women and girls in the age range 10-29.  As you can see the line is pretty flat around 3 deaths per 100,000 per annum.  In recent years this group has seen lower suicide rates than in the 90s.  This group is the least suicidal group of women although older women saw big improvements in the 80s that have broadly stopped. Men are very much worse.

Jacobs’ highest point claim is just wrong.  In 2017 the rate was 3.2 per 100,000.  In 2016 3.4 – I guess this is her highest point, she was happy to ignore the latest data it seems.  The highest point in these statistics were the New Labour years of 1998 and 2000 when the rates hit 3.9 per 100,000.  They were over 3.4 11 times in this series.  So her first claim is nonsense and New Labour presided over the worst numbers in 1998 and 2000.

Her doubling in 10 years is something of a stretch too.  The New Labour low was 2.2 in 2007.  Only slightly better than the Coalition low of 2.3 in 2013.  After 2007 rates climbed again to 3.0 in 2010 and 3.3 in 2011.  The worst recent Conservative number was 3.4 in 2016.  So a 55% increase in the 9 years from 2007 to 2016.  Hardly doubling and ignoring the fact that most of the deterioration had already happened before Labour left power.

Maybe someone persuaded Ms Jacobs that she should spice up her speech with some killer facts.  If so she was badly advised.

Ms Jacobs seems to be an estimable person in many ways with a track record of starting a charity to help young women and working as a trade unionist.  Did she know she was being actively misleading or was she merely parroting someone else’s lines?

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