Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Word games and number crunching

Ed Vaizey, Conservative MP, has produced a graph suggesting that the number of mentions of the word ‘climate’ in Gordon Brown’s Budget speeches took a huge leap in 2006; there is a tacit suggestion that this might be a matter of expedient political positioning (in light of David Cameron’s leading of the agenda?) rather than a consistent commitment to the environment.

I have two reactions to this, which unfortunately contradict each other. Pick your favourite and assume that that’s the line I really take.

The first is to leap onto my high horse and say ‘Dear oh dear, how typically Cameronite to imagine that how many times you use a word, rather than the policies you implement, is what matters. Just not serious, spin over substance, blah blah blah.’

The second reaction involves a bit of web trawling. On the grounds that politics is a team game and the environmental policies range well beyond the Treasury, you could compare the number of appearances of ‘climate’ in the 2005 election manifestos of Labour and the Tories (which, as you’ll remember if you’ve read my previous reminders, was the work of Mr D Cameron).

Labour 11, Tories 1.

You might also wonder who could be leading whom, in terms of the timing of Brown and Cameron’s association with the climate issue. This is pretty rough, but searching BBC News online for news stories containing the words ‘Cameron’ and ‘climate’ yields the following (no fancy graph I’m afraid):

Sep 2005: 3
Oct 2005: 2
Nov 2005: 0
Dec 2005: 9
Jan 2006: 6
Feb 2006: 1
Mar 2006: 7
Apr 2006: 17
May 2006: 4

So Cameron’s climatic profile varied from month to month, but for some reason leapt up in April. Why?

Brown delivered his climate-discussing Budget on 22 March.

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