BREXIT: Numbers are meaningless

I quite understand Mr Watts’ mistake over Brexit figures and appreciate his correction (Berwick Advertiser, March 28).

Monday, 8th April 2019, 06:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd April 2019, 15:14 pm

Even so, I am left wondering whether his figure obtained from adding together the number of Remain voters (16.1 million) and the number of abstainers (13 million) and calling it the number who didn’t vote to Leave (29.1 million) is really meaningful.

The number of abstainers could as easily be added to the number of Leave voters (17.4 million) to obtain a number (30.4 million) for those who didn’t vote to Remain. (Numbers taken from the Electoral Commissions EU referendum results online and rounded to nearest 0.1 million. I’d be pleased if others can be bothered to check them in case my tired old brain has failed me).

Do these numbers have any meaning?

Those who didn’t vote may be made up of those who didn’t care, those who couldn’t make up their minds, those who were ill or away and didn’t have a postal vote, etc. We have no way of knowing.

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It is always dangerous to add together numbers representing different categories. If I go into a cafe and order two fish cakes and three jam tarts and the waiter brings me five sausages, it is true I’ll be getting the right number of items of food, but I wouldn’t be getting what I thought I was going to.

So, for myself, I am unimpressed by these numbers. I don’t think they have any meaning beyond arithmetic and certainly not any political significance.

John Light

The Meadows