The opposite of information

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Good luck with this one, folks:


All clear now?

The deficit is £11.9bn, or 7.8% of GDP, or “nearly 10%” of GDP if you arbitrarily remove one source of income from it (Why oil? Why not exclude tourism, or whisky, or sales of shortbread and Jimmy hats?), or it’s £14.9bn, or £16.9bn, or 10.3% of GDP by“one measure” (which one?) if you include a corrected mistake that the Guardian – for it is they – may or may not have been including in the first paragraph.

We’re not even sure where the £14.9bn comes from. The first paragraph of the report talks of expenditure of £68.4bn versus income of £53.4bn, which is a gap (already measured to one decimal place) of exactly £15bn.

We can’t tell where an extra £100m has vanished to, but it’s quite a lot of money to misplace as a rounding error – it’s the sum the SNP say the new Council Tax charges will produce, or what Labour say they’ll get from hiking the top rate of income tax, but Severin Carrell has just lost it down the back of a calculator.

(Are the £14.9bn and the £15bn even referring to the same thing, or does one include capital spending but exclude oil and Andy Stewart records? We don’t know.)