After eight enjoyable months, I'm going to mothball this blog. This is not because Polly Toynbee has suddenly started using real facts that she undertsands -- on the contrary, her sloppiness and inaccuracy continue unabated.
No, rather it is because I want to do other things more than I want to do this.
This blog -- my first serious effort at concerted blogging -- was an experiment that was successful in many ways but also limiting in others. I'd quite like to write about a broader range of topics than Polly's columns, and would also like to express opinions. That won't work on this blog, which is after all about Polly Toynbee's misuse of facts. So, in order to give myself the time to do this, I'm going to stop posting here, and will write elsewhere under a different guise.
I'm glad I've done this. I don't see this as embarassing juvenalia to be forgotten, but rather a successful first endeavour which has taught me a lot, introduced me to some humblingly good bloggers, and has given me plenty of food for thought about what I should do next.
There is more below the break, but for those who are stopping here, thank you for reading.
The biggest has to be the two times when I've goofed. The first was back in June, when bizarrely one could have said "six months ago, Labour were ahead by 10% in the polls" and "six months ago, Labour were behind by 9% in the polls" with equal accuracy, and I thought that quoting the latter was enough to disprove the former -- though it genuinely was an occasion when two contradictory statements were both true. The second was when I mistook newspaper circulation and readership, and as a result was only as inaccurate as Polly Toynbee.
Another lowlight has been some poor debating on the web, be it the bafflingly thick Neil Harding's argument that I must be right-wing because I criticise Polly Toynbee, Cassilis's characterisation of refuting the statement that "social mobility has come to a halt" by citing academic research that people born into the lowest income quartile have a better than 60% chance of escaping that lowest income quartile as "semantic hair-splitting", or the folks who stumble across the blog, look around for a few minutes, leave a sarcastic comment and then disappear without caring if there is a reply.
And the final lowlight has to be the Guardian's Corrections and Clarifications column, which does not "correct significant errors as soon as possible", and in fact ignores many errors which are brought to its attention.
I fully accept that this is a profoundly unoriginal insight, but the internet is a phenomenal research tool. I have said in my profile that "I've learned a lot by reading the research that [Polly] skims", and it's true. There is a wealth of interesting work, research, information and data which is out there which is waiting to be found by anyone with a browser, broadband connection and a familiarity with Google. And, nota bene Polly, intellectual curiosity.
I've also been thoroughly impressed by fellow bloggers. Despite my comment above about poor debtaing on the web, there are enough writers out there who are informative, entertaining and thought-provoking to make it a fascinating medium, as well as some very good writers.
And on a purely personal note, a big highlight was discovering that Ken Livingstone had paid Polly Toynbee £7,000 of taxpayers' money in an non-competitive tender to rehash some of her old Guardian columns. That money came partly from me; the re-hash including some particularly misleading distortions of some academic research; and Polly Toynbee is quite an overt flatterer of Ken's. Until discovering that, I was prepared to accept that she might just be careless and sloppy in her use of facts. After discovering that, I think her morally bankrupt.