In Greg Sheridan’s piece Cameron has chance to make UK great again in today’s Australian he made an astonishing factual error. An error that, amazingly enough, wasn’t picked up before the piece was published in print and online.
Greg writes that Scotland has 99 seats in the 650 member UK House of Commons – a much larger share of the House of Commons than it would have if seats were allocated to Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Island on the basis of their relative populations. (Wales is also over-represented.) He writes that Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, live as “socialist dependencies and overwhelmingly vote Labour”.
Of course, Scotland only has 59 seats in the House of Commons, as any political junkie knows. There have been 59 Scottish seats since the 2005 election, down from the previous 72. Greg Sheridan may have mixed up his knowledge that Scotland had been over-represented – an easy error – but one that should have been picked up before publication.
It’s true that Scotland and Wales are over-represented in the House of Commons on the basis of UK Govt population estimates for mid-2008 – Scotland would have 55 seats and Wales 32, instead of the 59 and 40 they actually have. Northern Island would have 19 instead of the actual 18. But this is a much smaller overrepresentation (total of 12 seats) than Greg writes about.
While Greg’s error is relatively minor and doesn’t detract from his core argument, its obviousness may make a reader question how substantial his writing is. Pretty poor for a “serious” journalist.