Pullinger pledges to back statisticians caught in ‘rough and tumble of politics’

The UK’s new national statistician and chief executive of the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA), John Pullinger, has pledged to back statisticians across government if they feel that their figures are being misused by politicians.

By Winnie.Agbonlahor

03 Jul 2014

Speaking to CSW, Pullinger (pictured), who took up his role on 1 July, said that statisticians are often caught “in the middle” of the “day-to-day rough and tumble of politics” and can find it hard to “resist their ministers” and stand up for the correct use of statistics.

Contradicting ministers, he said, is a “hard thing to ask” of a statistician, particularly if they are “relatively junior”. He added that “we need to give people the confidence that they will be backed if they say: 'This information can take you this far, but no further'.”

It is, he said, part of his job to “say: ‘Look, I will back you, because we care about professionalism’" and adds that "ultimately I've been appointed to be the head of the profession here – to stand up for using statistics in a way that can be trusted, and is trustworthy.”

Pullinger, who has replaced Jil Matheson, praised the work of the UKSA as a “defender of professionalism” that has helped prevent politicians from “messing with” statistics, but said he wants to take it to a “new level”.

He wants to get statisticians more involved in the policy-making process and “bring them to the decision-making table”, and has set himself three priorities for his five-year appointment.

For the full interview with Pullinger, request your free copy of the new monthly CSW magazine, published 15 July.

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