Michael Simmons

Michael Simmons

Michael Simmons is The Spectator's Data Editor

Was Eat Out to Help Out really behind the second wave?

Did Eat Out to Help Out increase Covid? It’s a conclusion the inquiry and lockdown’s cheerleaders seem keen to push. Today they got their wish with Sir Patrick Vallance telling the inquiry it is ‘very difficult to see how it wouldn’t have had an effect on transmission’. Those comments have already been taken out of

We’re still recovering from lockdown’s impact on children

Some 140,000 children missed more than half of the school days they should have attended this spring. Research by the Children’s Commissioner, published today, finds that only 5 per cent of these ‘severely absent’ kids go on to achieve five GCSEs. For year ten and 11 pupils who are persistently absent – meaning they miss one

Dodgy data risks breaking Universal Credit

As many as one in 20 Universal Credit payments to working Brits are wrong. Claimants are at risk of destitution when they’re underpaid and accused of fraud when they’re overpaid, as the Department for Work and Pensions has been using a flawed data stream provided by HMRC to calculate Universal Credit payments. This week The Spectator revealed how

The taxman’s dodgy data

Ten years ago, HMRC unveiled what was billed as ‘the biggest change’ to the tax system since PAYE began in 1944. The taxman mandated employers to report their workers’ pay every time they ran payroll. Introduced to support Universal Credit by providing earnings data in close to real time, it has since been used to

The Covid inquiry asked the wrong questions of Neil Ferguson

SPI-M-O are at the Covid inquiry this week. They’re the shadowy group of mathematical modellers who contributed – more than most – to the evidence that backed up lockdown. On Monday we heard from Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University. Surprisingly – for an inquiry that seems from the outset to be focused on the

It’s official: we don’t know how many people are unemployed

For perhaps the first time in its history, the Office for National Statistics does not know how many employed, unemployed and economically inactive people there are in the country. This morning, the monthly labour market figures were due to be published. But late last week news slipped out that the employment portion of the release

How the SNP botched Scotland’s census

Scotland’s first census results have finally been released: just 444 days after England managed to publish theirs. The once-a-decade count of the population was disastrous at worst and botched at best. As the first deadline for returning the census loomed last April, some 700,000 households – a quarter of the country – were threatened with

Scotland’s drug deaths shame

Scotland continues to suffer drug deaths at levels unseen anywhere else in the UK or Europe. Three Scots die as a result of drugs every single day. That is nearly three times worse than any other country for which records exist. This scandalous figure has just been updated, and shows that, although the number of

In defence of drunken freshers’ weeks

I don’t remember much of freshers’ week at Edinburgh. Friends have helped to fill in the blanks. I vaguely recall a police officer handing out vodka shots to show how easy it was to fail a breathalyser test. A famous DJ had his set in the union cut short because he played the song ‘Blurred

Public sector pay pushes wage growth to record high

Public sector pay growth has jumped 9.6 per cent, the fastest rate since current records began 22 years ago. Private sector wage growth, meanwhile, is slightly more modest at 7.9 per cent. The NHS bonus – a one-off payment of between £1,650 and £3,500 given in June – helped lift overall wages up by 8.2

Rishi’s target creeps away as NHS backlog climbs

Yet another of Rishi Sunak’s five targets looks to have slipped out of reach. Waiting lists for NHS treatment in England have climbed to another record high and now stand just shy of 7.6 million. There was a slight improvement for the longest waits: those waiting more than a year dropped slightly but still stand

Seven graphs that show the challenge for the Tories at the election

The Tories have avoided total wipeout in last night’s triple by-election. Rishi Sunak dodged the embarrassment of becoming the first Prime Minister in 50 years to lose three by-elections in a single day. While the Lib Dems won Somerton and Frome and Labour secured victory in Selby and Ainsty, the Conservative candidate in Uxbridge, Steve Tuckwell,

Sunak’s debt target is slipping out of reach

Threadneedle Street will have all the economic limelight this week as the Bank of England sets interest rates tomorrow. With this morning’s grim inflation update, a rate rise looks all but certain. But this morning, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released an update on Rishi Sunak’s third pledge: to get debt falling. The figures

Record pay deals will worry the Bank of England

Wages are slowly closing the gap with inflation, up 7.2 per cent in the year to April versus inflation of 8.7 per cent. It adds up to a real-terms decrease. It’s the 18th real-terms fall in a row – though the fastest nominal rise on record outside the pandemic. The new minimum wage (up nearly

Rishi Sunak needs to do more to stop the boats

Is Rishi Sunak stopping the boats? He’d certainly like us to think so. He spent much of yesterday in Dover parading the news revealed on The Spectator data hub last week that small boats crossing the Channel were down a fifth compared with the same time last year. By the end of May, the Ministry of Defence

Britain’s economy is struggling with so many off sick

One of the UK’s biggest economic problems is having so many people out of work – and the slowest return to pre-pandemic workforce levels in Europe. This is costly and slows growth, as taxpayers foot the bill for benefits while employers struggle to fill vacancies. Today’s figures show that it is getting better – but