Stephen Fry provided one of the more irritating moments during the MP's expenses scandal. He loudly told us to stop worrying about dishonesty in high places and focus on more important issues. He also suggested that this story contained a large dose of hypocrisy. "Everyone fiddles their expenses", he loudly exclaimed.
The data doesn't really support Mr. Fry's claims of widespread dishonesty. According to the Police, crimes involving dishonesty have fallen sharply in the last two decades. Back in the early 1990s, the police recorded over 400,000 crimes involving dishonesty. In 2007, that number had fallen to well under 200,000.
Of course, there are lies, damn lies, statistics, and police crime reports. Personally, I am more than a little skeptical that the UK has become so honest in recent years. It could well be some fancy New Labour statistical adjustments that account for the sudden increase in honesty. I was also struck by the the fact that miscellaneous crimes have been increasing while dishonesty has been falling. Don't ask me why, I can not explain it.
Whether or not the peasants have become more honest, it still does not give Mr. Fry any basis for dismissing our concerns about corruption in high places.
(This data can be found on the ONS website. The codes are: a) BEBH Crimes & offences recorded by police: Miscellaneous offences; and b) BEBE Crimes & offences rec by police: Crimes of dishonesty.)