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The last census?

The 2001 census was meant to be the most accurate picture ever of Britain's population. Then it found that there were nearly 1m fewer of us than expected.

By Graham Bowley   November 2003

Shortly after graduating from university I went to work at the treasury, where one of my jobs was collecting the latest economic numbers from the central statistical office, or office for national statistics (ONS) as it is now known. Every few weeks I would descend into the bowels of Whitehall where statisticians described the dips and squiggles of the trade gap, or some other data series. Occasionally there was a discreet splutter, and a statistician admitted that the figures I was given last month were slightly inaccurate and had now been revised. We quickly moved on. I never doubted the…

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