You may have heard that Paul White (aka Lord Hanningfield), the former leader of Essex County Council, is currently on trial on charges of false accounting in Chelmsford.
While I’m not going to comment on the substance of the trial until after it’s concluded, there’s one comment of his that’s been reported that does deserve some attention:
He said: “Essex is as big as Northern Ireland. So my job is something like the equivalent of being prime minister of Northern Ireland. It is bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Leaving aside the different roles of the Northern Ireland Executive and the leadership of a County Council, let’s look at the ‘bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia’ part.
The population of the part of Essex governed by the County Council (Southend and Thurrock are unitary authorities) is, according to Wikipedia 1,396,300, in an area of 3,465 square kilometres.
Croatia, by contrast, has a population of 4,483,804 and an area of 56,594 sq km. (source)
Lithuania has a population of 3,535,547 and an area of 65,300 sq km (source)
And Latvia has a population of 2,204,708 and an area of 64,589 sq km (source)
Again, leaving aside the difference between running an English County Council and an entire nation-state, I can’t quite see how one can claim Essex as being bigger than any of those countries. I think it’s clear that neither geography nor mathematics are amongst Lord Hanningfield’s strong points, which may go some way to explaining why he is where he is today.