Irregular Thoughts

Exposing a lack of clarity in conventional thinking

In 2009, I started writing comment pieces for this website and (since 2021) for my associated newsletter. Examples range from the offside rule in football () to banning people from social media (); from Prince Harry’s bottom () to politicians battling with lawyers over human rights ().

The full range of topics includes:

I have also written extensively for the national press and professional journals.

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The political question

They say you get the politicians you deserve. But that adage originates with Thomas Jefferson who was unaware of the modern-day television interview. Increasingly, political interviewers ask questions in a form designed to put the interviewee in an embarrassing position, rather than to elicit information that might help the audience. Take this example put to Rishi Sunak …

Can there ever be a National Health Solution?

We have been here before. In 1997, the Blair government took over an NHS widely seen as being in a mess. Their decision to involve the private sector through Private Finance Initiatives (PFI) and independent sector treatment centres (ISTCs) was far from a success. The contracts were, with hindsight, often over-priced, feeding the notion that private healthcare is only ever a rip-off.  But state control of hospitals isn’t working either.

Swapping a risk for a crisis

Last week, the Bank of England stepped in with rescue measures to prevent a crisis in UK pension funds. For most people who expect to depend on a pension fund for their financial well-being – either now or in the future – news of the crisis came at the same time as news of the rescue, so we were reassured even before we knew that we needed to panic. But the rescue arrangements end on 14 October. Pension fund managers, and those who oversee them, have just 10 days to get things sorted if the problem isn’t to start up again.

A right royal time of transition

At the end of a seventy-year reign, few people have anything but praise for the late Queen. It wasn’t always so. But now is not the time to remember the occasional lapses in concentration that brought criticism. Overall, she played a blinder.

Some would say the accession of the new King has gone without a hitch. But has it?

It’s that man again – both of them

Pannick in Downing Street as Boris faces contempt charge

Blow me down with a feather. Boris Johnson and Lord Pannick QC have teamed up in a way, and at a time, that I didn’t see coming. Perhaps no one did! It would be more than I could bear not to weigh in on the subject of this unexpected coupling. I don’t think you should blame me for doing so. I hope that some of you might even welcome it.

The “best interests” principle

The heartbroken parents of Archie Battersbee believe they have been denied their rights. A lawyer would say that, having had their case looked at by a bench full of judges – all the way up to the European Court of Human Rights and the Supreme Court (twice) – their rights have been fully protected. But perhaps that is to miss the point. Archie’s parents (presumably) believe that it is the law itself that is at fault, not the decisions handed down in their case.

No way to choose a Prime Minister

An important decision is being made in a very ham-fisted way. It doesn’t have to be like this. Frankly, it shouldn’t be like this.

Eurovision sends a lesson to tennis

Compare the Eurovision audience’s delight at the banning of Russia with the behaviour of the two tennis bodies, ATP (men) and WTA (women). Both organisations currently adorn their websites with ribbons in the colours of Ukraine, but they have chosen to take action against Wimbledon for excluding Russian and Belarusian players from this year’s tournament.

Sheeran vs Sheeran

Sometimes we think we can spot a liar because of the way they behave. It’s encouraging to think that everyone displays signs, or “tells”, that might give them away when they are not speaking the truth.

In the recent plagiarism case against Ed Sheeran, the judge was faced with deciding the veracity of Sheeran’s evidence by comparing what he said at one time against what he said at another and testing both against other known facts or inferences. The judge’s thought process makes for a fascinating read but, in places, I found it thoroughly unconvincing.

Mrs Rishi

Pretty much everyone seems to think the Chancellor’s wife got it wrong. But why?

When companies generate income around the world but are found to pay little tax in the UK, there is frequently an outcry that tax should be paid in the countries where the profits are generated, not the country where the company has its home. But when an individual does the same thing – the wife of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Akshata Murty, for example, taking advantage of the so-called “non-domicile” status – there is an outcry for the opposite to happen.