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.

Scroll down for my articles | Sign up here for updates by Email | Follow me on Twitter | Get my RSS feed.

Who’s sovereign now?

Words matter. That’s why we keep misquoting them. When criticising politicians, accuracy is treated as an optional extra. Faultfinders find it so much more fun, it seems, to repeat a misquote if, by doing so, they can make the powerful look silly.

When the public interest is no defence

Owen Paterson was not an innocent man, but he seems to have convinced himself that he was and – for a while, at least – he persuaded the Conservative hierarchy that his case provided ammunition to criticise the Parliamentary Standards process. The principles at issue are straightforward enough for most people to conclude that Paterson had done wrong. And yet the rules are complex enough for him to believe, fervently, that he had not and, worse, that the system had mistreated him. But it is not too difficult to pick one’s way through the conflicting arguments to see what lies within.

Back to school for Labour’s big idea

Today brings news that the Labour Party plans to raise £1.6bn pa in VAT from Britain’s private schools. Labour say the funds would help to pay for state education. But I’m not convinced they have they got their maths and their economics right.

Two sides of the same story

A mathematical postscript to the fairy tale in New York that tells me I need to learn to relax more when I watch tennis. 😧

The audacity of youth

Shortly before 3 am today (UK time), a beaming teenager became the youngest woman this century to get to the final of the US Open tennis. Less than two hours later, she had lost that record to Emma Raducanu.

Raducanu is now the first qualifier ever to reach the final of a grand slam. That could quite plausibly be a record that is never beaten – unless there is another pandemic.

This is not a scam – but it might as well be

In the past few weeks, a couple of reputable companies have telephoned me, posing as scammers. Yes, you read that correctly. Both calls were from reputable companies and yet the callers behaved in a manner that seemed designed to give me the impression that they were out to scam me.

NI rise won’t pay for social care reforms

I keep reading that the government is planning to increase National Insurance contributions “to fund social care reform”. I really don’t think that’s correct. I don’t doubt that the government is planning to increase NI contributions. And that it is also planning to improve social care. But I question the idea that the one can really be said to be paying for the other.

Is Covid-19 making us irrational?

I don’t want to start a panic, but I do wonder whether Covid is making people less able to think properly. I’m not talking about those poor individuals who have actually had the disease. I’m talking about (almost) everyone.

Football’s gone away again

When I get nervous watching football on TV, I usually turn to the match statistics in the hope of some succour. Last night I was very nervous. And from very early in the game. At first, the statistics seemed to be a real help until … well, until I realised that the BBC were showing Italy in the “home” team column, despite the match being at Wembley. (The Beeb obviously thought football wasn’t coming home last night.)

The bitter taste of victory

Reading the Times newspaper yesterday, I was somewhat gobsmacked to see Sean O’Neill, the paper’s chief reporter, complaining that “The UK has no constitutional protection for a free press and no real cap on costs for libel actions.” These two facts formed the centrepiece of his argument that abuse of British courts is killing free speech. But, after years of campaigning against these protections, is the Times now regretting its success?