There is a lot of hot air in this energy crisis

Much has been written and spoken about the price of energy in recent months, reaching something of a crescendo a week ago when a new price cap was announced by the energy regulator, Ofgem. But much of the coverage seems to be based on baloney.

A conversation with my doctor

The medication was giving me side effects so uncomfortable that I felt the pills were just protecting me in order that I could be miserable. I wanted to stop taking them and the GP agreed. “But first”, he said, “let’s just take a look at the numbers.”

Totally out of proportion

My Twitter feed contains way too many comments about proportional representation (PR). It’s my fault. I follow the wrong people. But a few weeks ago, I received a Christmas card from a treasured friend with a PR message in it. That was too much. (You know who you are. This post is for you. Everyone else can read on or skip past, just as they wish.)

We need more “liars” in Parliament

It is well-known that MPs are not allowed to call each other “liars” in the House of Commons. When Labour MP, Dawn Butler, used the term in July of this year to describe the Prime Minister, she was asked by the chair of the debate to “reflect on your words and withdraw your remarks”. Ms Butler refused. The chair promptly ordered the MP to leave the House for the rest of the day, citing Standing Order 43.

There is nothing wrong with the Standing Order. It deals with “grossly disorderly” conduct. But there is a problem in the notion that MPs shouting and baying at each other, drowning out each other’s words, as happens frequently, is not a gross disorder, but quietly and patiently pointing out a lie is.

Enemies of the Press?

The Daily Mail is at it again. In 2016, they famously labelled three Court of Appeal judges as “Enemies of the People” for ruling that an important decision had to be referred to Parliament. Today, they accuse three (different) Appeal judges of unleashing “a dark day for truth and free expression” by undermining “the right to rigorously test in court the evidence in any given case” – a right which “has, over the centuries, become one of the cornerstones of a civilised society.”

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.