Labour Brexit, Project Fear and Doing Cartwheels on the Stairs

Is it the role of politicians simply to reflect public opinion, or should they attempt to shape opinion for the greater good? Should they just give us what we want, or should they tell us what we need? Does unadultered democracy in its purest form lead to utopia, or Boaty McBoatface, Honey G, and the reinstatement of public hangings? Most of the time there's a significant overlap between "things the majority of the public want" and "things that are good for the country". But there will always be bits that don't match up, and what do you do then? I guess those are the times we should be greatful we live in a country where we can have honest and open debates about these issues. Cough. Cough. Splutter. Cough. These are the times for politicians to earn their stripes. Would you really press ahead with something you think will be harmful, just because people seem to want it? Yeah, probably. Might lose some votes otherwise. Anyway, although the shite has been

With great power comes...

"With great power comes great responsibility". A wise man once said that. Batman I think it was. Or at least his butler.  I've been thinking about that quote a lot recently, especially with the recent revelations in the UN report on austerity in the UK . I say "revelations", but I guess it just depends how much attention you've been paying. With all the talk of "taking our country back", how many of us knew what the country was really like to start with?  T he UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights declared that levels of child poverty in the UK were “not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster”, and that the  UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” austerity policies driven by a political desire to undertake social re-engineering rather than economic necessity. Oooft. Strong stuff. But if that's true (spoiler alert: it definitely is)

The world is full of Gareth Southgates

One of the surprising things about England doing well at the World Cup (apart from the fact that England are doing well at the World Cup) is this focus on what an absolute legend Gareth Southgate is. It’s great that he’s getting recognition for being a thoroughly decent bloke. And he does genuinely seem to be one. But why does that seem so out of place nowadays? Why the massive fuss? The world’s full of thoroughly decent men and women, quietly doing the right thing without making a big deal of it. The problem is obnoxious twattery makes better TV and press coverage. So we get wall to wall footage of weapons-grade plums each trying to out-arsehole one another to stay in the limelight, until we start to believe that these fucknuggets make up a significant percentage of the population, rather than a tiny minority. And all this shifts the Overton window away from the vast majority of people who just want to quietly get on with their lives without overtly shitting on anyone else, un

Should we believe health advice in newspapers? Just take it with a pinch of salt (but avoid salt for health reasons)

Why is it that newspapers often give completely contradictory health advice? It’s difficult enough to keep track of what is supposed to be healthy, without the papers changing their minds the whole time.  Let’s just look at the Daily Mail for example, a paper that hands out health advice more freely than a Jehovah’s witness hands out pamphlets. A brief look through the Daily Mail health pages tells you “Aspirin causes cancer” but also “Aspirin prevents cancer” . “Beer causes cancer” except when “Beer prevents cancer” . “Coffee causes cancer” but also “Coffee prevents cancer”. “Eggs cause cancer” apart from the times when “Eggs prevent cancer”. “Soya causes cancer” but also “Soya prevents cancer” . “Stress causes cancer”   but sometimes “Stress prevents cancer”. See a trend here? Well, part of the reason for this is that knowledge about a subject changes over time. We all remember adverts where doctors recommended cigarettes , but you’d struggle to find any serio

How do medics diagnose diseases? They might get some help from the RAF

Running tests to diagnose diseases should be easy right? Let’s say you take a blood test – if the result is above a certain threshold, you’ve got the disease. Easy. Well, unfortunately it’s often more difficult than that, read on to find out why. Blood tests, like any thing else in a population, have a range of normal values. Imagine they’re a bit like height. If you plot height of people on a graph, it would look like a “Bell-shaped curve” with a lot of people with heights around the average, and fewer people very tall or very short. This is called a “normal distribution” . It’s the same with blood tests. Blood tests have a “normal range”, with most people having values around the average, and fewer at the extremes of higher and lower values. Let’s say we’re looking at a disease like hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid). You could work out a cutoff value (the dotted line in the picture below), which anyone with hyperthyroidism has a blood test above, and anyone without hyperthy

I Want My Country Back

I want my country back. I want it to be great again; it feels so different now. I hear conversations on the tube I never used to hear, and it makes me uncomfortable. I want my country back I worry that we’ll forget what “British” really means. This isn’t what that generation fought for, not so long ago. What would they think if they saw what we’ve become? I want my country back They’re not like us at all. They don’t fit in. They don’t even try. They’re just out for themselves. They don’t play by the rules. They don’t care about our values. I want my country back. I want to take control. I want things how they were in the good old days. Cold nights, warm beer, drizzle underdogs and queues. Sarcasm, lack of respect for authority. Inclusivity. Diversity. A country that welcomes your contribution to society whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever your faith. I want my country back. T

A Modern Parable

Here’s another heart-warming childrens’ tale for the little‘uns (Any similarities with Brexit are purely coincidental) A long time ago, in a town far far away, lived a man. He owned a small burgundy car. It was his most prized possession. Sure, it wasn’t the best looking, the fastest or the most practical. But it was his, and he was proud of it.  Time was not kind to his small burgundy car. Although he loved it, he did not take good care of it, and some of the parts needed to be replaced. Every time he took the car to the garage, they would say to him “We’d love to be able to fix this for you, but we can’t. It’s probably those few new parts, they don’t work well with your type of car. And there’s all these regulations you have to comply with when fixing cars. Our hands are tied”. And instead of fixing it for him, they would send him away, chuckling to themselves “What’s the point of fixing it?” they’d say “He pays us anyway. Let’s just do the minimum we can get aw