British general election campaigns are sick. Or at least they exploit the sick. Each needs its iconic sick person: someone so desperate for treatment they can even entertain the prospect of a one-on-one with Michael Howard, a man whose bedside manner might, at best, be characterised as ‘chilly’ (“Now, this might sting a little…”).

I know I’m partial (I remember Michael Howard the first time round) but would it be too nerdy to point out that even in a perfectly functioning (say, Swiss or Bahraini) health service, brute statistics make it inevitable that some unfortunate patients (and especially those with real complicating factors like Mrs Dixon) will get their operations cancelled many times?

Politics is the only branch of organised human endeavour in which it’s legitimate to build policy and argument around a single, statistically-insignificant case very far from the mean (hold on! I forgot about tabloid journalism). As I’ve said before, sometimes we’re not well-served by our politicians.


  1. More muddy, the consultant has said that 8 years ago she’d have been told to live with it.

    If people understood stats they wouldn’t do the lottery, so we’re stuck with rival anecdotes.

  2. Judging from the number of angry comments on my site at the moment, I think you could add blogging to the list of endeavours that use sentiment and anecdotes to make an argument!

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