Monthly Archives: March 2005

Being afraid…

Abridging ancient rights seems to come naturally to British Governments of all complexions. Something about power makes them itch – all those quaint checks and balances and constraints on power really wind them up. “I am in charge now and I will permanently damage the Bill of Rights/Magna Carta/Parliament Act/Ireland Act (delete where not applicable) if I feel like it.&rdquo (and don’t even try to tell me that Labour are worse than the Tories or I will be forced to produce a long list of Conservative constitution-busters for your delectation).

In The Observer, Andrew Rawnsley puts a charitable twist on the story. He reckons ministers (especially Clarke) are scared half to death: that a phalanx of spooks and mandarins have made it their full-time job to get them all in a funk about Madrid-style bombings in the run-up to the election. I’ll be honest – I prefer this explanation to the more depressing authoritarian scenario and, if Clarke et al are genuinely scared, then I think we ought to know…


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.