Published in January 1999 issue of Prospect Magazine
If you find yourself surprised by a flurry of snow this winter, it may be because you’ve been listening to the wrong weather forecaster. According to Birmingham University, Suzanne Charlton’s predictions are best and those of Peter Cockcroft are the worst. Alternatively, you could take up forecasting yourself. Due to the “persistence effect,” you can get an accuracy score of 77 per cent just by assuming that the weather tomorrow will be the same as today’s.
It is no surprise that social workers get a bad press. A Sheffield University analysis has found that of the 15 most commonly-used descriptions of social workers in newspapers, only one is positive. But thanks to government statisticians, social workers have got revenge. In the new system of socio-economic grading issued by the Office for National Statistics, social workers are regarded as “higher professionals” and make it into grade 1 in the company of lawyers and bank managers. Meanwhile we journalists are just “associate professionals,” fit only for grade 2, along with prison warders and footballers.
John Prescott has come up with a “quality-of-life barometer” as a broader measure of national well-being than purely economic data like the country’s GDP. The 13 indicators to be monitored regularly include river water quality and wild bird populations. But as Juvenal pointed out, most people want circuses as well as bread. According to a study of happiness by Michael Argyle of Oxford University, happy people are those who watch a lot of soap operas (which do not feature in Prescott’s index).
l The Goldfish credit card survey of Christmas shopping plans reveals that “men will spend more generously on Christmas gifts than women.” The Deloitte & Touche
survey on the same subject shows just the opposite.
Compiled by Martin Rosenbaum, m.rosenbaum@MCR1.poptel.org.uk