Has Diana’s death changed Britain? The pollsters reported that 41 per cent of people think that the country is now “more caring and compassionate” (NOP, Sunday Times) and 52 per cent think we now live in a “more giving age” (ICM, Guardian). But that’s funny, because 75 per cent think Britain is “no different” following her death (Harris Research, Independent). Well, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Most of us seem to have minds big enough to accommodate plenty of contradictory opinions.
Whatever the merits of league tables in comparing schools, they can certainly fulfil one useful educational function-providing good material for GCSE maths lessons on how to manipulate statistics. Here is a poser arising from the latest batch of A-level results: compare and contrast the Independent’s calculations that the school with the best A-level results is St Paul’s Boys, with The Times’s alternative methodology which gives this accolade to Westminster.
The most important statistic for the government last month was the fall in NHS waiting lists. But perhaps long waiting lists are not such a bad thing. The British Medical Association conference was told by a health consultant that hospitals are unhygienic, germ-ridden places which may make people sicker. One patient in 10 leaves hospital with an infection they didn’t have when they went in.
For years the despairing consensus in crime prevention has been “nothing works.” The Home Office is now trying to challenge this with an assessment of empirical research studies into what actually does and doesn’t work. The recent Home Office analysis quoted eight studies which concluded that putting more police “on the beat” did not affect crime levels, only for this finding to be denounced in the tabloid press as, naturally, “utterly against common sense.”
Compiled by Martin Rosenbaum (fax: 0181 566 8339)