Friday, October 26, 2007

Why does a breathless fat bird cost us a pound?

IT’S BEEN a bumper week for the Office of National Statistics, the official government branch of Mr Keith Waterhouse’s legendary Department of Guesswork.

First of all they blithely inform us that 3.7 million immigrants are arriving in the country every week, and that every single new house built by Wee Gordie Broon on the green belt and the flood plain will have to be handed over to Romanian gypsies as soon as the paint dries on their front doors.

Then our premier purveyor of pernicious porkies announces that there are now more old people than children in the country (old people being over 60; young people being under 16) and that from now on every supermarket queue will be full of Victor Meldrews complaining about the amount of packaging on their cauliflowers and the fact that the green beans have been flown in from Kenya.

Their coup de grace was the so-called news that everyone is now obese and will only get bigger and fatter in years to come. So serious was this guestimate that the Prime Minister himself “declared war” on the obesity epidemic blighting Britain, warning that it is “as serious a threat as global warming”.

Two points here: Firstly, we should be glad that he’s declaring war on obesity rather than declaring war on some oil-rich Middle Eastern country. Secondly, is an increase in the number of fat people really as much a threat to our planet as global warning? Really? I suppose that if every fatty in the country fled to the coast and then all jumped into the sea at the same time, it might have serious consequences for the Norfolk Broads, but what are the chances of that happening, eh?

Where the Office of National Statistics perennially lets itself down is when it tries to estimate the cost of the various blights heading our way. Allegedly, by 2050, public blubber could be costing the nation £45 billion a year, £6.5 billion of that in extra NHS costs. So how does that work then?

If a fat bird in leggings gets out of puff climbing the stairs to the Food Hall in her local shopping mall, how much does that cost the nation? A pound? A fiver? How on earth can they possibly calculate this? It’s just complete and utter guesswork.

And then we have the moronic quality of life surveys. Now you’ll find this hard to believe, but apparently single mothers suffer from more ill health than married couples. I’m sorry, but as a statistic that’s entirely meaningless. You may as well argue that listening to loud music causes spots, on the grounds that every teenage kid has an iPod and a complexion like the surface of the moon.

Yes, the two things are linked – but through lifestyle, not through cause. Our sickly single mother will live in microwave pizza-ridden Middlesbrough, recently voted the worst place in the country to live, while our healthy middle-aged couple will live in the organic paradise of Wokingham, recently voted the best. So it’s actually poverty that causes the illness, not geography.

I don’t even know why we need all this so-called information in the first place. The figures are usually nonsense anyway. Not even the government knows important stuff like how many asylum-seekers are in the country, or how many foreign prisoners have been released when they should have been deported. That’s information about a situation that impacts on our daily lives instead of a useless titbit that serves only to push up property prices in a leafy Surrey suburb.

I have come to the conclusion that the only way to get through modern life is to assume that everything we are told by any public body is either wrong or a lie. Take the ‘safe drinking’ recommendations that have been in place for many years – 21 units a week for men, 14 for women – but are now deemed to be too high.

Writing in the Daily Mail this week, Michael Hanlon describes how he interviewed an eminent cardiologist who had been involved with drawing up the alcohol guidelines: “He said ‘Well, most of us thought that for most men, say, a bottle of wine a day wouldn't do any harm. But that seemed excessive, so we cut it down to 40 units a week. That meant we were saying that it was OK for men to drink two or three pints a night. Medically, that may have been so, but that would be sending out the wrong message in terms of drinking and driving. So we halved it.’”

So there you go. Completely arbitrary and based more on what the Powers That Be think the public might accept rather than on any medical reasoning. And these are the old figures, not the ones blamed this week for an alleged epidemic of liver disease as the Nanny State - as I always said it would - redeploys its Smoke Police against the demon drink.

Cheers. Mine’s a double.

MORE LIES exposed: we were all told that if we didn’t install solar panels in our roofs, we’d be personally responsible for those poor polar bears drowning. What’s more, we could actually save money on our heating bills by being more environmentally-friendly than our recidivist neighbours.

Hmm. Not so fast, Mr Greener Than Thou. Yes, you’ll save money, but it will take a mere 208 years to recoup your outlay. So your great, great, great, great grandchildren will be laughing … except that they’ll be carrying so many layers of blubber by then that they won’t need to turn the heat on anyway.

Ain’t life grand?


Blogger Keef said...

Compromise: a solar bear on every roof!

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Gorrdon Brroon was to work out his BMI he would, I'm sure, be classified as obese, so is he about to declare a fattistwah jihad against himself? Nope.

Are the folks in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the rest where wine-drinking is rife quaking in their boots because the British Idiot Squad has decided an eggcup-full of the stuff is way too much? Nope.

Will I be emigrating as soon as I can scare up enough wherewithal to make it possible? Yup.

9:03 AM  

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