Poynted remarks

1 February 2024Comment

Does nanny actually know best?

Recently, a politician moaned about something or other, calling it ‘the nanny state’. It got me wondering. When does a particular policy get to be called (some might say ‘dismissed as’) the nanny state? Who gets to decide? Is it a Good Thing or a Bad Thing? Does nanny actually know best?

‘The nanny state’ suggests that a government or its policies are overprotective, like a nanny towards their charges.

NB: by ‘nanny’, I mean a person employed to look after children, and not a…

1 December 2023Comment

Why are we all working so much?

Readers may have noticed that I am no longer PN administrator. So, how’s retirement? Thanks for asking! OK so far, not bored yet.

I now have plenty of spare time to indulge in a little art appreciation, organised by the Mary Ward Centre in London. A little group of us go round small art galleries; from tiny ones in posh places like Mayfair (which I would never have thought of visiting because, frankly, they do look a bit intimidating) to the community- or charity-run…

1 October 2023Comment

Should we really expect the RSPB to spend time actively campaigning on the arms trade?

There’s one thing which really irritates me (what do you mean, just the one thing?). It’s when people say ‘that person/organisation is silent on the issue of….’

Often, that person/organisation isn’t silent on that issue and it doesn’t take long to find out just what they’d said on the issue, particularly if it’s an organisation with a website.

For example, some years ago, when there was a terror attack by a Muslim fundamentalist, someone said: ‘UK Muslims are silent on this…

1 August 2023Comment

Have we 'moved beyond judging people for being rich'?

A couple of months ago, the prime minister claimed that ‘we’d moved beyond judging people for being rich’.

I’ve thought about that a bit since then. I’ve thought about my auntie saying how she resented footballers’ and pop stars’ massive salaries (when compared with for example, NHS workers). I didn’t say much at that time but I did wonder why footballers? They surely have a career of limited length even if they then go into management or training.

And why pop stars, given that…

1 June 2023Comment

Our columnist takes aim at angry motorists

Two wheels good, four wheels bad. Or is it the other way around?

Depends on where you hear comments reflecting the belief that one is inherently better than the other.

‘Four wheels’ implies a motor vehicle which, even if it is electric, is not completely pollution-free (and certainly the production of electricity is not carbon-neutral). Evidence shows that electric cars still emit harmful PM2.5 particles. Yes, EVs are better, but not as good as reducing the volume of motor…

2 April 2023Comment

Our columnist tries walking an imaginary mile in a migrant's shoes

You can’t really know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. So they say.

There was this TV show (called Backstrom) where a detective would try to imagine what a perpetrator or a victim might be thinking, in order to get to the solution. He’d say: ‘I’m a 16-year-old drop-out and have just been to see the local drug-dealer.…’

So. You’re a 15-year-old living in Albania. Your parents are not well-off, dad drives a taxi and mum takes in washing. Grandma needs meds so…

1 February 2023Comment

Our columnist takes aim at 'binmenism'

Nostalgia, as the old joke goes, ain’t what it used to be.

I was reminded of this a while back when I read a Guardian ‘Long Read’ on nostalgia, or as they called it ‘binmenism’. I’ll explain that in due course.

There are a few nostalgia Facebook pages with posts urging people to ‘share if you remember this’. ‘This’ being random things such as wicker shopping baskets on wheels (my Yorkshire Nana had one), four fruit salads or black jacks for a penny (an old penny), and…

1 December 2022Comment

Our columnist takes aim at unnecessary noise

One of the ‘pleasures’ of the Peace News office location is Caledonian Road. Right at the junction with Pentonville Road at Kings Cross. So, busy. We’re right by the lights. Among the regularly-heard sounds is ‘this vehicle is turning left’ (to warn cyclists who might think it a good idea to undertake – overttake on the left at the lights).

On 10 November there was a Tube strike, so everybody who has a car decided to get in it and drive into central London. And, just to make…

1 October 2022Comment

Our columnist takes aim at the monarchy

I am not and never have been, a supporter of the monarchy. I don’t come from a republican-inclined family – my mother, a firm socialist, nevertheless believed the queen to be a stabilising force, and a figurehead that the military are loyal to, making a military coup much less likely.

Oh, she would have preferred a Scandinavian or Dutch model of monarchy, with far less pomp and ceremony. She also would say two words against having a president: ‘President Thatcher’.

This is more…

1 August 2022Comment

Our columnist reflects on US gun culture

‘Guns don’t kill people – people do.’ ‘The only thing that will stop a Bad Guy with a gun is a Good Guy with a gun.’ ‘If only all those teachers had been armed, no children would have died.’

No doubt you’ve recently heard these and similar statements. Oh, and not forgetting ‘Thoughts and Prayers’.

I think some people, well, let’s be honest, we’re talking about Americans here, have unrealistic expectations of what their guns can do.

I do wonder if some people believe that…

1 June 2022Comment

Why conscientious objection still matters in 2022

I’ve been a member of the International Conscientious Objectors’ Day organising group for a few years now.

The idea of having a stone dedicated to conscientious objectors to war (COs) began in 1976. After considerable efforts by Edna Mathieson, eventually the stone was unveiled at 2pm on 15 May 1994 in Tavistock Square, Central London. It was unveiled by the composer sir Michael Tippett, the president of the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), who had been imprisoned during the Second World War…

1 April 2022Comment

Our columnist takes aim at 'whataboutery'

Yeah, so: ‘whataboutery’; where people argue that we shouldn’t campaign on a certain issue by asking ‘What about the men?’ or ‘What about poor white people?’ and so on.

‘When’s it International Men’s Day?’ used to be a common complaint on 8 March. I hope by now most people know that’s on 19 November. And every other day of the year, of course.

It’s only certain issues of course. Nobody whines ‘What about those with heart disease?’ when people are fundraising for charities…

1 February 2022Comment

Our columnist says: stop blaming the victims of male violence

Ashling Murphy. Say her name. Don’t forget it. When it’s confirmed that her killer has been caught, remember her name and not his.

A 23-year-old teacher went out for a jog and never came home. Another young woman murdered while going about her business in public.

She will likely (‘likely’ because we don’t know the full details yet) join the list of young women killed because some men cannot control their impulses. Because they believe they are owed women’s attention, a date,…

1 December 2021Comment

Our columnist urges you to check your facts

You may be familiar with the children’s, or parlour, game where participants line up, or sit in a circle, and pass a message along. Somewhere along the line, the message becomes garbled and the amusement is in comparing the result with the original message.

The typical result was along the lines of: ‘send reinforcements, we’re going to advance’. This became ‘send three and fourpence, we’re going to a dance’. That’s obviously more than 50 years old.

The name ‘Chinese Whispers’…

1 October 2021Comment

Our columnist surveys some common statistical pitfalls

‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’

We don’t know who originally came up with this. It wasn’t Benjamin Disraeli though some attribute it to him. Wasn’t Mark Twain, either, though he did popularise it.

When I was an undergraduate, we were recommended to read Darrell Huff’s How to Lie with Statistics, which I still have a copy of (indeed, I still have most of my degree textbooks). It’s worth a read, although it’s very old, written in the…