Poyner, Claire

Claire Poyner
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…

1 August 2021Comment

Our columnist develops an interest in football ...

I’m not much into football, though I do live with a football ‘fan’ and it’s sometimes on TV when I am in the room.

I’m usually reading or playing a game on my phone. Sometimes I get the headphones on and watch something on the iPad.

Same goes for the cycling: Tour de France, etc.

I’ve never been sporty and it’s not something I generally take much interest in.

This latest England team, though.

I’ve taken a bit more interest in the matches (in between reading…

20 July 2021Comment

Freedom of speech doesn't mean a right to insult, our columnist argues

Free speech and ‘cancel culture’.

Yes, it’s another of those current buzzwords/phrases, along with ‘woke’ (which appears to have replaced ‘PC gone mad’, ‘snowflake’ or ‘triggered’ (the latter always seems to require that quote from The Princess Bride: ‘You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means’)).

Universities in particular have also been accused of curtailing free speech by ‘no platforming’ resulting in ‘cancel culture’.

I cannot…

6 July 2021Comment

Our columnist identifies the 'most oppressed, side-lined, discriminated-against, group in society today'

Last year, I reviewed Men who Hate Women by Laura Bates. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the issues raised there more frequently than I would normally like.

Of course, I am aware that there are extreme misogynists, there probably always have been, but they’re more obvious these days and they have the opportunities to spout their opinions (to which they are entitled, I guess) where I can read them.

It’s unfortunate that I am unable to bypass the comments page, or…

4 July 2021Comment

Our columnist takes on the pandemic conspiracy theorists

How are you all? I hope everyone is well. I know there’s one or two subscribers who will be thinking ‘What does she mean? Is there a reason I won’t be well?’ because after all, this pandemic is a hoax. Isn’t it?

Well, no, it isn’t. Anyone who works in health care will tell you that’s nonsense. Anyone who’s had COVID-19 will tell you that’s nonsense, especially those suffering ‘long Covid’, which seems to be somewhat like ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

And as for ‘it’s just flu…

11 December 2020Review

Simon & Schuster, 2020; 368pp; £16.99

I wanted to read this book after reading the chapter that appeared in the Guardian: ‘Men Who Avoid Women’.

It explained that there is now a whole cult (‘Men Going Their Own Way’ or MGTOW) centred around avoiding women, to a greater or lesser extent.

Some just avoid any close contact (think US vice-president Mike Pence, who says he will never eat a meal alone with a woman who is not his wife). Others prefer to go further and go completely ‘off grid’.

Well, I…

11 December 2020Comment

Our columnist takes on the 'why should I pay'-ers

‘Parents are responsible for feeding their kids, not the government.’ ‘If they can’t afford to feed the kids they shouldn’t have them.’ ‘Trouble is, some parents prefer to buy fags and 50” TVs instead of feeding the children.’

All these comments I have read recently. The poorest children in society today have long been given free school meals during term time (including my own child for a couple of years) and the suggestion that they should also be fed outside of term time seems a…

11 December 2020Comment

Our columnist on those who believe that 'charity begins (and ends) at home'

When the phrase ‘charity begins at home’ was first coined, the definition of ‘charity’ was a little different.

From Roman times up until recently, ‘charity’ wasn’t necessarily about giving alms. It was more of a state of mind, a mentality of kindness and benevolence.

The word ‘charity’, and the more general ‘love’, are both translated from the Greek word agape.

The point being, when people first started saying ‘charity begins at home’, what they were trying to get across…

9 December 2020Comment

Our columnist muses on UCL's ban on romantic and sexual relationships between lecturers and their students

A 2018 survey by the 1752 Group and the NUS found that four out of five university students said they were uncomfortable with staff having relationships with students, which they described as ‘predatory’. (The 1752 Group is a research and lobby organisation working to end sexual misconduct in higher education.)

When I was an undergraduate (in a London polytechnic), I remember one young woman in my year forming a relationship with a lecturer within weeks of starting there.

9 December 2020Comment

Our columnist vents on the Covidiot-shaming, statues and more.

If I read one more Facebook post complaining about #Covidiots and people ‘flocking to beaches’…

I’ve had the argument online. You cannot tell from a sideways-on photograph just how crowded that park is. An overhead shot might give you a better view.

I arrived at my local park a couple of weeks ago thinking it looked packed, but was pleasantly surprised to find everyone there behaving themselves and keeping their distance. But if you took a photo by the park gates, you could be…

8 December 2020Comment

Our columnist turns her attention to racism and royalty

I’ve just had an interesting correspondence on Twitter. It’s about the royal family. No, bear with me.

I am not a supporter of royalty myself, I’d prefer a more democratic head of state.

So the latest buzz in social media is: ‘Harry and Meghan, is it all Meghan’s fault?’ Or is it racism? And that is why I have been following this story.

The Twitter feed compares and contrasts press stories reporting the actions of Kate (a white English duchess married to one of the queen…

1 December 2019Feature

Eight campaigners share their views

Peace News contacted folk around Britain to ask their opinions on the 12 December general election – people who’ve contributed to PN or helped organise Peace News Summer Camp. These are the eight campaigners who managed to meet our very tight deadline, giving their varied views on tactical voting, the Trident nuclear weapon system, climate, the arms trade and much else. (Unusually, we don’t have someone urging people not to vote, which has been a theme in past election…

1 December 2019Comment

'Making some statements out loud causes them to be true, did you know?'

Facts are facts! Or are they?

Maybe it’s just more noticeable in these days of the internet and social media.

Back in the day, I remember people (well, men mainly, but women did believe them) saying ‘feminists are all man-haters’ and the like.

Here’s another: ‘The socialists (meaning the Labour Party, more social democrats than socialist, but still) want to ban private property:…

1 December 2019Review

Bodley Head, 2019; 448pp; £20

I remember encountering a male brain/female brain questionnaire at a museum and not being surprised to find the results showing that my brain was somewhere in the middle. After all, I do tend to be a bit of a nerd about some things considered typically male.

However, it turns out that there is really is no such thing as a ‘male brain’ or a ‘female brain’.

It’s a myth – one of many myths about gender and the human brain that Gina Rippon explodes in this book, drawing on…

1 October 2019Comment

Our columnist turns her attention to hell, handcarts and young people's behaviour

We’re all going to hell in a handcart!

Well, no, we’re not really, at least not in the way most people who say this mean it. Other similar sayings: ‘standards are slipping’; ‘young people nowadays have no manners’ and ‘don’t know how to talk proper (like what I do)’.

But still, who here is concerned with runaway climate change when young people nowadays persist in saying ‘LOL’ and ‘bruv’ and ‘sick’ meaning ‘great’? Or worse, when the older folks are copying them. Yes, I have…