Numbers racquet: anyone for a £160,000 game of tennis with a former Russian minister’s wife?

Here’s a thought experiment. Picture a woman who’s two metres tall (about 6ft 6in). Easy, right? Now picture a second woman, standing next to the first, who is a millon times taller: 2 million metres, or 2,000km, tall. I guarantee you the giant you’re imagining is no more than 100 times the size of her neighbour.

Try approaching it another way. Say the six-foot woman launches a rocket, which travels straight upwards at 100mph (about the average speed of the space shuttle for the first minute after take-off). How long do you think you will have to keep mentally following…

If we’re going to fight back against the populists’ calculated assault on truth, we need to raise our numbers game

Maths is scary.

There are plenty of maths wizzes out there, of course, and most of us, when the necessity arises, can perform basic calculations. It’s just that these operations don’t come naturally to human beings. For most of our species’ history, there was little need for any more mental arithmetic than “one/two/many” and “our tribe small, their tribe big”.

If your brain isn’t adequately trained, maths requires serious mental effort, which most of us will go to any lengths…

In the time of coronavirus, the ability to tell good info from bad is more vital than ever. How do you sort the gold from the garbage?

‘Five metres … the Sun journalist is in the room with us!’

Minds greater than mine have been grappling with the reasons for society’s gaping divisions for years. Convincing cases have been made for the role of shorter attention spans, echo chambers, smaller families and spoiled kids and “me” culture, inequality, consumerism, the rise of lowest-common-denominator infotainment at the expense of grown-up news.

But from my perspective — a language graduate who has spent 30 years working in media and communications — the main problem is bullshit.

As individual, ephemeral human beings, we can’t possibly find out all the information we need at first hand. We have to rely on input from…

The far right’s awful analogies helped swing Brexit — and now they may threaten your life

“Apt analogies are among the most formidable weapons of the rhetorician” — Winston Churchill

For too long, too many people have been listening to populists: know-nothing blatherskites offering simple solutions to complex problems. As a result, the UK has left the EU, nutsacking the economy and the opportunities of the young and triggering a massive rise in racial and class hatred; Jair Bolsonaro has laid waste to the Amazon rainforest; and Americans have elected an incompetent, incontinent, incoherent pussy-grabbing golf cheat as president.

How did the far right achieve this coup? With lies, mostly; but blatant lies most people can…

A paean to Brexit

Furlongs and fathoms and gallons and perches,
Schools re-equipped (with canes, slippers and birches),
Time at the bar at 11pm,
Ladylike skirts with an ankle-high hem.

Antimacassars and old music boxes,
Legal permission to maim and kill foxes,
Coal mines and coal fires and smog and black lung,
Horses and coaches and streets full of dung!

Rattles on match day, not them vulvazelas,
Sensuous foot rubs at camp from Akela,
Skipping and hopscotch and conkers and jacks,
Pubs that are free of dogs, Irish and blacks!

Washing the dishes by hand, not machine,
Pogroms and blackshirts and Combat 18!
Checkout staff who…

I put my head over the parapet. It nearly got shot off. But at least it meant I saw them coming

“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”

I didn’t do enough.

I voted, I marched, I attended campaign meetings, I donated to pro-Remain and anti-fascist causes, I spent months researching the facts, and months more turning them into blog posts, some of which went something approaching viral. I called out thousands of lies on the internet.

I wrote to my MP. I exposed trolls. I spread awareness of the techniques being used; I was one of the first to spot the Russia connection, one of the first to draw attention to the plight of EU citizens, helped get the #RemainerNow phenomenon started, and helped close down hundreds…

CBAs may be a flawed and oversimplified way of looking at Brexit, but they’re still more than most Leave voters have bothered to do

You’re a business owner. An opportunity arises for expansion. The risks are daunting — but the potential boost to income is huge. How do you decide whether to proceed? The first thing any halfway competent company director will do in this situation is undertake a cost-benefit analysis.

Essentially, you note down all the anticipated dividends of the project, alongside all the costs, risks and drawbacks. Assign values to each dividend and cost, then add up both totals. If the figure in the first column is greater than the figure in the second, expansion is officially a Good Idea, and you…

A letter to the man who has devoted his life to taking Britain out of the EU — regardless of the cost to his fellow man

‘No one — but no one — is talking about taking us out of the single market’

Dear Daniel Hannan,

If you had told people that you wanted them to vote for Brexit because you wished to pursue unconstrained neoliberalism; because you wanted to sell off all of Britain’s public services to the highest bidder –

If you had told them that the only sovereignty you were interested in was that of the Conservative party, which would then be able to railroad through its anti-human rights agenda without fear of oversight by supranational courts –

If you had told them that the only freedom you were interested in was that of big business, which could similarly turn…

A collection of the various contradictory, hypocritical and downright absurd positions held by Brexiters

1. “Love Europe, hate the EU. Know nothing about either.”

2. “Proven grifting, self-serving liars [Farage, Watson, Robinson] are far more trustworthy than people who occasionally make mistakes [MSM, experts].”

3. “A bunch of billionaire capitalists and toffs who have never before lifted a finger to help the working class are the champions of the working class.”

4. “People who passionately believe that they are doing the best for their country are traitors to their country.”

5. “Wanting the status quo to continue, and believing in sensible, incremental reform, is extremism.”

6. “You metropolitan elites are so condescending. …

The European elections on Thursday 23rd May are a referendum on the future of your country as you know it

You might not have been planning to vote in the European elections on Thursday. You might not think it will make a difference; you might not give a toss about European politics; you might have a Really Busy Day. I’m going to implore you to reconsider.

Some are calling these elections a second referendum on Brexit. Perhaps so. But they are also a referendum on something orders of magnitude more important: the future of your country as you know it.

Nigel Farage and the rest of the far right certainly don’t think they’re meaningless. They are throwing everything at this…

Andy Bodle

Newsperson and scriptwriter. Blogs at

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