The Number Watch Annual Awards 2001

Welcome folks to the long awaited Number Watch Annual Awards. Breath may be unbated as we reveal the winners of the coveted statuettes fondly known as Numbies.

The award for Post-science Personality of the Year goes to Dr David Viner. He burst onto the scene with a cogent contribution to the spiked debate on Global Warming, in which he displayed a new imaginative approach to scientific logic with the statement that infidels who expressed doubts about the religion should be “ignored and pilloried” (simultaneously). His next contribution was even more creative and led your bending author to offer his own small and inadequate tribute. Viner is a senior representative of the Climate Research Unit, a fine justification for the return to the State control of Science, which has languished so pathetically since the wayward intrusions of the likes of Galileo and Copernicus.

Post-science Journalist of the Year <material removed>

On a more negative note Party Pooper of the Year is Miceal O'Ronain. Not only did he contribute to Making the News, he spoiled the Kyoto party game of Let’s Pretend by actually looking at the numbers behind the protocol in two offensively old-science type analyses.

The special Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Devra Davies. We thought we had got rid of lost the Queen of Hyperbole, who once claimed that eight million lives would be lost if the world did not accept her recommendations on limiting the use of fossil fuels. Fear not, she is still at it, demonstrating that Bjorn Lomborg does not understand the science by a deft use of creative logic that puts Viner in the shade, including the substitution a  centre of mass for an average.

The award for the Most Enduring Myth goes to Coffee and Breast Cancer. You probably missed the final refutation of it as it was uniformly ignored by the media, though they gave it copious coverage when it first appeared two decades ago. Oddly enough, the refutation Scientists cool on coffee cancer theory, by researchers in Stockholm, has disappeared from Yahoo and Reuters, but a copy of the original can be forwarded on request to Number Watch. This has particular sentimental value for Number Watch, since it was reading the original story that set its bending author on the downward path that led to early retirement from a professorial chair in order to adopt a life of poverty writing neglected books and web pages. How, he thought, could the media publish anything so implausible? Then the more sinister thought occurred, that people calling themselves scientists had actually produced this stuff. The rest is his story.

Many Number Watchers have made suggestions for the Number of the Year. What have become euphemised as the “events of September 11th “ have been excluded, as Number Watch does not wish to be involved in the further trivialisation of this appalling experience. The “events” have become an excuse for failure by all sorts of people, from Finance Ministers to Company Directors. They have also been used as an excuse for draconian legislation to restrict the freedom of the individual. We have already commented on the numerological antics of the likes of Uri Geller, but 911 is now even used as a sales gimmick in some of the hundreds of junk e-mails that we receive. Why these people bother to send their unattractive dollar offers to the UK is a mystery. Anyway, on this side of the pond 911 means the ninth of November: there are two logical ways of writing the date numerically and putting the least significant number in the middle is not one of them.

Special mention must be given to the Scottish New Labour Government of the UK. Making the full use of the absence of an effective opposition, it has gone a long way towards sweeping away Britain’s long-standing unwritten constitution. The Upper house has been emasculated in preparation for eventual conversion to a House of Cronies, though to its credit it has still managed to resist some of the worst excesses of the executive (including further erosion of liberties with the excuse of “the events”). The countries of the Nation (except, of course, the English) have been given their own grandiose parliaments. Services such as Transport and Health services have sunk to a low that would have been inconceivable even five years ago. They remain, however, to use one of their favourite words “focussed”. For example, on the penultimate day of the year they announced that the National Health Service would offer facilities such as yoga and herbal nostrums (Sunday Times); not much consolation to those who have been waiting for years in pain for their operations or those whose relatives are dying of diseases caught in filthy NHS hospitals, but it shows that they are in tune with the spirit of the new post-scientific age, the symbol of which is the First Lady (the Queen no longer counts) and her medallion filled with magic crystals to ward off dangerous radiation.

They continue to impose draconian taxes on individuals and industry that are justified by the wilder fantasies of epidemiologists and climatologists. They continue to destroy the remains of the beautiful British rural environment and the responsible Minister (Ten-homes Meacher) is granting himself new powers to bypass planning objections.

Their great triumph, however, has been the deft way they dealt with the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis. Not for them a silly little outbreak like that in the Netherlands, which was quickly disposed of by the obvious means of vaccination. Despite the widespread breaking of the law by Government officials, they have managed to reduce the number of prosecutions to one (a hapless woman who tried to save her pets from illegal slaughter) and they have now given themselves powers to kill people’s livestock and pets without any legal restraint. The FMD fiasco gave us our number of the month for February, when it was 15,000 and April, when it was two million. To qualify as Number of the Year, a number has to be associated with some of the things that have concerned us on these pages. They include political and bureaucratic incompetence, lying, unwonted secrecy, panic, electoral shenanigans, official law-breaking, ignoring of experts, listening to new age experts (such as epidemiologists), abuse of measurement, statistics and computers, outrageous financial costs, cruelty, the waiving of rights of individual citizens, who are reduced to desperation and suicide, and a final cover up. Uniquely, one number is associated with all of these. It is the number of animals, most of them innocent and healthy, that were pointlessly and illegally slain.

The Annual Number Watch Awards 2002

It was a glittering scene as an excited crowd gathered in the Assembly Rooms above the Balls Pond Road Takeaway Kebab for the annual Numby awards. There were several faces that looked possibly familiar and a young lady, who is famous for being famous, wore a spectacular gownless evening strap. An advantage of this particular ceremony is that none of the recipients ever turns up, so the audience is spared those mawkish and embarrassing acceptance speeches. The jovial master of ceremonies was Jim Portant, the well-known presenter of the 4am Rockin’ slot on Radio Over Wallop, affectionately known as ROW, while the statuettes were presented by Professor Dame Myfanwy Sprocket of the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop.

The first presentation was for the Quad-A (Annual Award for Awesome Accuracy) and it went to James S Dunkelow Jr, who was able to determine the trend in temperatures at Eagle Pass, Texas 1970-2000 (with lacunae), as +1.13666 deg F per decade, StatSig. The achievement of a six figure precision from thirty years of data (with lacunae) is quite remarkable for one who is not even a qualified epidemiologist. How lucky we are that nobody headed him off at the pass!

In a flashback to last year’s Number of the Year, the annual trophy for Chutzpah goes to Professor David King, the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser, who described the handling of last year’s foot-and-mouth epidemic as “quite an achievement . . . a magnificent record”. He told the BBC Today programme that securing Britain’s status as an FMD-free country was a cause for “celebration”. Members of the European Parliament took rather a different view.

Party Pooper of the year is Dr Uffe Ravnskov, who caused some spillage from the cholesterol gravy train by looking at the science behind it, and found that there was none.

The original candidate for the Page Count Award was British. In the July piece Help, we are drowning in red tape Number Watch reported 94 is the number of pages in the book outlining the new regulations. That, of course, was red rag to a bull, as those damned Americans have to have the biggest of everything. Regular correspondent Frank R Borger wrote:

One of the reasons I'm glad to be out of medicine is that I no longer have to deal with multiple regulatory agencies, all with libraries of regulations. In 30 years in Radiation Therapy, I saw treatment go from 250kV X-ray machines for treatment, (and tracing paper for treatment planning,) to linear accelerators for treatment, (and CT scanners, and computerized systems for treatment planning,) WITHOUT a major increase in operation/maintain staff, but I saw the office staff double or triple to account for the increased paperwork.

An oft-quoted study by the Mayo Clinic showed that they had collected 130000 pages of regulations and accompanying documents JUST FOR Medicare.

To report medicare treatments, one MUST enter the correct 5-digit diagnosis for what's wrong with the patient. The current book is 400 pages long.

There is a separate code for a person who has been sucked into a jet engine. (I wonder if there is a code for encountering a running prop!)

Physicians who enter an incorrect code are ASSUMED GUILTY of overbilling and must repay the disputed amount within 30-60 days, even if they appeal.

I only really learned a few things in 30 years in medicine, and one was that "free medical care" is an oxymoron. As Heinlein said, "TANSTAAFL" (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch).

So the Page Count Award has to go across the pond.

The award for Record Breakers of the year, however, goes to the entire collection of British Government Ministers. They have broken the record for the number of chauffeur driven Government cars, of which there are now 207, up 20 in the past two years. A nice contrast with all the lectures they gave about reducing car use, backed up by draconian taxation, a fine example of PUTLIAR and DAISNAID.

The major prize is the Abraham Lincoln Award; so called because round the base is inscribed the quotation “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” The award goes to the person who comes nearest to proving Lincoln wrong and this year the distinguished jury was unanimous that it should go to Gordon (Means Test) Brown, the British Chancer of the Exchequer. Brown’s innovative way with numbers was evident right from his first budget, when he hit upon the trick of putting all the nasty bits in the small print of the book and leaving them out of the speech entirely. He has done this ever since and thereby earns in the tabloids headlines such as Something for everyone. It is weeks later that people begin to realise that he has again drastically increased taxation, by which time the tabloids have moved on. Lumbered with a leader whose beliefs are as vague as those of an Anglican bishop, he has been obliged to provide the philosophy for the whole Government. He derives this from such sources as Calvin, Marx and C Northcote Parkinson. Briefly, his object all sublime is to have the maximum possible proportion of the population subjected to means testing (such as 60% of pensioners within ten years). Naturally, as soon as he got into the Treasury he went native and adopted the Treasury motto “Go for territory and never yield” which has served it well for a millennium.

As the moving citation said, like all great artists he has had three periods. The early immature period was characterised by his affair with his muse, Prudence, when he adopted his predecessor’s conservative policy and continued it for longer than had ever been intended. The middle period gave us Brown the Big Spender, when he poured money into the State Bureaucracy. He is now moving into his mature third period and back into classical socialism as Brown the Big Borrower.

He is noted most for his sustained attack on those dreadful middle classes, especially the ones who selfishly save for their old age without a thought for anyone else. He simply trousered five billion pounds a year from their pension funds. It was not just the effect of the loss of money, but the indication that the Government did not care, that gave the green light to industry to kill off its final salary pension schemes. He offered the money to the deserving poor, but only on condition that they undergo trial by Means Test.

It is the Means Test, of course, that gives him his soubriquet and demonstrates his political mastery. By its means he is able to appear generous yet save the Treasury from actually handing out the money. A fine example is his flagship childcare tax credit programme. It has been made so complicated that it only reaches 2.3% of all families. Killing two birds with one stone he has also tackled the unemployment problem, as the Inland Revenue is actively recruiting a new army of snoopers to catch wayward parents who have failed to understand the 47 pages of instructions (yes, we know, pathetic by American standards) on how to fill in the forms. He also invented the Private Finance Initiative, which is a form of hire purchase, serving to disguise the extent of Government borrowing. People today still have cause to remember the post war Labour Government, which sent Lord Keynes to America to borrow a large sum of money to be used to create the first great socialist bureaucracy. Every British adult has been paying it back all their working lives. Thanks to the ingenuity of the Chancer the next generation will be doing the same.

It is, of course, impossible to do justice to all his achievements in one short citation, but a search through Number Watch for the term “chancer” will give a flavour.

And so, after all the cheers and tears, the milling crowd spilled out into the winter darkness of the Islington streets, grateful that the Number Industry had for one more year gone from strength to strength, and wondering what the new year would bring in numerical excitement .

The third annual Numby Awards

The Balls Pond Road was in seasonal festive mood with lights flashing red, green and amber. They were, however, outshone by the powerful lights erected by the TV crews. Next year they have promised to bring cameras. Distinguished participants milled about in the foyer leading to the stairs up to the glamorous assembly rooms above the Takeaway Kebab, removing waterproofs and bicycle clips. The air was filled with the sounds of air kisses, “Mwaagh” and “Daahling”.

The master of ceremonies for the occasion was Old Ned, emeritus environmental correspondent for Number Watch. He had become bored with his retirement, brought about by unexpected wealth from wind farming, and he is now taking a degree in Chat Show Hosting at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop. The presentations were made by Baroness Eckerslyke, Junior Minister for Truth and Stuff.

The Baroness began by noting that one of the recipients for the 2002 Numbies had been her distinguished colleague, Gordon Brown, and she emphasised that his achievements had not stopped there. He has managed to fund the vitally needed extra managers in the public service, yet has only had to impose a 50% increase in taxation with only sixty individual tax increases that people scarcely noticed.

Thanks to endowments by external organisations, there were two new awards to be made this year. The first was endowed by the Brotherhood of the Holy Environment and it will be known as the Unknown Soldier Award. All the great religious faiths of the world depend not on the prominent prophets or the globetrotting archbishops. No, it is the common foot-soldiers who spread the word. The award goes to a correspondent to the Blackmore Vale Magazine about the proposal to beautify the Vale with a giant array of religious icons. The judges described it as “a short piece, but one in which every word is redolent of meaning”:

Wind turbines

(Copy of letter sent to Somerton and Frome MP, David Heath}
 I am fully in support of any means possible to stop the planet's destruction and reduce the demand on fossil fuels that are creating green-house gasses.
These turbines will in the future, be looked at with the same affection as we look at Stonehenge today and be of far more use in saving our children's inheritance.
As a Liberal MP I expect you to actively support their erection. I would hope you can voice opposition to the narrow minded and selfish attitude to opposition.
The only way to save the Vale for our children and their children is build turbines and not look at the immediate selfish view of a very narrow minority. Without turbines in 100 years plus there will be no Vale to save. Only a desert.
Please note I will see the turbines from my home as my home overlooks the Blackmore Vale.

J MelIor, Shaftesbury

 The second of the new awards has been sponsored by the IPPC (not to be confused with the IPCC, which is quite different – well, actually not all that different – well a bit different – well not very different at all – but different, anyway). IPPC is the Institute for Propagation of Political Correctness, who have donated the Conformity Cup in addition to the coveted Numby. This was shared by the twelve presidents of medical institutions who, in a letter to The Times, called for the abolition of smoking in public. The citation noted their single mindedness in concentrating on the 1,000 theoretical (only nasty old cynics say imaginary) deaths from passive smoking and not being deflected by such trivial considerations as the 5,000 real corpses resulting from infections contracted in festering state hospitals.

 There was little doubt about who would receive the two top awards. In fact the leading bookmakers had stopped taking bets by mid summer.

 The Woman of the Year award was this year donated by the Sisters of the Abbey of St Rachel of the Silent Spring. In giving the award to Margot Wallström, the distinguished panel concentrated less on her wonderful religious inspiration and more on her enormous single-handed efforts to return Europe to the glories of its past. Thanks to her, Europe can once again become the labour-intensive agricultural monoculture that it was in the glory days, unsullied by the scars of modern industry. Not only that, but European traditions, such as the great plagues that swept through the continent at regular intervals, can be restored. The first of the new Great Plagues of Europe (affectionately known as Margot’s Murrains) was so aptly timed, affecting turkeys on the build up to Christmas and fostered by just one of hundreds of bans of chemicals instituted by the European Commissioner. It all just goes to demonstrate what one obscure politician can achieve when untrammelled by the constraints of democracy. Without her, it is extremely doubtful whether Europe could have come anywhere near achieving its target of zero economic growth.

 The Man of the Year award was also much of a forgone conclusion. The citation paraphrased The Bard:

 Why, Mann, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about to find ourselves dishonourable graves.
Men at some time are masters of their fates:
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings. 

Mann achieved fame by the creation of the famous Hockey Stick, which the IPPC adopted as its leitmotiv. Thereby he banished from history both the Mediaeval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, despite all the evidence from art, literature, entomology and other disciplines. The Hockey Stick became the main prop for the Kyoto, treaty, so Mann can rightly claim to have had more effect on the world economy than any individual since Adolf Hitler.

When upstart underlings had the temerity to challenge his dicta he reacted with the magisterial certainty of the true mullah, pouring scorn, with the aid of no fewer than thirteen acolytes, upon the journal that allowed such heresy to pass into the public domain. Thus he was able to confirm the return of science to its proper place denied since the time of Galileo as the hand servant of true religion. Indubitably a man of global and historical significance, he is clearly worthy of the highest award available to the distinguished board of judges for the Numbies.

As is the usual practice, the base of the statuette was engraved with a quotation from one of the world’s great works of philosophy. In this case, the chosen quotation was “The truth is out there”. Unfortunately, our engraver started out with a choice of lettering that was too large, so the last word had to be omitted, but the sentiment was still adequately expressed.

In contrast, the more dubious award for Party Poopers of the year goes to McIntyre and McKitrick of Ontario. Despite the just opprobrium visited on the earlier heretics, they had the audacity to try to repudiate Mann’s revelation and (worse) to do so by attempting to reproduce his own methods. This is not only considered very unsporting in establishment circles, to say nothing of lese-majesty, it is also forbidden for the unordained to meddle in such mysteries as applying the methods of linear algebra to highly non-linear systems.

 In her final address, the Minister expressed her disappointment that the major awards had gone to foreigners. After all Britain has one of the most productive state-controlled number-generating industries in the world. Nevertheless she was obliged to concede that true merit must be recognised.

The streets of Islington, the spiritual home of New Labour, had fallen into a dank and sullen silence, but it was suddenly broken as the assembly room doors were flung open and the milling crowd spilled out onto the pavement. Briefly, gay mirth filled the air, and from within could be heard the sound of the Over Wallop Silver Band playing their final number, the new hit single from the wonder boy  band, The Plonk, “Don’t they know we’re having sex for Christmas?” The crowds slowly drifted away and gradually the streets returned to their habitual nocturnal somnolence. A gentle drizzle bathed Islington Green. Was it imagination or did the site of the long gone Collins Music Hall echo with the faint sound of hollow laughter from generations past?

The fourth annual Numby Awards

Once a year and once again the Balls Pond Road rouses itself from its customary slumbering dignity. The excited crowds began to gather early round the entrance to the assembly rooms above the Takeaway Kebab. The venue was even more glamorous this year, thanks to the efforts of the Balls Pond Boys Brigade and the bulk purchase of paint from Morry’s emporium opposite. Most of the cracks in the plaster have now been filled and the décor is a uniform shade of puce with trimmings in battleship grey.

The awards committee has been afforced with new members in order to reflect the changing world. One was Roger Doffen, author of the forthcoming best-seller Man of Destiny: the Michael Meacher story. Another was the up and coming starlet Constance Exeter, who was short listed for the part of the receptionist in the forthcoming Hollywood super-hero block-buster Earwigman meets Volewoman. A third newcomer was Tracey Hirst, the well known artist, whose construction Slug in a beer bottle was shockingly overlooked by the Turner Prize panel.

As last year, the master of ceremonies was Old Ned, who really looked the part in his white and gold Elvis suit. The trophies were presented by a lady New Labour MP, one of “Blair’s Babes” (unfortunately, when your reporter come to check his notes with others present, no one could quite remember her name). She showed great poise, even when her foot accidentally went through a patch of dry rot on the dais. She was clearly moved by the occasion, as tears glistened in her eyes. After the ceremony she departed with great dignity, even though she was wearing only one high-heeled shoe, and she parted with a merry quip, calling out “You will be hearing from my lawyers.”

As is traditional, tribute was paid to former Numby laureates who had continued in the work that had brought them recognition. Throughout the year Professor David King has maintained the momentum that brought him the award for chutzpah (see January and July). Gordon (Means Test) Brown demonstrated in his Autumn Statement that he was in a league of his own when it comes to numerical prestidigitation. A particular coup was the announcement of a new science initiative during the very week that the University of Exeter was obliged to close its Chemistry Department through under-funding. He also nominated Newcastle as one of his science towns, when it has just closed its Physics Department, one of over a hundred science departments that have closed under the present government. Foreigners might wonder why a finance minister is announcing science and industry policy, but with the Prime Minister busy changing the world from his sofa and the Cabinet having all but disappeared, such things have to be delegated. Margot Wallström (the spell checker suggested Maelstrom) has been moved sideways at the EU Commission; not, as malicious critics have suggested, to limit the damage she can do, but because her skills are needed to make us all love the EU. 

The theme of this year’s awards was Creativity and Imagination, which was celebrated in a banner that stretched across the famous thoroughfare, until the unfortunate incident with the double-decker bus.

The first trophy, for the most promising newcomer, went to Professor Graham MacGregor, head of cardiovascular medicine of St George's Hospital Medical School, for his very own virtual body count. The creation of this figure of 5,800 corpses from a scattering of a few points obtained from minuscule studies brilliantly illustrates the theme. Like many successful laureates he is notable for his dedication to his cause and remaining undeflected by other irrelevant statistics, such as the similar number of real corpses being created by the spread of MRSA in our filthy national hospitals. There is also his ability to ignore well-established principles such as homeostasis, as noted by James Le Fanu in October. In January he and his fellow enthusiasts will be making the annual presentations to ministers and MPs at Westminster, who will no doubt continue to harangue the population on the grounds of this evidence.

The award for sheer persistence goes to Paul Simons, who is author of the daily Weather Eye column in The Times. At Numeric Towers the office staff run a sweepstake on which day of the week he will get in a mention of global warming. While he has a little trouble with the elementary theory of planetary motion, as we saw in February, he is a master of the uses logic to make his case, including selectivity of evidence, non-sequiturs and bold statements. He can call on more proxies than a New Labour election official operating the postal vote. In Christmas week,  his plug occurred on December 23rd. Noting that there have been only four white Christmases in the UK since 1900, he stated baldly that global warming will make them even rarer in future. Here are a couple of quotations from February alone

After the bitterly cold winter of last year, this recent freeze may be giving Americans the illusion that global warming is not worth worrying about.

More importantly, daylight is now increasing rapidly. Because the Earth’s orbit around the Sun is oval-shaped, the hours of daylight change very slowly near the winter solstice. But now we are gaining almost three minutes’ extra daylight each day until the spring equinox — and that means more solar heating and the first signs of spring.

A related award is the one for sheer consistency, which goes to Professor John Collinge. As we noted last month, he can be counted on to make at least one attempt per annum to keep the CJD scare in the air. As the projected numbers of corpses dwindle from millions to thousands to hundreds to dozens, more and more ingenious experiments, mainly on mice, are summoned up to shore up employment in this particular area of science.

There was obviously something special going on when the early crowds outside the assembly rooms began to chant to the tune of Guantanamera:

There’s only one Ol’ Thousan’s
There’s only one Ol’ Thousan’s
One Ol’ Thousan’s
There’s only one Ol’ Thousan’s

Yes, it was the Nigel (thousands to die) Hawkes Fan Club. Only last month Number Watch was asking where is our Nige? He gave his answer this month with a double whammy on the two front pages of The Times (see above), but the clincher was when he followed up the very next day with a front page banner Household chemicals in direct link to asthma rise. Three major scares in two days is remarkable going for any operator. You can predict the moans from the carping critics (correlation is not causation, central heating, fitted carpets etc, etc) but you cannot take away the achievement from such mastery of a genre. He has achieved at least a couple of dozen mentions in Number Watch alone. Thus there was only one possible destination for the special award for lifetime achievement.

To mark the uniqueness of the occasion, for the first time ever, the quotation engraved about the base of the trophy was from the recipient himself  (April 2003), which makes you wonder what might have been:

Far too many scares are whipped up by journalists and those who feed them information. Several years ago, after reading some American research about the effect of such stories on readers, I resolved to write fewer of them.

This year, the ceremony was televised as promised, but many missed it, as it was on a digital channel in between a programme about a revolutionary exercise machine and one in which young ladies sitting in underclothes invite gentlemen to telephone them on a premium rate line.

So another great occasion came to an end. For hours afterwards hoarsened voices singing to the tune of Guantanamera  could be heard fading away into the hidden recesses of the darkling historic boroughs of North London – Islington, Highbury, Hackney, Hoxton, Haggerston, Shoreditch and Clerkenwell – names with a magic of their own. The last stragglers, kebabs in hand, faded into the side streets and the Balls Pond Road returned to its customary silent majesty.

The fifth annual Numby Awards



Once again the normally tranquil pavements of the Balls Pond Road broke out into their once-a-year state of animation. Excitement rose as the red carpet, freshly darned, was rolled out. Spectators linked arms to hold back the over-excited police. As the celebrities arrived (many of the Green persuasion on chaufer-driven tandems) autograph books, writs and other documents were flourished.

Later, inside, the remnants of the sumptuous banquet were cleared away and a silence fell that was only punctuated by deep rumble from the audience. Your bending author was allocated a solitary place at an obscure side table. This had been labelled PRESS CORPS, but some wag had appended a final E. The stage was taken by the Chairman of the Judges, Sir Hugh Jerrors, Professor of Modelling Those Little Fluffy Bits Round The Edges Of Clouds at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop. He introduced the new members of the panel M. Tire-Bouchon of the EU Commissariat and Mz Anne Datwon of the Irish Society for Aid to Poor Farmers. He also called upon Baroness Bottlebank, Junior Minister for Interfering in the Lives of Ordinary People, to present the awards. Unfortunately, as has become the custom, none of the laureates had turned up, so the certificates were received by proxies, drawn from the Royal College of Phenologists. As usual the awards were ranked into three tiers – numb, number and numbest – but we shall select just a few of the more interesting ones.

Obsessive of the year

This new award goes to Paul Smith the campaigner on speed cameras. For years he has bombarded everyone he can find on the inaccuracies of these devices and has been rebuffed by authority, but, as reported in The Times, the Ministry has at last climbed down. The resistance shown by the ministry was quite extraordinary and backed up by its own expert, one Benjamin Heydecker. When your bending author backed Smith’s contention about regression to the mean, it resulted in a letter from the Ministry, which also made efforts to prevent broadcasting of the BBC TV programme on the gross inaccuracies of the hand-held devices (in which your bending author was involved). When making the presentation, the baroness said that it should not be taken as an encouragement of such persons. How could the nation have a proper system of stealth taxes to fund its essential and growing administrative system if every Tom, Dick and Harry could challenge the scientific basis on which it is constructed?

Persistent irritant of the year

This goes to Benny Peiser, moderator of CCNET. This service began as a commentary on natural catastrophes, but has branched out to cover scares of all sorts. The regular bulletins are highly valued by those who are perverse enough not to spend their lives terrified by their own shadows. The baroness pointed out that such people are inexperienced in the practicalities of politics, a point emphasised by the quotation from H L Mencken around the base of the trophy:

The art of practical politics is to keep the public in a state of constant alarm by menacing it with hobgoblins, both real and imagined, – so making people clamorous to be led to safety.

Party Pooper of the year

This award went to Lord Lawson of Blaby for his contribution to scientific debate, highlighted by this exchange, spotted by Benny Peiser:

It seems likely that there will be disagreements in Montreal over whether new targets for reducing emissions should be set beyond the first period of the Kyoto Protocol .... Of course, it is difficult to take costly action today on behalf of a seemingly distant future. The Prime Minister said, "the blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge". The blunter truth about the politics of climate change is that countries are not doing enough to sever the link between economic growth and increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. --Lord May of Oxford  

The noble Lord, Lord May, speaks with great passion and, indeed, with great charm – it is a potent combination. However, it has to be said in the kindest possible way that he is a serial alarmist. When some 30-odd years ago the Club of Rome produced its report on the limits to growth-many of your Lordships will recall it-which stated that there would be such a shortage of resources that growth would more or less grind to a halt within a reasonably short space of time, this fallacious forecast, which received a great deal of media attention at the time, was warmly endorsed by the noble Lord, Lord May, as he now is. He said that he thought growth would come to an end even sooner as a result of the second law of thermodynamics. Now he is sending out a new alarm which is the exact opposite; that is, he refers to the alleged rise in carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore global warming, as a result of very rapid continuing growth for a long time to come. So he has backed both horses in the race. --Lord Lawson of Blaby

The Nearly Man Trophy

Until the last moment the favourite for this new award was Mr Albert Kettle of 23 Dandelion Terrace, Penge, who was going to join an expedition to climb Mount Everest, but withdrew when he realised that it would mean missing the last episode of a TV serial he had been following. Then Sir Liam Donaldson intervened with his dramatic statement that he nearly resigned from his nice little earner as the Government were seeking to compromise on a total smoking ban. Hands up all those who thought he was going to lose this battle, after one of the most ruthless campaigns of disinformation in peace-time history. He is noted for his steadfast work in favour of hundreds of theoretical dead bartenders, while not allowing himself to be distracted by thousands of real corpses in hospital mortuaries with autopsies and samples establishing that they were killed by the filthy system for which he was responsible. Mick Hume on his column of Mirabilists of the year 2005 could not have possibly left him out

Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, for tirelessly spreading epidemicitis, cautioning that we are threatened by epidemics of obesity/binge drinking/ smoking/whatever, plus a hypothetical pandemic of avian flu. Warning: Government Miserabilism Can Damage your Health. There are many other health-and-lifestyle miserabilists, from the judge who opposed longer licensing hours because “continental-style drinking requires continental-style people” rather than us boozy British scum-bags, to the company who called sacking a woman for smoking at home “positive discrimination”.

Man of the year

This award could be none other than Tony Blair. Not only has he won an historic third term, but many of his policies, after eight years of decisive action, are coming to fruition. This is particularly true in the field of Energy, where his masterly procrastination has produced a situation in which the nation is almost totally dependent on one fuel. After all this time for thought, he has at last called for (wait for it, wait for it and you will) a policy review.

News flash (after the ceremony) Headline in The Times: Fears of new cold war as Russia threatens to switch off the gas 30th December.

Woman of the year

Much as the panel is loath to repeat itself, the triumphs of one woman so surpass those of any other that it would be rude to ignore them, so yet again Margot the Magnificent takes the title.

Once again the teeming crowds pour out into the teeming rain and the historic streets of Islington, where King Tony himself used to dwell and have historic meetings with his friend Gordon, in which they divided up the empire. Talking excitedly of cabbages and kings, the throng gradually dissolves into the haze. The red carpet is rolled away, the powerful fifteen watt lights are extinguished and The Balls Pond Road returns to its customary brooding dignity. Nothing is left of all the splendour, except a few more names on the wall of the historic Hall of Fame in a wooden outbuilding behind the Takeaway Kebab, which is also shared by the historic dustbins.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

The sixth annual Numby Awards



As the usual merry hordes converged on the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab in London’s  Premier Cultural Mecca of the Balls Pond Road they were somewhat taken aback by the absence of the customary colourful ostentation. This was, after all, the sixth annual Numby awards, one of the society events of the year.

The organisers of this year’s ceremony, however, had decided that it should conform to the spirit of the times, by taking into account the imminent threat of catastrophic global warming. Half the electric light bulbs (15 watt of course) had been removed from their sockets. Elderly pensioners had been recruited to train the younger generation in war-time frugality for the creation of seasonal decorations. They were shown how to make paper chains from dyed strips of the Guardian. The result was quite astounding. As you entered the hall you seemed to be surrounded by thousands of little photographs of Polly Toynbee and George Monbiot in red, white and blue. Inspiration in the gloom!

Once again the Chairman of the Judges was that paragon of urbanity, Sir Hugh Jerrors, Professor of Modelling Those Little Fluffy Bits Round The Edges Of Clouds at the Metropolitan University of Nether Wallop. There was a murmur of disapproval as he took out an electric torch in order to read his notes, but this turned to rapturous applause when he announced that it had been charged from his own personal wind generator. After all, he might just have saved the planet.

He was outdone, however, by the evening’s special guest, Sir Hamish McTwaddle, who had arranged for the light on his lectern to be powered by two small boys on an adapted tandem. Before anyone could question the procedure, he was able to announce that not only had they been previously fed on five portions of organic vegetables, but they were breathing into tubes that conducted their exhalations to a specially constructed absorption vessel. This would be taken immediately after the ceremony by a special motor cycle courier to Middle Wallop Airfield, whence it would be transported by helicopter to the North Atlantic Deep, where it would be buried for time immemorial.

Naturally the audience were ecstatic. You do not often save the planet twice in one evening.

After that coup the awards themselves could have descended into bathos, but as in previous years sheer quality came through. This year’s main theme was Creativity in a time of Austerity.

The award for Coefficient of Restitution went to the BBC, but it had to be admitted that the rest of the media were not far behind in this respect. Their much heralded Springwatch turned out to be a bit of a damp squib by June. After they had been obliged to admit that the first third of the year had been 1.5 C below average and the results were not as anticipated, they were back on song by the end of the year, announcing a year for the record books: based, of course, on the urban heat island of Central England . Then came the switch to another version of the exploitation of the extreme value fallacy in the form of Autumnwatch, yet another romance of phenology.

The award for Creativity (sub-section self-expanding numbers) goes to a former Numby laureate, Professor Graham MacGregor. In under two years since the Fourth Numby Awards, his claim for theoretical corpses due to salt consumption had increased from 5,800 to 15,000 by March. This is believed to be an even greater rate of numerical auto-acceleration than that achieved by the anti-tobacco industry. Experts forecast that before the end of the present parliament consumption of salt in public areas (i.e. private business premises) will be banned.

The award for Creativity (subsection units) goes to the inventor of the eponymous Coppock, which was based on a wholly original method of analysing noisy waveforms. Perhaps the Numby will be a partial recompense for being ignored by the Nobel committee.

The award for Creativity (subsection free energy) goes to Steorn. Unfortunately our enthusiastic embracing of this breakthrough has so far surprisingly ended in disappointment, as results of the exhaustive tests are still awaited. However, we all look forward to finding out how the payoff actually works.

On a less creative basis, a new award for Criminal of the Year has been instituted. It goes to an individual who, masquerading under the name of Tyler, has been terrorising innocent policemen in London with the aid of a metal pole. The man is clearly a recidivist. There is a need for urgent legislation against pole-abuse. If this sort of thing is allowed to go on, where will it stop? Open trafficking in salt?

The award for Campaign of the Year goes to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, with its banning of the wearing of neckties by medical staff. Being responsible for one of the worst regions for hospital borne infections, they have cast aside the usual glib explanations based on unwashed hands, dirt in corners, body fluids on floors and filthy lavatories, to home in on this unwholesome article of attire. It is, naturally, only an accidental benefit that this article is also a symbol of maleness and class. Just imagine how often patients come into contact with the ties of their doctors. Such progress could never have been made in the bad old days, when physicians and surgeons gave orders to clerks, instead of the other way round as it is in these progressive times.

The award for Services to Academic Standards goes to Mr Justice Eady. His decision in favour of DOCTOR Paul McKenna throws a spanner in the works of any media campaign to undermine the standing of certain well-known universities. Everybody knows that the free market brings improvement to anything, including degrees. Thanks to eagle-eyed Eady these noble institutions can carry on their work of bringing educational achievement to the wealthy deprived.

The award for Consistency in the face of overwhelming odds goes to Mr Joe Borg, an EU Commissioner, although it might seem a case of lese-majesty to award such a mighty figure. Foolish objectors have been pretending to be upset at the method of preventing the extinction of cod in former British fishing areas. This is based on forcing fishermen to throw overboard, dead, any cod they catch in error, tons of them. There is nothing wrong with this policy – it is just as rational as EU policy in other areas – but perverse critics pretend not to understand it. Noble leaders such as Mr Borg, however, allow the EU to plough on regardless.

The award for Party Pooper of the year goes to An Inconvenient Ruth, who has made several salient interventions, even undermining the sacred consensus.

The final award was a special one – Tony Blair, man of a decade, with a special eulogy from Sir Hamish, but more of that later.

 As the audience groped their way towards the exits, there was the usual excited chatter, much of it about the pre-eminence of Britain in so many fields of endeavour. 


Here is a condensed version of the eulogy that completed this year's Numby Awards

Man of a decade

It does not fall to many leaders to revolutionise both the constitution and the culture of their country. After William the Conqueror and Oliver Cromwell comes Tony Blair. Like those other great leaders, he has distinguished himself by his contributions to military theory, extending Hitler’s vision of blitzkrieg to lightly armed and fast moving troops and finally to the point where men and vehicles have no armour at all. Yet every soldier is secure in the knowledge that behind him is a small army of civil servants ensuring that he does not waste any money on expensive bullets and such. Thus Tony is able to attack more and more enemies with fewer and fewer soldiers.

So clear has been his political vision that he has developed new ways of governing that have not been seen before. Previous leaders have given priority to ensuring that their nation is self sufficient in energy and food. Only Tony has seen that we can rely for energy on our staunch friends, the Arabs, and that kindly Mr Putin, so we do not have to think about controversial things such as nuclear power stations and can go on covering the countryside with windmills that only work 20% of the time, yet are such a wonderful and ever present monument to our new age of enlightenment. For food we can rely on an even wider circle of friends, such as our historic allies the good old French farmers.

He has eliminated much of the annoyance of parliamentary democracy by delegating the most important decisions to unelected European Commissioners and dealing with the rest from his famous sofa. The MPs are kept quiet with ever more generous payments from the public purse. By sheer hypnotic power, he has lulled the electorate into such a state of trance that it accepts, and regards as normal, levels of taxation that would have induced riots in times past.

He has swept aside the fuddy-duddy old culture, with its boring old writers, composers etc, and replaced it with the completely new celebrity culture that every one can join in. While all those windmills will be his lasting concrete monument (Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!) his cultural monument will be the reality TV show.

He was ever the man of action. While others fretted about the West Lothian Question, he simply ignored it and drew up a new constitution that involved just one country of the four being denied its own parliament and being forced to subsidise the others, while they were given votes on its affairs. Only Tony realised that the English had become too effete to raise a protest. Likewise, while others wavered about the future of the House of Lords, at a stroke he eliminated the hereditary peers, and hence the main opposition to his glorious vision, replacing them with the right sort and simultaneously overcoming the funding problems of his party. Without the hereditaries’ pathetic concerns about the rights of individuals, he was able to implement vital policies such as the smoking ban and the forthcoming bans on salt consumption and fat people in public places.

Of course, his great political war cry was “Education, education, education” and this is where he has wrought the greatest changes. He has, for example,  managed to close down most university departments of Physics, which were always nests of opposition to Good Green Science, while achieving world domination in Media Studies. In schools he has pressed on with the everybody passes principle, so that no one knows who is academically able, which is as it should be. At the same time he has achieved a rebalance of the sexes by feminising the education system. The alienation of many boys and the creation of gangs of feral youths is a small price to pay for the advance of women.

His greatest achievement, however, is to oblige the Conservative Party to abandon every principle it ever stood for and put up a pale imitation of himself as an alternative. That is true greatness!

The seventh annual Numby Awards



The names of the glamour spots of the world have a magic of their own, Acapulco, Bali, Monte-Carlo etc., and so it is with the Balls Pond Road. As Christopher Robin said about his favourite stair, there is no other place quite like it. The riotous colours of the plastic raincoats and umbrellas lent it an even more heightened allure, as once again the animated throng converged on the legendary Assembly Rooms above the Take Away Kebab.

The Chairperson of the awards committee was Lord Delpus, the Labour billionaire peer who built a used car empire from nothing after he left Eton. He is best known for leading the campaign to replace the statue on the column in Trafalgar Square with one of Tony Blair. He had hoped to spring a surprise by introducing his spiritual leader as guest of honour, but a problem arose over the absence of a suitable landing strip for the Reverend Gore’s private jet. Negotiations to build one in Highbury Fields or Clissold Park broke down owing to local opposition. Apparently people did not understand how the carbon and tree loss would be offset by the purchase of trees for planting in Bolivia by one of Mr Gore’s companies. His Lordship reluctantly abandoned the project but called for ministers to make changes in the national compulsory school curriculum so that such ignorance would become a thing of the past.

In introducing the ceremony, the Chair said that it in Britain it had been the year without a summer, as the climate models had accurately forecast. He went on to pay tribute to the wonderful economic performance of the Government, which would ensure a prosperous new year for everybody.

The awards were handed out by Lady Effluvia Coldbottom, Deputy Chair of the National Spoon and Fork Regulatory Authority. She enthusiastically endorsed the sentiments from the chair. As tradition requires, the recipients were not actually present to receive the awards, but were represented by proxies appointed by the committee. It is therefore gratifying that proxies have now become an important component of post-modern science.

First on the agenda was a new award, funded by the Zen Buddhist Temple of Neasden, which was for Koan of the Year. The committee was unanimous that it should go to Richard Black of the BBC for a radical koan that had provoked a great deal of meditation, namely What do sceptics really believe? As is often done the trophy carried an etched inscription, this time a quotation from Thomas Henry Huxley:

The improver of natural knowledge absolutely refuses to acknowledge authority, as such. For him, scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin.

A special award for corporate creativity goes to the Liberal Democratic Party, who by dint of the application of meta-mathematics managed to turn an 11% decrease into a quadrupling, hence proving the occurrence of global warming.

A giant step forward in New Labour’s campaign to realise the Orwellian dream was the first provision for the formation of a secret police to spy on ordinary citizens going about their business. That this should find its basis in an imaginative crusade of political correctness only goes to heighten the significance and is a pointer to the future. The Orwell Memorial Trophy therefore goes to British parliamentarians who resisted the temptation to think for themselves. The engraved quotation on the trophy was

The object of persecution is persecution. …. The object of power is power.

In continuation of the Orwellian theme, the award for services to Newspeak went to David Milliband. No further explanation is needed.

The award for an outstanding feat of modernisation goes to Patricia Hewitt, who oversaw a revolution in doctors’ training, thus adding to her many achievements and putting those uppity junior doctors in their place.  She received a bar to her medal for creating the best GP service in the world.

The award for Nuisance of the Year was close fought between several candidates. There was Martin Durkin, whose film The Great Global Warming Swindle revealed a shocking irreverence for The Consensus that in another age would have resulted in burning at the stake for heresy. Similarly, newcomer Sandy Szwarc with her Junkfood Science Blog spread a dangerous lack of alarm about food scares and, in particular, the anti-obesity campaign. Christopher Booker and Richard North attempted to undermine the very basis of modern government with their book Scared to Death. The award, however, went to Kristen Byrnes. As her ladyship remarked when handing out the award, this marks a dangerous failure of the US education system. When young people start thinking for themselves, where will it end? Gore forfend that such a phenomenon should occur in Britain.

The award for Neologism of the Year goes to the wife of Graham Dawson for this addition to the dictionary:

Acairasthenephobia, Ah-kai-ras-then-eh-phobia, n, a fear of falling ill out of hours (Gr negative prefix A; cairo (or  kairós) - right time; asthenes - ill; and phobia, qv).

Her ladyship pointed out that this disease, though widespread, is caused by purely imaginary fears, as it is well known that England (thanks to Numby Laureate Patricia Hewitt) has the best out-of-hours service in the world. A lout at the back, who called out “What about Penny Campbell?” was quickly escorted from the premises by the ushers.

There is no doubt that the political event of the year was the imposition of the smoking ban in Britain. The award for Dogged Determination goes to ASH. They refused to be deflected by such irrelevancies as reason, tolerance, science or fact, but drove towards their goal, inventing and increasing numbers of unnamed corpses as they went. Their opponents, foolishly relying on rational argument, completely misjudged the state of the isolated hothouse that is the House of Commons. They have thus created a wonderful precedent for others who would suppress that inconvenient abstraction of human freedom.

The principle award for Phenomenon of the Year went to James Hansen. There has been nothing like him since the Old Testament went to press. Further comment would be to gild the lily.

A small group within the extensive organisation had been lobbying for an award to the Number Watch Poet in Residence, Walter de la Plage.  Now that the subject of his masterpiece has reached the highest office in the land it seemed appropriate to some. However, on investigation it transpired that all is not well chez Walter. He was already very upset to be overlooked for the post of Poet Laureate, but when the present holder of that post came out with a work of such transcendental and haunting genius as A song for Jonny, he realised that he could never reach such heights of poesy, lost all motivation and went into a decline. He was last seen sleeping on the Victoria Embankment clutching a bottle of rough cider.

The ceremony could not close without a further tribute to Tony Blair and his legacy. The meeting stood in silence to meditate on that glorious legacy with particular reverence for the ultimate legacy.

The eighth annual Numby Awards

 For the first time since its inception, the ceremony did not take place at its normal glamorous venue of the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab in London’s Balls Pond Road . It appears that one of the main sponsors (The Islington International Bicycle Repair Corporation, Prop: Isaac Goldnostril) was obliged to withdraw as a result of the credit crunch. Instead the event took place on Highbury Fields in a tent, kindly loaned by the Clerkenwell Ladies’ Floral Group. Still, it’s an ill wind; as your reporter, now lacking mobility, would have found the narrow rickety staircase to the Assembly Rooms difficult to negotiate. Despite all this, the London glitterati turned out in the usual force and good humour.

The Chair on this occasion was Lady Effluvia Coldbottom, Deputy Chair of the National Spoon and Fork Regulatory Authority. In her opening address she gave some interesting insights into the work of a hard pressed public administrator. Here is a short quotation:

“Frankly, what gets up my nose is old people. They live off the state and then complain about everything that is done for them. When my department issued a green paper on greatly increased taxation on knives to combat the violence among the young, they complained about the impending cost of cutlery. Would it be such a trial for them to eat with their fingers, as their ancestors did? They took the same negative attitude over our banning of cheap offers on alcohol and the banning of “happy hours”. It would not do the old drunks any harm to miss out on a drink or two.

Then, when we go out of the way to do something for them, all they do is complain. We awarded an extra 75p a week on the pension for people in homes and, instead of showing their gratitude, they called it an insult. Some of them even had the audacity to compare it with the 7.5 million pounds that is the pension pot for present Government ministers. Those ministers have worked hard and made great sacrifices to create the prosperous nation we have today. Their pensions are a drop in the ocean compared with the total value of public sector pensions. What have old people ever done for their country?”

It is inevitable with prestigious awards like the Numbies that some names are going to appear over and over again. Each age has its giants and one of ours is James Hansen. It is now twenty years since he prophesied rapidly increasing temperatures, so now we can all look out of the window to see the seared landscapes that he predicted. It is only appropriate that the awards committee decided on a new honour “Prophet of the Age” and there is only one candidate qualified.

But can one award be enough to honour such a contributor to the modern scientific scene? A famous postmodernist once declared with great impact that “Einstein’s constant is not a constant.” Now Hansen has established that past data are no longer constants. Even after they are established and recorded they can change with future time. This is a real breakthrough, as past data have had an inhibiting effect of creative science. Therefore a special award for Creative Science also goes to James Hansen.

Another giant of the age is one who, like Gandalf, disappeared in one colour and achieve resurrection in another, though unchanged in character. He is Danny the Green (né Red). He has now risen again to establish that communism is not dead, but alive and well and living in Green-land. To him goes the award for Persistency.

The award for Creative Selectivity goes to the RSPB, who blamed every one else for the decline of songbirds. Incidentally the answer to the question in the link is that a family of sparrow hawks requires three small birds a day.

Another new award, for Creative Meteorology, goes to the Curator of Kew Gardens, to whom we raise our hats, for his rewriting of millennia of traditions with regard to the seasons.

Criminal of the year is the dastard who overfilled his recycling bin so that the lid was open by a whole four inches. Hanging is too good for these people. What is the point of the Government creating a new criminal offence every four days if Neanderthals like this are just going to ignore them? Thank God our local councils are on the ball!

The trophy for Wisdom after the Event goes to the Leibnitz Institute, who predicted that global warming would be delayed, after it became clear that it was not happening as predicted.

Once again the title of Cad of the Year goes to that bastard Christopher Booker. How can you maintain proper government if irresponsible journalists persist in telling the truth to hoi polloi? Not only hanging, but drawing and quartering, are too good for him.

The cup for Socialist of the Year goes to an unusual candidate, a Conservative, Tim Yeo. He has the unusual characteristic of being as daft as he looks.

Slogan of the year goes to the collectors of the BBC tax for “We know where you live!” That should put a scare into the ungrateful rotters, who do not appreciate what they are getting for the trivial amount of money.

The award for imaginative job creation goes to Southwark Council. Just think – we played street football all those year ago without the benefit of a coordinator. Such deprivation! It is great to know that our greatly increased council taxes are going to such good causes.

Unfortunately, at this point your reporter must have fallen asleep, waking to find himself in an empty tent, but clearly there were more exciting awards, which will no doubt be widely reported.

The ninth annual Numby Awards

Even the great glamour spots of the world are affected by recession. Like Dubai , the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab in the Balls Pond Road are no exception. As regular readers will remember, this caused the displacement of the ceremonials to another location last year. Thanks to the finding of a replacement sponsor (Honest Joe, Bookmaker, of Essex Road , Islington) they have now returned to their traditional home. There was a last minute panic when, following a raid by the local Elfin Safety Executive, half the seats were condemned. Sterling work by the supporters group, however, produced loan replacements from a variety of local establishments. Your reporter managed the somewhat rickety stairs by dint of an early arrival and so bagged a front seat.

The opening address was given by Lord Delpus, who was Chairperson of the Organising Committee last year. He was subsequently appointed Government Minister for Bans and we all remember his stirring words in May of this year. Here is just a short section of his speech, which actually lasted for an hour and a half:

“I believe that these awards make a definite contribution to our aim to create an orderly society. It is only through the efforts and example of outstanding individuals that we can achieve progress towards the socialist world government that we all crave. As with the Nobel Peace Prize, honouring the pioneers who point the way to our goal can only speed the process of its achievement. But do not feel discouraged in the face of the effortless supremacy of these extraordinary human beings. They also serve who only stand and wait, and the passive acquiescence of ordinary people is just as important to the cause as the strides of these giants. So, in considering these magnificent contributions, be of good cheer. The cause goes marching on.”

The major award this year is for the Person of Influence. There was only one possible candidate, Dr Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, who bestrides the world like a colossus. As one of the audience remarked (only joking of course) “He weaves bigger and more complex webs than a James Bond villain.” Naturally the establishment media have the good taste not to delve into these complexities, but unfortunately those ill-intentioned bloggers, such as EU Referendum and The Devil’s Kitchen,  show no such constraint.

The award for Demonstration of the Power of Imaginary Numbers goes to SIR Liam Donaldson.

The award for Creative Flights of Imagination goes to Professor Jonathan Winickoff, who created the concept of deadly third hand smoking, supported by a survey of the beliefs of 1500 households. This one was actually related to your reporter as a scientific fact by a bright young GP. As always, go to Sandy for a thorough examination of the proposition.

For Dramatic Re-emergence the award goes to Dr David Viner, whose divinations have been revisited by EU Referendum, who noted the present relevance of his forecasts. He received the trophy for Post-science Personality of the Year as long ago as 2001, which was an early tribute to the achievements of the CRU, destined soon to multiply.

An innovation this year was the introduction of special named medals, which pay a double tribute – to the eponymous title-holders as well as the winners. The organisers enticed Old Ned out of retirement to do the presentations. Old timers will remember him as the author of our first Nature Notes, which led him on to fame and fortune.

The Phil Jones Medal for Hiding the Decline goes to the RSPB, also Numby laureates last year, whose triumphant public relations exercise has maintained the blame for the dramatic decline in British songbirds on practices by evil farmers and (of course) Global Warming. Despite the wavering of politicians the birder establishment is able to celebrate the marked increase in avian predators of all ilks, while deflecting all blame for the consequences. It seems to be in the nature of organised animal lovers that they favour ruthless killers (foxes, hawks, magpies, swans, mink, polar bears etc.)  but are relatively uninspired by the effects on their prey. Well, they are the experts and know better than us ordinary folk.

The Paul Erlich Medal for Courageous Continuation of Forecasting in the face of a History of Failure goes to the UK Met Office. Before all the jokes about their “barbecue summer” had subsided they were once more predicting a mild winter. It is not going to well so far but, as has been observed, they are bound to get it right one day.

Old Ned, now greatly skilled in the use of language after his late career in broadcasting, in his laudatory comments on these awards said:

“It just goes to show how ungrateful many people are to those who work so tirelessly on our behalf. Every garden in the country now resounds to the merry chatter of magpies and bears witness to the graceful swooping of sparrow hawks on their prey. Those nasty farmers with their shotguns would have prevented all that if they were allowed to. As for the Met Office, it must be horrible for them when people keep laughing at their forecasts. I believe they are only trying to cheer people up by promising them a bit of warmth. Me and Old George have bought a little place in Tenerife , to get away from this cold country. It is amazing what a bit of warmth does for old bones. We feel like new men. We call it “hiding the decline”. I am off back there as soon as this gig is over. The only thing we miss is the TV. It is so much better now. On Saturday evenings the main channels have Hammerchewer Talent Shows, Just like the old days when we were kids on holiday at the Butlins holiday camp”

At this point your reporter must have dozed off, but is advised that the remaining awards were relatively minor. The audience went off on its merry way, slipping and sliding on the icy pavements of the Balls Pond Road , the consequent minor injuries causing much amusement. And so yet another enchanting annual occasion came to an end.

The tenth annual Numby Awards


Among all the slush and icicles, the atmosphere in London ’s great Mecca of culture, The Balls Pond Road, was unusually quiescent for Numby Day, which is usually marked by tumultuous activity. Even around the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab, there seemed to be a reverential hush among the expectant participants. The reason was, perhaps, the prior announcement by the organising committee that this year’s theme would be “Faith-based Science.”

As seems appropriate, due respect was paid to the New Theology and the opening address was therefore given by The Revd Dr Seymour Trend, who made his debut in Thought for the Day in these pages.

Dr Trend surveyed the modern scene in the light of the epic struggle between believers and deniers.

“The ability to believe is a great gift from heaven that we receive at birth, while denial is a treacherous path that is so easy to slide into by those of weak determination and perverse instincts. All the great scientists of the past were first of all theologians, educated in the great religious foundations that we call universities; but among them were misguided souls, who began to promote unbelief as a creed. Thus a poison was introduced into the veins of that branch of academic discourse that came to be known as science. It is now forgotten, or perhaps suppressed, that theology was known as the “queen of the sciences” and that all other studies were mere adjuncts to the development of theological thought. It is an ancient truism that faith can move mountains, which is not accepted by those who live by the so-called laws of physics.

In this age, when we live immersed in a dangerous miasma called carbon dioxide, belief is more important than ever. Plants were created to remove this scourge from our atmosphere, but such is the magnitude of human assault by the way of so-called economic activity they can no longer cope. As in biblical times, the great prophets of our age are in some circles treated with ridicule and distain. Their forecasts of flood, fire and pestilence are derided, just as they were in the Old Testament, but remember what happened to the sceptics of those days. It is a matter of good fortune that those in control of government and the media have retained the capacity to believe and have combined to ensure that the strident voices of the deniers do not reach the ears of those unqualified to judge. Before the proceedings of this important event begin, I invite you to join me is a short prayer.

We are guilty of sins of commission, omission and emission.
Many are our offences.
We have often failed to adhere to the holy principle of sacrifice.
At times we have recycled without joy in our hearts.
We have covertly turned up the thermostat, putting our personal comfort above the future of humanity and innocent creatures.
We have privately doubted, among all the snow and ice, the truth of the warmest year ever.
We have kept silent when further bouts of cold weather are greeted with “How’s that for global warming then?”
Lead us not into scepticism
But deliver us from carbon.
Forgive us our emissions
As we forgive those who emit against us.


The Prime Award  on this occasion necessarily goes to His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Knight of the Garter, Knight of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Privy Counsellor, Aide-de-Camp, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland.

He has shown a capacity to believe that puts others is the shade. His first appearance of many in these pages occurred in December 2000, when he offered the services of his own Foundation for Integrated Medicine to research into such areas as homeopathy, which requires belief in water having the property of memory. His interests are many and as recently as September 2010 he published his beliefs about sceptics, which was a remarkable feat, considering the obvious fact that he had never spoken to one.

One of the titles he inherits will be Defender of the Faith, which he intends to read as Defender of Faiths. It was originally granted by the then Pope to Henry VIII and then rescinded when he did an about turn, but it was restored by Parliament with exactly the opposite meaning to the original. Charles’s capacity for belief extends to all faiths, however contradictory, which is an impressive range.

As a prominent proponent of Global Warming he is a member of IPCC (International Practioners of Conspicuous Consumption) along with such luminaries as Gore and Blair. There are, of course, those who think that he is as dim as an EU light bulb and surrounds himself with many sycophantic courtiers and servants, but he was nominated by the Times Eureka supplement as one of the 100 most influential figures in science, which possibly tells you more about The Times than anything else.

He urges us to listen to our hearts. Perhaps he should campaign for the distribution of free stethoscopes to aid the process.

Dr David Viner, who was our first Numby Laureate, burst upon the scene as the exemplar of the new type of faith-based scientist. He developed a whole new genre of logical argument, which a bending author sought to analyse (see the original Numby citation). He received a further award for Dramatic re-emergence in 2009. His most famous pronouncement, that opponents of the religion should be “ignored and pilloried” caused alarm and confusion. It was a double whammy for old-fashioned adherents of science. First, it advocated two simultaneous actions that were incompossible, which is of no difficulty to those familiar with theological mysteries but opaque to simple scientists. Second, it revealed the new wave of scientific discourse, in which the old gentlemanly resolution of disputes by debate was to be replaced by aggressive vituperation as practised by religious zealots.

The noted infidel, Christopher Booker, had this to say:

We all became familiar with those warmer winters and earlier springs, which the warmists were quick to exploit to promote their message – as when Dr David Viner of the CRU famously predicted to The Independent in 2000 that “within a few years winter snowfall will be a very rare and exciting event”. (Last week, that article from 10 years ago was the most viewed item on The Independent’s website.)

Well, at least he did the scientific thing of making a prediction. Lo and behold, over the last three years, and particularly this one, billions of people all over the world have experienced this very rare and exciting event. Many died.

Chris Huhne is now the man in charge of the UK ’s energy supply. This appointment was greeted with incredulity by the infidels. Only a year ago you could have got odds of millions to one on it ever happening. He was, after all, a member of a minor political party addicted to opposition posturing. Admittedly he had shown a deft touch with the manipulation of numbers from an unlikely source that enabled him to offer support to the global warming hypothesis. Few, however, anticipated the development that Stuntman Dave would contrive to lose an election that had been handed to him on a plate, which left the Lib Dems in a position of the tail wagging the dog. Dave himself, as an elite member of the political class, was naturally a true believer, which considering the state of the nation, put Chris in one of the two most critical positions of power in the Government. As always, there were those sceptics and cynics who had thought that policies on defence and energy that were once on the edge of insanity had now crossed that boundary. They thought that, among many other vital aspects of modern life, defence of the realm and energy supply were sacrificed merely to provide large gifts of money to rich politicians in poor countries and build hundreds of worse-than-useless windmills that scarred a once beautiful landscape.

In any list of influential faith-based scientists it would be impossible to omit the great prophet of doom himself, James Hanson. He is unmatched for the ferocity of his predictions and the esoteric nature of his workings. His works speak for themselves and it would only diminish them to elaborate.

In a new development, the organising committee introduced the award of corporate Numbies, of which there were two. The first was for the UK Met Office, who kept their cool in the face of overwhelming criticism, indeed levity, around their long term forecasts. There is, of course, no method of traditional science that would allow prediction of kinks in the jet-stream or the position of settlement of such barometric features as blocking highs. They, however, are solid in their faith and have only postponed such activities until such time as the heat is off (or perhaps more accurately on). Of course, the establishment responded appropriately.

The other corporate award went to the University of Oxford , who have re-established the control by their graduates of both Government and Opposition in the UK Parliament. They have been aided by the Maoist hoards of the Labour Party, who by demolishing the grammar schools have removed the threat of leadership being usurped by grammar school oiks. Now things are as they should be and Britain is again ruled by Eton and Oxford . It is the Oxford degree in PPE that has proven all-powerful, creating a homogeneous political class, whose capacity for belief has raised faith-based science to the forefront of political thought. The power of the political class was amply illustrated by the ease with which the so-called Climate-gate crisis was dealt with. Naturally the sceptics and cynics muttered about “whitewash”, but however much they rant and foam on the internet, our good old establishment media ensure that their ravings are not heard.

Again the mood of the crowd was un usually subdued as they left the Assembly Hall. Evidently they had been given much to think about.

Number of the month - 10

This is the number of years since Dr David Viner announced via the Independent that snowfalls are now just a thing of the past, though to be fair he did hedge his bet.

The eleventh annual Numby Awards

Despite being held in one of the glamour spots of Europe, namely the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab in London’s sophisticated Balls Pond Road, the Numby ceremonies have always been sensitive to economic conditions and recession in particular. As was the case in recent years, the traditional decorations of the hall were in low key. The number of awards was also much reduced than before.

The progress of your somewhat less-than-abled reporter up the rickety stairs is not something he would wish to dwell upon, but thanks are due to two large anonymous ladies for their sterling efforts.

The atmosphere was not quite as lighted hearted as is usual on these occasions. This might have had something to do with rumours that had been flying around about a split in the organising committee. It was said that it had broken into two warring factions, the Faith-based Science group led by Dr Trend, who chaired the last ceremony, and the Intrinsic Knowledge group, who were a new faction with different beliefs. The first group had promised change while the second promised to change the change.

Whatever the truth of these reports, this year we had a new chairpersonage. He is Jim Frutecake, Professor of Alternative Science at the University of Much Hadham. His opening address was on the subject of Intrinsic Knowledge, a theory that he was largely responsible for developing. Briefly, it is based on the huge waste of time and money that scientists impose upon the population by their endless quest for evidence, when much of the knowledge they seek to establish is already in the possession of certain People of Wisdom. He cited the Large Hadron Collider, which absorbs billions of euros that could be used for more constructive purposes, such as the erection of thousands of giant wind turbines that would demonstrate to future generations the power of our culture. Here is a much shortened précis of his further remarks:

 For this reason we are returning to the two most important recipients of our awards at the tenth ceremony and making further awards to them in order to adjust unfortunate ambiguities in the original citations.

First there is His Royal Highness The Prince Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, Knight of the Garter, Knight of the Thistle, Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Bath, Member of the Order of Merit, Knight of the Order of Australia, Companion of the Queen's Service Order, Privy Counsellor, Aide-de-Camp, Earl of Chester, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron of Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. He is one of the People of Wisdom of whom I speak. When he makes critical statements about, for example, sceptics, without having spoken to one, he is not, as the New Theologians would have us believe, merely expressing a belief. What he is doing is granting us a glimpse of the Intrinsic Knowledge with which he is endowed. When he puts forward the undoubted advantages of alternative medicine, he is not just spouting an opinion but making a revelation to those of lesser ilk, that they too might enjoy the benefits of being exposed to rhinoceros horn, tiger’s testes or various perfumes.

It was felt that it would be lese-majesty to label the award to His Royal Highness, but the inscription engraved around the base of the next statuette to be awarded is "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" The recipient is none other than Chris Huhne, the de facto moral leader of our nation and a world figure. The inscription refers to his bold plan to build 32,000 more wind turbines. Ordinary people, inspired by his leadership, are glad to pay for this through their ever-rising energy bills, especially pensioners and others of restricted means who are grateful to be allowed to contribute their widow’s mite. As they turn down their thermostats and shiver in their triple overcoats, it must be heart-warming for them to know that they are part of this magnificent project that will prove for generations to come the power of our civilisation.

His dramatic achievement of this year is that he has got rid of yet another nasty energy-hungry business, namely aluminium smelting, and sent it off to other countries and continents that are less fastidious and more motivated by petty hope of economic prosperity.

 The next statuette bears the inscription “He doth bestride the world like a colossus.” The new Numby Laureate is none other than Herman van Rompuy, the charismatic president of the EU. Though, as always, there are dissenters, he has clearly demonstrated Intrinsic Knowledge as he gives decisive leadership to the world and demonstrates that the new Europe is a power to be reckoned with. In the pubs of Britain, where he is the constant topic of conversation, he is known affectionately as Rumpy-pumpy. Along with stalwarts like Baroness – er – her name escapes me, but you know who I mean, he has set an example to the squabbling world leaders of how to rule.

Europe is now the harbinger of the Green World Government to come: something of which all Europeans can be proud.


At this point there was some sort of disturbance at the rear of the hall. Stewards were seen escorting out a dishevelled figure, who seemed to bear a startling resemblance to Dr Trend. I had not noticed before that along the outer periphery of the hall stood at regular intervals large men with shaven heads. It is good to know that the traditional order of these ceremonies is in good hands.


The next engraved slogan is “The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives”, which has some form of Welsh reference that escapes me. Perhaps it is a reference to the surname of the recipient. Steve Jones is a regular columnist on science in the new green Daily Telegraph. Although a geneticist by trade, he likes to lecture us on matters of physics. One of his trademark interventions is on the subject of centrifugal force. Now I am sure many of you are aware that old fashioned physicists will tell you that this force is fictitious, citing Newton’s first law of motion. Most ordinary people know that this is untrue – they have experienced centrifugal force themselves, right from early childhood in the school playground. Yes, even ordinary people have their share of Intrinsic Knowledge, though, of course, not to the extent of an expert like Prof. Jones. Newton’s laws are over three hundred years old and it is about time they were repealed. Jones and his ilk are just the people to do it.

I am sure that you will all accept that this year’s list, though low in numbers, is high in quality. The deliberations of the organising committee have been long and arduous, but the results are more carefully reasoned than in the recent past. Long May it continue.


Again the audience seemed subdued as they filed out of the hall. Over the years, no two ceremonies have been the same, yet they are all memorable. As for those stairs, the less said the better.

The twelfth annual Numby Awards

There are places in the world that are redolent of history. Even if you stumble upon them by accident, you experience an impulse to involuntary reverence. The very walls are suffused with the silent echoes of great works and deeds. Such a place is the Assembly Rooms above the Takeaway Kebab at the very heart of London’s cultural centre in the Balls Pond Road. What better venue for one of the world’s major historic award ceremonies?

I had decided to arrive early and discreetly on this occasion, before the audience were seated. I don’t know why, but I had been irrationally unsettled at the previous ceremony. My fears about having to negotiate the rickety staircase were alleviated by the discovery that a working party from the Balls Pond Boys Brigade had spent the year restoring the ancient dumb waiter, a lift between the ground floor and a serving hatch in the ceremonial hall. Some of the lads helped me into the cage, where I managed to double-up to fit in with no overlaps. The contraption began its grating journey aloft. Unfortunately, it came to a grinding halt while I was between floors. There was a long silence, then a youthful voice shouted up “Don’t worry Guv, we have a crank handle. It might take some time.” Eventually the cage began to creep at snail’s pace in the desired direction. After a seemingly interminable interval, I reached the top and with relief pushed the door open. I was disconcertingly greeted with a loud round of applause from the waiting audience. Two large ladies, of previous acquaintance, helped me, still doubled-up, to a seat. I noticed that the large shaven-headed men, standing around the periphery, did not offer any assistance, but eyed me with suspicion.

The procedures of the ceremony have subtly changed over the past two years. As the members of the award committee filed onto the platform to sit in serried ranks, grave and unsmiling, there were one or two attempts to start applause, but these were evidently frowned upon and soon ceased. Then the Chairpersonage entered to take his place at the new central podium. All then stood and dutifully applauded for exactly one minute and then sat in attentive silence. Professor Frutecake, for it was he, stood silent for what seemed an eternity as tension built in the chamber. Finally, he spoke:

“Once again we are gathered together within these hallowed walls to celebrate the rich endowment bestowed upon us by benign destiny, namely Intrinsic Knowledge. Though we are all, to a small extent, invested with this gift, there are a select few who benefit from a more copious inheritance. We are here not only to acknowledge such people and their contribution to human destiny, but also to resist those dark forces in our society that would spread the denial of truth by specious argument.”

Shortage of space does not allow a full account of the address, which went on for an hour in a similar vein, but eventually turned to the awards themselves.


It transpires that a small working group of a sub-committee of the judging panel has been working on a new class of award. This was originally code-named the “never was” award, but has now been formalised as The Winston Smith Medals. These are to be awarded to institutions that have demonstrated exemplary skill in the management of news and history, thereby maintaining the purity of public perception in vital areas of human activity.

The Gold Winston goes naturally to the BBC for the scandal that never was. A single infidel trouble-maker had caused a minor stir, invoking Freedom of Information, to demand knowledge of membership of the seminar that provided the justification for the BBC unilaterally to set aside its charter and abandon balance in its treatment of the terrible and immediate threat of global warming. The BBC, on behalf of its funders (almost the entire population), quite rightly assembled a small army of lawyers, who roundly defeated the solitary upstart with the aid of a wholly unbiased judging panel. Unfortunately, another perverse individual then retrieved that membership list from the hidden depths of the internet. It emerged that, by the purest of coincidences, all the members were followers of the true belief (as, it must be said, is anyone of worth in this well-regulated society). It is a tribute to the solidarity of the established media that coverage of the story was confined to the recesses of the internet, particularly in the USA, where uninformed contrarianism is rife. Sadly, that beastly little sneak Christopher Booker squealed as usual, but nobody noticed.

 The BMA is one of the world’s most famous multifunctional organisations. Among other things it acts as a militant trade union, a learned society and a cheer leader for the great movement for social cohesion that is known to its opponents as political correctness. In the awarding of the Silver Winston to this august body, just one of its many achievements was selected as representing a magnificent whole. This was not only the conversion of one particularly meddlesome individual into a non-person, but also the detoxification of his so-called principles by a simple process of augmentation. Without that straightforward action almost the entire benign profession of epidemiology could have been laid waste and its achievements in modifying human behaviour nullified. Thus the world is a better place without the man who never was.

The great commercial success that never was resulted in the award of the Bronze Winston to the gambling industry, with particular mention of its online branch. The staggering growth of this industry is only evident indirectly from such phenomena as sponsorships, particularly of sporting events, and the self-evident growth of its presence in advertising. Much of its success in expanding its clientele has arisen from such simple devices as offering free samples (maliciously likened by its envious critics to the mode of distribution of illicit drugs). It has risen above a campaign of rumour and innuendo about poverty, bankruptcies and the destruction of families. The occasional spectacular bankruptcy of an overpaid footballer makes the headlines, but otherwise the media tend keep quiet about it. It also benefits from the unspoken protection offered by successive governments, who rely on gaming duty to bolster the income required to maintain their bureaucratic infrastructure. As with other successful industries, such as those that are energy hungry, this merely prompts the move offshore, a nice illustration of the operation of the Laffer Effect, which now dominates the economic scene.

 Moving on to the more traditional trophy awards, International Man of the Year was Barack Obama, coupled with the EPA, for developing methods to bypass democracy, which has long been an impediment to movement towards the Great Green Future. Their multi-faceted attack on indigenous energy supply has only been exceeded by the EU, which has shaken off the encumbrance of democracy, thereby fending off the menace of economic growth. See, for example, our number of the month for March.

UK man of the year was Les Ebdon, who is a one man symbol of the New Education and the ultimate standard bearer for the justification for nationalising the universities coupled with total political control of schooling. By forcing uppity universities to accept students who are unprepared for traditional higher education, he has accelerated change in the nature of a degree, thereby, among many other benefits, fending off the menace of economic growth. His performance as a Vice Chancellor has also exemplified the wonderful creative variety of our degree courses.

 Life saver of the year was the heroic Dr Hu, who identified the deadly poison that is red meat. It is encouraging to note that Harvard Epidemiology has still maintained its standards of scientific precision. The chairpersonage might have pointed out that the relative risk of 1.19 that damned red meat was exactly the same as that with which the EPA damned passive smoking: results that might never have emerged if that non-person had had his way.

 Double act of the year were Messrs Gummer and Yeo, whom our number of the month for August comprised. What a wonderful example of the entrepreneurial spirit to present to the youth of the nation, turning the neutral chairmanship of a Parliamentary committee into such a nice little earner!

 Finally, a long overdue tribute to the fantastical land of Oz. It was awarded a special trophy for its contribution to international fairness. Richly endowed with natural wealth, it has imposed a voluntary handicap on its indigenous industries, so that it does not compete unfairly with the rest of the planet. Its pioneering carbon tax has been an inspiration to the free nations of world, who are hurrying to imitate it. Carping critics might complain about the morality of an impost on the very source of planetary life and a demonstration of the transient nature of political promises, but its example of self-sacrifice and unprompted embracing of economic obscurity is an inspiration to us all.

 The audience exhibited a respectful silence as the chairpersonage abruptly stood up and walked out. The committee, still unsmiling, trooped out after him. Still, as has often been said of these historic ceremonies, no two are ever the same. The usual exuberance was absent in the streets outside as the crowds silently and thoughtfully filtered away. Your bending reporter’s re-attainment of ground level does not bear description.


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