Twitter arithmetic

The significance of numbers

Frankie Howerd Frankie Howerd

As predicted the death toll of UK soldiers in Afghanistan has exceeded 200 in 8 years. This totemic figure will ensure that the media spotlight will shine brightly, for a while, on a number of issues given a trial run recently - equipment shortages is an obvious one. But let's wait and see for it's unlikely that anything related to strategy will be part of a wider public debate.

Tragic as the 200 deaths are they have to be seen alongside the 30,000 over 5 years in NHS hospitals from superbugs, reported in the Telegraph. Over the same period as the war in Afghanistan this would be 48,000 deaths. What a strange world it is, the deaths of soldiers only jars the national conscience when the figure has a certain resonance, yet deaths from superbugs appear to be running at over 100 per week. But the only hint of a debate, which soon turns into a bipolar rant, is when MEP Daniel Hannan makes his opinions of the concept of 'Big State' as related to health provision known on a US TV news programme.

At that point all hell breaks loose. The BBC takes its usual role of looking to trip up the Tories.The Tories responded by playing along with this silly game. Hannan is an MEP and not an MP, there is a huge difference; but what the over-reaction showed is just how popular Hannan is and how seriously the public take his comments. As well they might, many voters say Hannan should be an MP and given an important job. Being an MEP is no better than being a back-bencher.

The other point of note is how none of the blogs or MSM bothered with the comments of the LibDems. That tells you a lot!

At the same time Nulabour goes into overdrive to 'save' the NHS. In fact saving the NHS has become as regular a feature of our lives as Red Nose Day and equally entertaining when played as a farce. In this form none other than our Prime Minister and his charming wife Twitter for the NHS. This event was presented by the MSM as game set and match. But once again the numbers are worth a look. The blogger Guido Fawkes, normally very reliable, stated a few days ago that less than 23,000 people followed the example of the Browns and left a comment on Twitter. This compares to close on 70,000 who have signed the petition to get the PM to resign and the 2.5 million people who have watched the YouTube showing Gordon Brown being sliced by Daniel Hannan.

Aha! So that's it then, this is Nulabour getting back at Hannan; it's as if Damian McBride never went away! And now in the Spectator is a very funny and thoughtful article by Peter Hoskin HERE. Hoskin takes Andy Burnham to task for his ridiculous over reaction to the NHS story.

If all the effort, the spin, that has gone into this NHS non-story was converted into sensible analytical thought, life would be very different. The UK troops would only be sent to high risk tasks that have a reasonable chance of showing benefit to the UK. They would go with political policy, strategic aims and equipment properly co-ordinated. While back in the UK, the NHS, the fourth biggest employer in the world, would cease to act as a state within a state. Sensible debate about its future would be possible before it bleeds its host dry. Hospitals would be cleaner too.

The comedian Frankie Howerd had an ongoing gag with the line "titter ye not". Howerd was a master of his craft and Gordon Brown should follow his lead and either do something well or not at all. So to misquote the late master until you have go this sorted "Twitter ye not"!