Since when was a hot summer something to be scared of?

spiked editor Mick Hume's Notebook in The Times (London).

Mick Hume

Mick Hume

Topics Politics
  • I have always considered the approach of summer a cause for celebration, and the warmer the better.

It seems, however, that I have been dangerously deluded. A hot summer is now officially deemed a health hazard, and the Government’s latest advice is to stay indoors and shut the curtains.

On a decidedly cool Wednesday, the Met Office issued an alert that summer temperatures could equal the 38.5C (101F) recorded in Kent in 2003. The same day, the Department of Health issued a public information leaflet, entitled Heatwave, giving warning of the deadly risks of a hot summer and offering banal tips on how to avoid them (‘Keep out of the heat’; ‘Stay cool’). That very evening BBC One broadcast another doom-mongering ‘what-if?’ docu-drama, also entitled Heatwave, imagining the grim consequences of a very hot summer in 2006.

Whether or not we get a new high in temperatures, we are surely witnessing new lows in overheated health scares. The fact is that the Met Office has no real idea whether there will be a heatwave. And even if we do have a hot summer, since when was that something to be scared of?

The Government’s new Heatwave Plan for England claims that the 2003 heatwave in France ‘resulted in 15,000 excess deaths’, before admitting that the chance of such a heatwave here is ‘very low, less than 0.1 per cent’.

But to make sure that we don’t relax in the sunshine, the plan outlines a four-level ‘heat-health watch’ warning system to keep us all alert.

The temperature set to trigger the alert ranges from 32C (89F) for London, down to 28C (82F) in the North East (a region where hardy locals are famous for wearing T-shirts and miniskirts in midwinter). These would be considered normal summer temperatures across much of Europe, which is why we go there for our holidays.

Whatever happened to the idea of the sun as a source of health and life?

No doubt we should keep one eye on the elderly, the infirm and infants in a hot summer. Yet the daft DoH leaflet goes much further, including ‘people who use alcohol’ and ‘people who are physically active, like manual workers’ in its list of those at serious risk. It makes me wonder how, as a 16-year old, I survived the summer of 1976 (15 consecutive days above the ‘heatwave’ mark of 32C) labouring on a building site and spending wages on beer.

I forecast that we are in for a long, hot summer of ridiculous health advice and irritating ‘what-if?’ scare stories. In which case, many of us may well suffer some symptoms of which the Heatwave leaflet warns, including headaches, ‘feelings of mild confusion’ and increased aggression.

  • A week after the election it appears that Britain has become a one-party state, with politicians of all shades joining the SDP – Self-Delusion Party.

Everybody has their own self-serving story about how they really did quite well, and convenient excuse for why they didn’t do even better.

The different wings of the Self-Delusion Party fail to notice that nobody really won this election. New Labour’s authority was hammered, yet no opposition party landed an effective blow. Instead there was a lot of arbitrary tactical/protest/’up yours’ voting – some alienated young people voted Lib Dem, some alienated Muslims voted Respect, some alienated white working-class people voted BNP, and so on. The common feature was that few felt able to vote for anything. It was an election where, to turn around that Tory slogan, none of the parties had a clue what we were thinking, and many of those who did vote were as disengaged as those who did not bother. The self-delusionists are all left looking like ineffectual losers – not unlike the old SDP.

  • The trouble with journalists who want to make the news rather than report it (continued).

John Humphrys of Radio 4’s Today programme angrily protested on air that somebody had ‘stolen’ his right to vote by ‘apparently allegedly’ applying for a fraudulent postal ballot in his name. Later he admitted that he had applied for it three years ago, but failed to open the envelope. Still, look on the bright side. When I interviewed him a while back, Mr Humphrys insisted that he could feel ‘the life-force of an organic lettuce’. In less tolerant times, people who expressed such ‘eccentric’ views really might have had their vote taken away.

Mick Hume is editor of spiked
This article is republished from The Times (London)

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

Topics Politics


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