Perhaps it is the literalist in me, but….when a senior politician such as Jeremy Hunt claims that the seven-day NHS service was a Conservative party manifesto pledge – was indeed “the first line, on the first page of our manifesto” – i have to check.
And guess what: it isn’t.
The first line of page one of the manifesto actually reads “Contents”, which is somewhat ironic given the large numbers of “discontents” Hunt appears determined to create in the NHS today.
Or, if one is charitable and counts that as mere title, then line one of that page is “FOREWORD by David Cameron – Leader of the Conservative Party”. No doubt inspiring: but not exactly relevant to today’s events.
And of course, i AM being charitable, because Hunt did not say page one: he said first page which some in the book trade might consider to include the cover (OK…not everyone would). But in that case, the first line of the Conservative Party Manifesto is “The Conservative Party Manifesto” – a fact that will send a thrill of illicit pleasure down the spines of recursion lovers everywhere.
Of course, if you head off to page 3, which i am guessing is where Hunt believes the manifesto starts properly, then you find…..nope….not the seven-day NHS at line 1. Nor even line 2.
Line 1 explains, ever so slightly big brotherly that “We have a plan for every stage of your life”
Line 2 cheers us up by promising “For the best start in life”.
Line 3 elucidates, explaining “we will continue to increase spending on the NHS, provide 7-day a week access to your GP”
Adding (at line 4) “and deliver a truly 7-day NHS”.
So there you have it. When Jeremy Hunt states categorically that something is in line one of page one, he actually means line 4 of page 3.
And that’s absolutely not including any sort of quibble that a management summary (which is what page 3 obviously is) shouldn’t count.
Clearly though, when a man gets so confused between simple numbers, one should not be surprised if more advanced statistics, such as the interpretation of weekend mortality rates, are totally beyond him.