Posts Tagged Crusade for Change

The Express and The Mail step into the ring! Only one can leave! FIGHT!

For a while now, the Express has been running it’s “Time for Change Crusade“, in favour of Britain changing to Single-Double Summer Time (SDST) so we are 2 hours ahead of GMT in summer and one hour ahead in winter – equivalent to moving time zone by one hour from Western European Time to Central European Time (CET) (previous posts on the subject here) . A few weeks ago, The Sun too declared that it too wanted to “save Britain from Daylight Robbery“. Well, now a rival has stepped up to the plate;* via the medium of Peter Hitchens, the Mail has begun its “British Time Campaign” to stop the UK moving to CET (or “Berlin Time”, as they call it in flagrant violation of Godwin’s law).

Both sides are sadly up to their usual tricks in favour of their position to ludicrous extents – the Daily Express claims they have the backing of 29 million people based on a survey of a few thousand while the Daily Mail claims that people who support the change are useful idiots to some sort of evil “Bratwurst-eating” Frankfurt conspiracy.

So, in the interests of fair debate, here are the facts, laid out in as neutral a way as I can:**

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Plunged into chaos

A cat and a dog

Cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria! (Photo by PT, CC 2.0 by-nc-nd)

You know those adverts for household gadgets where they make squeezing toothpaste or putting lids on pens look like some impossibly laborious chore? I think the the Daily Express watches them and thinks “We could do better than that!

BRITONS face a day of chaos tomorrow as the clocks turn back an hour, plunging the country into evening darkness.

WE’RE DOOMED.

Now, a disclaimer. If there was sufficiently strong evidence that double summer time would be beneficial to the country, then I’d be all for it. The problem is that when Portugal, a country in the same time zone as the UK, tried moving to European time during the mid-90s, the sun set so late in the evening that it interfered with sleep cycles, and insurance companies reported a rise in accidents, not a fall (PDF, p. 13-14). There may still be a case for changing the time zone, but it’s certainly not as clear cut as the Express would have you believe.

So anyway, CHAOS.

A third of us will oversleep, 20 per cent will wake up to a cold house after forgetting to change the central heating timer and one in eight will arrive at work late over the coming days.

Better start preparing that bomb shelter!

Research by energy company npower also found that almost half of parents say the change in daylight hours will affect their children’s sleep patterns.

It will take an average of three days to readjust, with 40 per cent of people polled saying it would be harder to get their children to school on Monday.

That’s all very good and well, but pushing the UK forwards a time zone won’t change that. We’ll still have a clock change and, as Portugal saw, double summer time is more disruptive to children’s sleep patterns.

In fact, everything the Express has said so far is just as bad for its own Crusade for Change as it is for the current scheme. These aren’t arguments for changing time zone, these are arguments for scrapping summer time altogether.

The warnings come as growing numbers of politicians, businesses and families back the Daily Express Time For Change crusade.

29 million of them, in fact. If you include the imaginary ones.

And as Tabloid Watch points out, yesterday the Express claimed 58% of people supported the change. Before the campaign began, 60% of people did. Growing numbers indeed.

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The Daily Express has 29 million imaginary friends

SUDDENLY, the nights are drawing in. The sky is filling with the smoky grey clots of churning vapour that herald the annual return of Boreas and his frigid kingdom of shade and bluster. Worst of all, men, women and children are forced to eat their tea in the dark because no-one has invented the light bulb yet.

From the darkness rises our saviour, St. Desmond, at the vanguard of the heroic Crusade for Change. Where the Daily Express leads, an army 29 million strong follows

Wait, 29 million? That sounds a bit much, surely? The turnout at the last general election was only 29.6 million – are you telling me as many people care about the Daily Express‘s “crusade” as care about national politics in general?

In fact, all that happened is that Santander carried out a survey, and 58% of those polled said that the government should look at the current Summer Time system. Not that they definitely agreed with the Express, just that they thought it might be worth checking. The Daily Express has then multiplied this figure by 50 million – a ballpark estimate of the population of England – and assumed that therefore 29 million people must be in favour.

Without being able to see the survey, there’s no way of knowing how representative of the British population this survey is. Already though, one thing seems clear; while the Express talks about 29 million Britons, it might be more accurate to say 29 million Englanders. Messing with British Summer Time is somewhat less popular in Scotland and the North of England, as the Daily Express itself secretly recognises.

Let’s look at some of the other findings of the study.

According to the study, 45 per cent will feel unusually depressed during the daylight-starved winter months.

Concerns are also mounting about children walking home in the dark and the danger of personal injury, with one in four people saying they feel more at risk as evenings draw in.

In addition, some 36 per cent – 17.7 million people – believe there is an increased chance of road traffic accidents, and one in four also insist they feel more at risk from burglary.

In other words, 3 in 4 do not feel more at risk, 64% of people did not say they believed there was an increased chance of road traffic accidents, and 3 in 4 do not feel at risk of burglary. Bringing seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) into this is a low blow – it appears to be caused not by clock changes, but just by the fact that there is less light overall during winter.

I’m not sure how much difference clock changes would have to some of those anyway. There is good evidence that “double summer time” reduces traffic accidents in England (but raises them in Scotland), but I couldn’t find any evidence about the others – there are some papers on whether clock changes can cause depression, but the conclusions look, well, inconclusive.

So, in the interests of improving the state of mathematics, I’m going to poll the entire world about whether the Daily Express needs remedial lessons on how to use statistics and surveys. That means potentially upwards of 6,877,939,067 voters, all weighing in. Lend us your opinion, have your say, and help my Crusade for Change!

(Hat tip to Exclarotive)

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