The top ten: Laws of life
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 11 August 2013
One opinion poll the other day suggested Labour and Conservatives were level on 36 per cent, when other polls gave Labour a lead of eight percentage points. I sought to remind colleagues of Twyman's Law, named after Tony Twyman, a media-research analyst: "If a statistic looks interesting or unusual it is probably wrong." Here are 10 other rules for our bewildering world.
1. Chivers's Law "If you can go online and call your government a fascist regime, then you are not living under a fascist regime."
2. Godwin's Law "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."
3. Conquest's Third Law "The simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies."
4. Cowley's Law After Prof Philip Cowley: "There is an inverse relationship between the importance of any election campaign technique and the amount of media coverage devoted to it."
5. Rounders' Law "If you can't spot the sucker at the poker table in 10 minutes, you're the sucker." From Ian Rapley.
6. Muphry's Law "If you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written." Nominated by Andrew Coop.
7. Pommer's Law "A person's mind can be changed by reading information on the internet: from having no opinion to having a wrong opinion." Thanks to Tom Chivers.
8. Murphy's Law Named after Edward A Murphy Jr, American aerospace engineer: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong." Thanks to Kellie Strøm.
9. Paul's Law "You can't fall off the floor." Della Mirandola's favourite.
10. Parkinson's Law "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." And its corollary: "Storage requirements will increase to meet storage capacity."
Next week: Unsung villains – historical figures who don't get as bad a press as they should
Coming soon: Stupid car names (starting with Qashqai). Send your suggestions (by Tuesday 20 August), and ideas for future Top 10s, to firstname.lastname@example.org
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