# Statistically speaking, what is the probability that you will read this column?

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The Independent Online
A lot of nonsense has been talked about this ban on beef business. Most of it has come from the Government, of course, but a lot has also come from commentators trying to tell us just how unlikely it is that we can get CJD from beef. There is more chance, they tell us, of choking to death on food, or being run over by a member of the Royal Family ...

This careless throwing around of statistics is quite irresponsible, as we do not have any generally accepted standard of comparison. Oh, yes, we know vaguely that more people were killed on the roads of Britain during the Falklands War than were killed in the War and we know that it's safer to fly than to drive (come to think of it, we know that anything is safer than driving, so it's a miracle that the new Labour government hasn't banned cars yet) but we don't know what the exact figures are for anything.

We don't know whether there is more chance of England winning the World Cup or the Pope being Jewish.

So today I am printing a league table of probability.

Cut it out.

Pin it on the wall.

And next time you say, "Look, there's less chance of that happening than there is of ...", just glance at it and carry on.

Here we go then.

There is a 1 in 2 chance that every government will appoint a man who insists on using the title Dr, as in Dr Brian Mawhinney or Dr Jack Cunningham, even though they are clearly not proper doctors and nobody has the faintest idea what kind of doctors they are.

There is a 1 in 3 chance that, the way the Labour government is progressing, we will have petrol rationing by next year, and the return of the black market in such vital commodities as beef, etc.

There is a 1 in 4 chance that you will be involved in a traffic accident before you die.

There is a 1 in 5 chance that it will rain in Britain today.

There is a 1 in 10 chance that the weather forecast will tell us where.

There is a 1 in 15 chance that you will be so affected by the sight of a traffic accident that your driving improves markedly, for a while.

There is a 1 in 20 chance that your train will arrive late.

There is a 1 in 100 chance that you will be glad it arrived late, as you had nothing in particular to do for a while.

There is a 1 in 200 chance that your train will arrive early.

There is a 1 in 400 chance that you will be so affected by seeing a bad traffic accident that you start driving much more slowly, and that this causes a bad traffic accident.

There is a 1 in 500 chance that you will actually hear real people singing carols in the street at Christmas time.

There is a 1 in 1,000 chance that all the Christmas cards you send will arrive at their destination before Christmas.

There is a 1 in 1,500 chance that you will be able to identify the senders of all the Christmas cards you get.

There is a 1 in 5,000 chance that you will get what you want for Christmas.

There is a 1 in 10,000 chance that you will get any of the ailments which everyone from Edwina Currie onwards has predicted for you.

There is a 1 in 50,000 chance that someone will give you an Edwina Currie novel for Christmas.

There is a 1 in 500,000 chance that you will be run over in a traffic accident by a car driven by Lord Lucan.

There is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that you will be run over by a car driven by Ronnie Biggs back on an incognito trip to Britain.

There is a 1 in 4 million chance that you will be so affected by listeria that you dizzily walk out into the road and are run over by a van taking remaindered Edwina Currie novels back to the wholesalers, driven by Ronnie Biggs.

There is a 1 in 10 million chance that someone somewhere will suddenly exclaim: "Thank you, thank you, Jack Cunningham! If it hadn't been for your wise and swift actions, I'd probably be dead by now!"

There is a 1 in 50 million chance that you will catch a disease from the cover of an Edwina Currie novel which causes you to swerve while driving near Holyhead, thus causing a crash in which a large lorry overturns and sheds its load of frozen Irish beefburgers on a car coming the other way, crushing the passenger who is so-called Doctor Jack Cunningham who was on his way to Holyhead on a fact-finding mission.