Mea Culpa: Jo Swinson never fought Vince Cable for Lib Dem leadership

Questions of style and usage in last week’s Independent

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Saturday 21 September 2019 14:14
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Might is right: the current Lib Dem leader never took on her predecessor in an election for the post
Might is right: the current Lib Dem leader never took on her predecessor in an election for the post

An actual mea culpa from me. I am a bit ropey on “may” and “might” and got it wrong last week when I discussed why Jo Swinson failed to stand for the Liberal Democrat leadership straight after the 2017 election.

I said that Vince Cable was a strong candidate and that “she may not have beaten” him. Thanks to Richard Thomas for pointing this out. It has been changed to “she might not have beaten him”. The “may” implies a contest that took place, the result of which remains unknown, while “might” refers to a contest that could have taken place but didn’t.

Hundred per cent: In a report about plans for heavier taxes on private schools we said “43 per cent of the 100 most influential news editors and broadcasters” were educated privately. As Bob Erskine reminded us, “per cent” means “per 100”, so just “43 of the 100” was all that we needed.

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