Marina's Labour lover revealed

Loving across the political spectrum, polar bears and selling stories to the Sun

Dear Marina,

I don't consider myself a huge animal lover. I do have a cat, but I also have a fur coat, and find it enormously irritating when those PETA people shoot me dirty looks when I wear it. But last week I came across hundreds of pictures of Knut, the adorable four-month-old polar bear, rejected by his mother and raised by a Berlin zoo keeper. After ogling over him, even I felt slightly nauseous looking at my white coat! Then I found it was an animal rights campaigner who said raising Knut raised by a human violated animal rights, hinting he should be put to sleep. I wasn't surprised hundreds of websites had popped up dedicated to saving him. Although it turns out he won't be killed, I keep wondering why a supposed supporter of animal rights set the world into a frenzy by saying a healthy polar bear should be put to sleep?

Miss Mink

Has the world gone knuts? With the Arctic icecap melting faster than a well sucked Fox's glacier mint, polar bears in the wild are drowning in icy waters or dying of starvation as their natural habitat dwindles. Around 8,000 (almost a third of the global polar bear population) are predicted to die in this way in the next 45 years.

Expect total extinction 50 years later. Knuts will have died of old age well before then. When he does shuffle off this mortal coil he can be stuffed and installed next to the dodo skeleton in the Natural History Museum.

The justification for putting the cutest furry wurry bear in the world to sleep is that he’d be happier because when the bars come between him and his keeper, Knuts will pine and die of a broken heart.

Hmmm. Alive in a zoo or dead in the water? Could someone send that animal rights campaigner a climate chaos brochure please.

Dear Marina,

While catching up on the latest gossip in the Daily Mirror and Sun, I was slightly more disturbed than usual when I found some of the British sailors freed last week had been allowed to share personal stories with the papers. Reading the details of the harrowing hostage situation juxtaposed with the latest celeb scandals just didn't sit right with me. Apparently now Blair and his ministers are wondering if they should have been more careful about letting the papers get hold of the stories. What do you think?

MT Slightly-Disturbed, Swindon

Maybe I’m just too caught up the local election campaign, doing my best to hold onto my seat against the Tory Party machine with its Blue Chip computerised election campaign and every gaga old dear in our nursing homes signed up for a postal vote. But really, I can’t imagine what Blair is fussing about.

At least these photogenic soldiers have genuine tales to tell. Unlike the lie peddling reports of weapons of mass destruction that led us into war with Iraq. Maybe that’s the problem. Blair’s so caught up in his own spin cycle he can no longer tell the difference between his dirty laundry and his bright whites.

Or is it that compared to what goes on in Guantanamo Bay - where eight UK residents are still detained - or the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by British soldiers, the Iranians, quite frankly are just not brutal enough. Poor Faye, being forced to wear a headscarf and play endless games of noughts and crosses with herself. I mean how is Blair supposed to prepare our nation for war when that’s the best the Iranians can come up with. No one even lost a finger nail.

But it’s not nice fearing you’re going to die. Which is a reasonable excuse for not signing up to the armed forces in the first place.

Hi Marina

,

It's interesting and stimulating to read your column. I have a problem; although I am a Liberal Democrat like you, I find Tory women more attractive. I had a relationship with one of Tim Renton's female staff some years ago and have loved one of your fellow Lewes District Councillors [name supplied] from afar for the last four frustrating years. Do you ever feel tempted by Tories, Marina? Has Bonker Boris ever tickled your fancy?

Love, Bob Brown, Seaford

Having examined the notches on my bed post, so to speak, I can honestly say I have never knowingly fancied or slept with a Conservative let alone sparked up a relationship with one.

I’ve always sailed closer to the wind of New Labour and can admit to a few cross party away plays. There was the night I found myself [censored by Marina’s election agent] in a [ditto] with the now Labour MP for [censored by Newstatesman lawyers], for instance.

Later that week he invited me for a dirty weekend in Brighton – handwritten and signed on House of Commons headed notepaper! Oh why did I not keep the letter? But that was the winter of 1996/7 as we plotted in Grouchos, united against a common enemy – the Tory government. There was everything to play for. Those were fun times.

But Tories? Even those with a more favourable gene pool than the bonking Johnsons of this world, can’t help but open their mouths to ask in blunt foghorn tones: “How much is this going to cost?” It’s bad enough in council meetings when the Liberal Democrats are concentrating on positive outcomes and value for money. But in the bedroom department it’s a turn off. Not to mention scandalous!

Right. I’ve wasted enough time on this silliness Councillor Brown. If you’ve run out of Focus leaflets to deliver in Seaford (you obviously have far too much time on your hands) you can come and help deliver mine. As for you fancying Councillor [name supplied], you couldn’t afford her. See you at full council.

PS: The letter might be in a trunk in my loft.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
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Why is it called Storm Doris? The psychological impact of naming a storm

“Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person.”

“Oh, piss off Doris,” cried the nation in unison this morning. No, it wasn't that everyone's local cantankerous old lady had thwacked our ankles with her stick. This is a different, more aggressive Doris. Less Werther’s, more extreme weathers. Less bridge club, more bridge collapse.

This is Storm Doris.

A storm that has brought snow, rain, and furious winds up to 94mph to parts of the UK. There are severe weather warnings of wind, snow and ice across the entire country.

But the real question here is: why is it called that? And what impact does the new Met Office policy of naming storms have on us?

Why do we name storms?

Storm Doris is the latest protagonist in the Met Office’s decision to name storms, a pilot scheme introduced in winter 2015/16 now in its second year.

The scheme was introduced to draw attention to severe weather conditions in Britain, and raise awareness of how to prepare for them.

How do we name storms?

The Name our Storms initiative invites the public to suggest names for storms. You can do this by tweeting the @metoffice using the #nameourstorms hashtag and your suggestion, through its Facebook page, or by emailing them.

These names are collated along with suggestions from Met Éireann and compiled into a list. These are whittled down into 21 names, according to which were most suggested – in alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names. This is done according to the US National Hurricane Naming convention, which excludes the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are thought to be too few common names beginning with these letters.

They have to be human names, which is why suggestions in this list revealed by Wired – including Apocalypse, Gnasher, Megatron, In A Teacup (or Ena Tee Cup) – were rejected. The Met Office received 10,000 submissions for the 2016/17 season. According to a spokesperson, a lot of people submit their own names.

Only storms that could have a “medium” or “high” wind impact in the UK and Ireland are named. If there are more than 21 storms in a year, then the naming system starts from Alpha and goes through the Greek alphabet.

The names for this year are: Angus (19-20 Nov ’16), Barbara (23-24 Dec 2016), Conor (25-26 Dec 2016), Doris (now), Ewan, Fleur, Gabriel, Holly, Ivor, Jacqui, Kamil, Louise, Malcolm, Natalie, Oisín, Penelope, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Valerie and Wilbert.

Why does this violent storm have the name of an elderly lady?

Doris is an incongruous name for this storm, so why was it chosen? A Met Office spokesperson says they were just at that stage in their list of names, and there’s no link between the nature of the storm and its name.

But do people send cosy names for violent weather conditions on purpose? “There’s all sorts in there,” a spokesperson tells me. “People don’t try and use cosy names as such.”

What psychological impact does naming storms have on us?

We know that giving names to objects and animals immediately gives us a human connection with them. That’s why we name things we feel close to: a pet owner names their cat, a sailor names their boat, a bore names their car. We even name our virtual assistants –from Microsoft’s Clippy to Amazon’s Alexa.

This gives us a connection beyond practicality with the thing we’ve named.

Remember the response of Walter Palmer, the guy who killed Cecil the Lion? “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study, obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

So how does giving a storm a name change our attitude towards it?

Evidence suggests that we take it more seriously – or at least pay closer attention. A YouGov survey following the first seven named storms in the Met Office’s scheme shows that 55 per cent of the people polled took measures to prepare for wild weather after hearing that the oncoming storm had been named.

“There was an immediate acceptance of the storm names through all media,” said Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann, the Irish metereological service. “The severe weather messages were more clearly communicated.”

But personalising a storm can backfire. A controversial US study in 2014 by PNAC (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) claimed that hurricanes with female names lead to higher death tolls – the more “feminine” the name, like Belle or Cindy, the higher the death toll. This is not because female names are attached to more severe storms; it is reportedly because people take fewer steps to prepare for storms with names they perceive to be unintimidating or weak.

“In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave,” Sharon Shavitt, a co-author of the study, told the FT at the time. “This makes a female-named hurricane . . . seem gentler and less violent.”

Names have social connotations, and affect our subconscious. Naming a storm can raise awareness of it, but it can also affect our behaviour towards it.

What’s it like sharing a name with a deadly storm?

We should also spare a thought for the impact sharing a name with a notorious weather event can have on a person. Katrina Nicholson, a nurse who lives in Glasgow, says it was “horrible” when the 2005 hurricane – one of the fifth deadliest ever in the US – was given her name.

“It was horrible having something so destructive associated with my name. Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person,” she tells me over email. “I actually remember at the time meeting an American tourist on a boat trip in Skye and when he heard my name he immediately linked it to the storm – although he quickly felt guilty and then said it was a lovely name! I think to this day there will be many Americans who hate my name because of it.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.