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Don't trust the Daily Express's weather reports

A headline with two unnecessary words, perhaps.

Predicting the weather is hard even if you're a qualified meteoroligist. Just ask Michael Fish. But it's especially tricky if your key skill is sensationalistic headlines, rather than complex geophysical analysis. Which – perhaps – is why the Daily Express's track record when it comes to weather reports is somewhat subpar.

Scott Bryan has taken a look at the last year's worth of weather-related headlines from the nation's most popular combined Diana fanzine and publisher of serialised fiction, and found that what they lack in accuracy, they make up for in hysteria:

According to my own research, since September 2011:

Stories about the WEATHER [have] appeared on the front page Daily Express 111 times.

It has been the MAIN NEWS STORY OF THE DAY 52 times.

Also:

It has predicted hurricanes 3 times in the last year. It also claims that a hurricane hit Britain on the 4th January.

There has been 12 instances in the last year where it has predicted or has claimed weather ‘chaos’.

Bryan also went through the whole year's worth of weather related headlines and matched them to the Met Office reports for the month in question. The full list is a bit of a data overload, but the Media Blog has helpfully gone through and picked out the most egregious errors (click through for more):

For example take The Express's 20th October headline: "BIG FREEZE WILL KILL THOUSANDS". That ushered in the second warmest November in over 100 years according to the Met Office.

Or how about on 5th December when The Express told us: "WHY A WHITE CHRISTMAS IS A SURE BET". It followed this on the 17th December by declaring: "IT'S A WHITE CHRISTMAS". Sadly neither the bookies nor the snow Gods were listening eight days later as anybody backing The Express's 'sure thing' wasted their money.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Why Theresa May can't end speculation of an early general election

Both Conservative and Labour MPs regard a contest next year as the solution to their problems. 

One of Theresa May’s first acts as a Conservative leadership candidate was to rule out an early general election. After a tumultuous 2015 contest and the EU referendum, her view was that the country required a period of stability (a view shared by voters). Many newly-elected Tory MPs, fearful of a Brexit-inspired Ukip or Liberal Democrat surge, supported her on this condition.

After entering Downing Street, May reaffirmed her stance. “The Prime Minister could not have been clearer,” a senior source told me. “There won’t be an early election.” Maintaining this pledge is an important part of May’s straight-talking image.

But though No.10 has wisely avoided publicly contemplating an election (unlike Gordon Brown), the question refuses to die. The Conservatives have a majority of just 12 - the smallest of any single-party government since 1974 - and, as David Cameron found, legislative defeats almost inevitably follow. May’s vow to lift the ban on new grammar schools looks to many like an unachievable task. Former education secretary Nicky Morgan and former business minister Anna Soubry are among the Tories leading the charge against the measure (which did not feature in the 2015 Conservative manifesto).  

To this problem, an early election appears to be the solution. The Tories retain a substantial opinion poll lead over Labour, the most divided opposition in recent history. An election victory would give May the mandate for new policies that she presently lacks.

“I don’t believe Theresa May wishes to hold an early election which there is evidence that the country doesn’t want and which, given the current state of the Labour Party, might be seen as opportunistic,” Nigel Lawson told today’s Times“If, however, the government were to find that it couldn’t get its legislation through the House of Commons, then a wholly new situation would arise.”

It is not only Conservatives who are keeping the possibility of an early election alive. Many Labour MPs are pleading for one in the belief that it would end Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. An early contest would also pre-empt the boundary changes planned in 2018, which are forecast to cost the party 23 seats.

For Corbyn, the possibility of an election is a vital means of disciplining MPs. Allies also hope that the failed revolt against his leadership, which Labour members blame for the party’s unpopularity, would allow him to remain leader even if defeated.

Unlike her predecessors, May faces the obstacle of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act (under which the next election will be on 7 May 2020). Yet it is not an insurmountable one. The legislation can be suspended with the backing of two-thirds of MPs, or through a vote of no confidence in the government. Alternatively, the act could simply be repealed or amended. Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who have demanded an early election, would struggle to resist May if she called their bluff.

To many, it simply looks like an offer too good to refuse. Which is why, however hard May swats this fly, it will keep coming back. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.