Morning Call: pick of the comment

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers

1. Where is the vitality and vision to win? (Guardian)

James Purnell sets out an alternative programme for Labour including 1 per cent of the bailout going to recapitalise local areas, a living wage and a cap on interest rates. He insists that Labour can win with a manifesto that offers "hope and radicalism", but warns that the party's vision and values are on "life support".

2. The Robinson scandal is just the beginning (Times)

Paul Bew says that the Robinson scandal is likely to derail the devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland. He warns that Sinn Fein may retaliate by bringing about a crisis of the power-sharing institutions that could prove fatal to the peace process.

3. What Obama must learn from the bomb plot (Financial Times)

Clive Crook says that Barack Obama's response to the jet bomb plot may have been mostly "pragmatic and defensible", but it looked "improvised and hesitant". The president should now demand that Congress pass an anti-terror law allowing pre-charge detention.

4. Labour beware . . . Brown's men will now be bent on revenge (Independent)

Paul Richards warns that Gordon Brown's allies, "skilled in bare-knuckle Labour politics", are likely to attempt to destroy the reputations and characters of his Labour opponents.

5. Who would want to replace Brown now? (Times)

William Rees-Mogg says that one of the main reasons Brown has survived is that any new leader could expect to serve for four months before losing the election. He predicts that Harriet Harman, who appeals to trade unionists, women and backbenchers, will lead Labour after its defeat.

6. Susan Greenfield should have been sacked (Daily Telegraph)

Melanie McDonagh argues that Greenfield deserved to be removed as head of the Royal Institution after presiding over a £22m redevelopment that left the society with debts of £3m.

7. Licentiousness breeds extremism (Independent)

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown warns that a decade of "economic greed and libertine excess" attracted youngsters to the self-discipline and certainties of Wahhabi Islam.

8. A job-rich US recovery is still plausible (Financial Times)

Robert Barbera and Charles Weise say that the US can expect jobs growth in the 300,000-per-month range this year and that the Obama administration should resist a new large-scale stimulus programme.

9. Military matters (Times)

A leader criticises the dysfunction at the top of the UK's armed forces and argues that if Britain is to succeed in Afghanistan then Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of the Defence Staff, must go.

10. The roadworks scam that costs Londoners £1bn every year (Daily Telegraph)

Boris Johnson says that companies should receive a time-limited permit to dig up the roads and face tough fines if they overrun.


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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.