I don't support the Tea Party

The sole socially conservative viewpoint I share with Sarah Palin is that I am pro-life.

Over the course of the summer I felt forced to make a complaint to the Press Complaints Commission over three blogs the New Statesman had run
concerning me. The main part of that complaint was upheld recently as a breach of Clause 1 of the Editor's Code; accuracy. This right of reply
blog was my remedy under the ruling.

In the series of blogs, the NS suggested that I supported the Tea Party and was a social conservative. Neither was true but the NS kept repeating it. In blog after blog. Three of these were published by the time I felt I had no option than to go to the PCC with the interview transcript.

Otherwise, my name would be associated with the Tea Party and with things I simply don't believe.

Here are links to the three blogs: the titles say it all:

- Rise of Sarah Palin's Mama Grizzlies: Exclusive: Why Nadine Dorries and
Louise Bagshawe love Palin power

- Cameron, the Tea Party and a little backbench problem

- Palin is coming to London

Apparently I "identified closely with Sarah Palin's socially conservative agenda", I "love Palin power" "not all Tories lament the rise of the American right" (and I was one of those who didn't), I had "revealed [my] admiration for ...the troupe of Mama Grizzlies in the Tea
Party", I "didn't share [David Cameron's] distaste" for the US culture wars on abortion, and I had described Sarah Palin as "a remarkable
figure", (the quote "It broke my heart when she melted down politically" being somehow omitted from that last description).

The fact was, upon being asked the question "Do you take inspiration from the Tea Party?" the interview transcript shows that my next words
were "No, not at all." I described the movement as a "hodge podge" mix of fiscal conservatism and candidates who were "off their rockers"
(again, a direct quote).

The sole socially conservative viewpoint I share with Sarah Palin is that I am pro-life, but unlike her, I'm also against the death penalty, for gun control, for generous immigration policies, for gay marriage, and indeed socially liberal on a wide range of issues. Contrary to the "backbench problem" blog I made the point in my transcript that the culture wars in America were an awful thing we didn't want or need over here, and free votes on issues like abortion made it apolitical. I also said "it wouldn't even be in my mind" to attempt to ban abortion, as I knew that would have no support with the public.

I am still a bit bewildered why, when providing a transcript that clearly said "No, not at all" when asked if I took inspiration from the
Tea Party, the NS refused to correct the record. Looking back on my correspondence with the PCC, I actually said that I did not want a
magazine correction printed nor did I want to embarrass the magazine.

The NS offered a "right of reply" blog but refused to run any correction or admit that they had been in any way misleading about my views.
Clearly then, I was forced into having the PCC adjudicate, because this "right of reply" would merely be my word against the magazine's had the
PCC not ruled that they did breach Article One of the Editors' Code, and were misleading about what I said.

The PCC ruling states: "Her critical comments on Sarah Palin's political career, for example, had not been adequately outlined, and nor had the
magazine suggested, as the complainant did in the interview - that she did not endorse all Sarah Palin's choices (and did not take inspiration
from the Tea Party).

It was also clear that the claim about her identification with the social conservatism attributed to Sarah Palin only related to one issue:
the complainant's pro-life position. The broad assertion that she identified "closely with Palin's socially conservative agenda" was, therefore, misleading, as it could imply agreement over a range of views.

On balance, the Commission considered that readers may well have been misled by the summary of the complainant's views as provided by the blog postings. This represented a breach of Clause 1 of the Code.

That decision makes this right of reply blog meaningful, as a voluntary correction would also have done in its place. Without either, it would
just have been the word of a disgruntled "Mama Grizzly" -- and I didn't want to be seen as a bear with a sore head!

I remain a great admirer of the NS and I'm grateful to the NS and the PCC for the opportunity of this blog and to be able to move on. Tea anyone?


For the full PCC ruling see: PCC rules that New Statesman offers sufficient remedy to breach of Editors' Code on blogs about Louise Mensch MP

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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.