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Storms? What storms? Peter Rhodes on fallacious forecasts, our flabby Parliament and how to pronounce Mugabe

Peter Rhodes | Published:

OUT of a chilly, windy day and into the warmth of the hairdresser's where the clippers (number three all over, since you ask) are soon humming merrily against my skull. I ask the hairdresser whether any customer has ever fallen asleep. "Happens all the time," she says. "It's very therapeutic." Offhand, I can't think of any other therapy that costs a fiver for ten minutes.

Robert who?

IT was the hairdresser who pointed out that, no matter how dark and gloomy the days are, the winter solstice is only four weeks away. One of the strange things about our calendar is how early midsummer and midwinter fall. Spring? It's just beyond that black cloud . . .

AND I have no idea what happened to September's confident predictions that Britain could suffer six named storms before Christmas. We have seen only two and one of those was a damp squib. Either we are in for a truly horrendous December or this is yet further proof that trying to forecast the weather more than a week ahead is a mug's game.

THE clue is in his nickname. Emmerson "The Crocodile" Mnangagwa is not a fluffy old labrador or a chummy little poodle. He is a thick-skinned, bloody-handed old revolutionary with a huge, snapping maw. And while the crowds in Harare may kid themselves that his taking over from Robert Mugabe will usher in a new age of freedom, democracy and happiness, the abiding lesson of the continent is that Africa has a ruinous appetite for "Big Man" leaders and a limitless capacity to disappoint. Would anybody be surprised if Zimbabwe's next leader ends up with the same sort of £1 billion fortune as Mugabe and with a similar taste for palaces and private jets, as his enemies mysteriously vanish and his people slip into despair?

HAVE we got it wrong for the past 30-odd years? Didn't you understand that a country pronounced Zim-bab-way was governed by somebody pronounced Moo-gah-bee? I note that one or two news presenters are now referring to Zim-bab-ware and Moo-gah-bare. It is really confusing. Not rarely confusing.

PARLIAMENT is about to consider two separate reports on the most burning issue affecting the British economy. Firstly, some background. Parliament consists of two houses. The House of Commons comprises 650 MPs who earn at least £75,000 a year with the taxpayer subsidising their food and accommodation. No matter how lazy or useless they are, MPs are virtually unsackable and enjoy about 100 days holiday every year. The House of Lords is even bigger with more than 800 peers, most of whom are retired MPs or their mates. They earn about £300 a day simply for turning up and, no matter how old, doddery and hopeless they become, have a job for life. This enormously overstaffed, overpaid and underworked pair of houses is one of the biggest and flabbiest legislatures in the world.

CARE to guess what is the burning economic issue Parliament is about to consider? It is productivity. You couldn't make it up.

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