The Cooke Retort

There was quite an entertaining debate on this vanity site, I mean blog, regarding Cllr Chris Cooke's slight misunderstanding of a Daily Mail story about hedgehogs. He's another one of those people who don't so much speed-read as sprint past Usain Bolt taking in the headline only before posting their carefully researched words of wisdom.

Nothing too serious, of course, until you realise that this person is an elected local politician. He is supposed to make decisions and read long, detailed documents. No wonder he's friends to the clever people of the BNP as evidenced by the Einstein-like Richard Barnbrook.

The Daily Mail has a strange obsession with the rights of car owners and in particular, the demon speed cameras. Barely a week goes by without the paper allowing its readers the chance to vent their spleen if not their exhaust fumes on stories such as,

"New motorway speed camera blitz means thousands more will face fines" ,
"Indestructible, the speed camera that will defy bombs and bulldozers",
"Speed camera earns £5000 an hour"

The Mail has a symbiotic relationship with many of its readers; they feed off the constant harping on about stealth taxes whilst the paper gets kudos for fighting for the poor motorist. Even behaviour that would normally set Mail-ites gnashing collective teeth such as law-breaking, vandalism and non-payment of taxes is seemingly condoned.

Whilst a lot of us were gazing in awe at the Spider Spectacle of La Princesse, Liverpool was hosting the BA Festival of Science. One of the debates to come out of that was one led by Dr Linda Mountain of Liverpool University on empirical analysis of road safety statistics relating to speed cameras. Unfortunately, I was not present so am not sure how the actual talk went. However, using the Mail as a source (Yeh, I know!) we do see that,

She continues,

'If accidents fall dramatically after the cameras are in place, it could be that the cameras have reduced accidents, but some of the fall may simply show that a run of bad luck has come to an end,' Dr Mountain told the British Association science festival in Liverpool.

'The problem is that, although some parts of the road network are undoubtedly more dangerous than others, there is also a degree of randomness in where accidents occur.'

Anyone who has studied Statistics to A Level will understand the concept of the regression to the mean. I was crap at science as my record in the local Quiz League shows, so I do not wish to go into greater detail for fear of making a prat of myself. However, suffice to say, Dr Mountain is NOT suggesting that the cameras are a waste of time or that they do NOT save lives. It seems to me that it is difficult top be as accurate as say with seat belt safety as we are dealing with actual accidents rather than potential ones.

It is hard to quantify. Perhaps a cheaper solution would be to attach flowers to railings as this tends to have the effect of making drivers slow down. In Greece, I noticed little candles in miniature shrines on winding coastal roads. Similarly it is possible to argue that other factors such as bad driving and even slow speeds can be more of a danger to pedestrians and other road users, but that's a debate for another day.

The important bit comes at the end of David Derbyshire's piece:

  • 'The big difference is that when you allow for the regression to mean effect, you find a 19 per cent reduction in accidents and serious accidents,' she said.

    'I believe that cameras do reduce accidents, but not quite as much as is claimed.'

    Officially, cameras are acknowledged as saving around 100 lives a year. But Dr Mountain believes the true figure is 'around 50'.

The article brings the usual petrolheads out of their pits:

  • The damn things probably cause more accidents than they prevent, as drivers brake suddenly on seeing one, and get shunted up the rear.

    - David Bourke, Rochester, Kent., 9/9/2008 16:48

So, not driving at the correct distance from the car ahead is permissable and if there is an accident, it's the fault of the camera. Interesting interpretation of the Road Traffic Accident by David.

  • They're talking about 50 lives in the whole of the country, a population of roughly 65 million. Chances are if they didn't die on the roads, they'd have died of MRSA in a filthy hospital, or been stabbed by a drunken yob.

    If the money taxed from drivers by speed cameras was used to clean up hospitals or put more police on the streets, you may have had an argument...

    - Sick of Lie-bour, Reading, 9/9/2008 17:03

50 lives? Worthless! Totally logical argument about MRSA and murder on the streets. Imagine trying to debate with this tosser. Even thinks making an unoriginal pun on Labour will be seen as funny.
  • Of course they havent.. these machines are cash cows nothing less.

    - Jacqui Weems, Southampton, 9/9/2008 18:43

No show without punch-drunk Jacqui. This is the woman who berates the Government on education but can't seem to grasp apostrophe use or grammar.

  • - Charlie, Nottingham, 9/9/2008 18:58
I put that one in because often posters say nothing, but Charlie actually manages it literally.

BUT the Eric The Fish Award For Being Certain Without Evidence goes to our friend Cllr Chris for this gem:

  • Actually the "experts" are NOT saying Speed Cameras have saved only half the lives. In fact they are not saying Speed Cameras have saved any lives at all. They were just expressing a BELIEF that speed cameras may have saved some lives - but far fewer than claimed by Government. For myself I am quite certain that the sum total of speed camera madness over the years has actually cost more lives. A recent report in one country without speed cameras claimed a 40% reduction in accidents - so what was that attributable to? Could it be that speed cameras can actually cause accidents and negate the positive effects of better car and road engineering over the years? Not to mention not having proper policing of our roads with people with an eyes and a brain to detect the real dangerous drivers on the roads. The whole speed camera thing was a scam - they should be scrapped.

    - Cllr Chris Cooke, Tamworth, UK., 9/9/2008 19:41

CCC has a dig at the 'experts' though does not seem to possess many qualifications in that field himself. Anyone who has survived the hallucinogenic journey through his own garish website will know that he doesn't visit medical doctors due to some conspiracy and only the real facts can be found on Google!

Still, he shows he's read some of the article this time - perhaps checking that no New Zealand hedgehogs were harmed during the study -and makes a semantic point about what the study's findings are. However, he makes the 'weaker candidate' error of suggesting that there is a difference between 'saying' and (saying what your) 'belief' (based on the evidence of the study) is.

He then makes it clear that, 'For myself I am quite certain that the sum total of speed camera madness over the years has actually cost more lives.'

Keep up the good work Agent Cooke. You and Barnbrook are doing a fine job of bringing ridicule to the BNP.

Post Script: Dr. Mountain was on Radio Merseyside this afternoon confirming that the study found that lives are saved; the only argument is with Government figures.


Cllr Chris said...

Eric - I have been attracted back to your site by a clocking of 39 visitors from you to my site - which made me think you were probably purveying some outrageous new sneering contempt for me again. I was not disappointed! So - what is this Cooke castigation fetish you seem to have? Perhaps it's my fault for deigning to give your site the dignity of my reply?? :-)

Anyway - I hope you don't mind if I set the record straight. First. If you seriously have been through my website - in your hallucinatory travels you will have found this page -

I think you will find there my research and knowledge of speed limits and how the law is set far exceeds your average councillor. So you need have no fear that I am also perfectly capable to "...make decisions and read long, detailed documents.." which councillors of course should do (but many of course don't - and just for your clarification it's not just BNP councillors I am refering to here!).

You will also find the evidence for speed cameras not saving lives - and indeed being more likely to contribute to accidents -on sites like these two.


Two sites that as far as I am aware have no connection whatsoever with the BNP - or myself - just in case you wondered?

Having had a seminar from the Staffordshire Camera Partnership at our Council recently, I was charged to put an alternative written report. This is not on my website (as yet). But it appears to have had a frosty response from Partnership (ie none - except a telephone call I believe asking if it represented the view of all the Councillors!) - although some of the other Councillors have been very interested in it and have congratulated me on it's production.

Just because there isn't space to include such details and references in a brief comment at the bottom of Daily Mail news story certainly doesn't mean to say such evidence doesn't exist. You really should apologise to me you know. But - heaven forbid you might ever be forced to apologise to somebody so "associated" with the BNP as myself! :-(

On a side - but related - issue. You seem to spend a lot of your time trawling the net (forgive the fishy puns - I can't help it!) for evidence and the general hounding of BNP type wrong-doers (wrong in your view of course). Do you, I wonder, have another life?Or did you just want me to bite again? All seems rather Fishy don't you think?

I'll check back in a few days time to see if an apology awaits? Or perhaps a grovel to my email address? I'll look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Cllr Chris

eric the fish said...

Ah, the bold Chris returns!
I won't send an invoice for the 39 visitors. They may send you an optician's bill for eyesight problems after clocking your clipart.

1. Safespeed. Note that there is an ad for loophole Solicitors on the site! Not that I'm knocking lawyers per se (ahem).

As I said in my post, it is difficult to analyse such matters.

What the Liverpool survey showed was that they disagreed with the Govt figures not that they were wrong.

It is an incredible jump (more freejumping) for that to equate to causing more accidents as Safespeed suggest. Let's be honest they have a Lizzie Borden size axe to grind. They call for the ban of cameras. Are you suggesting that there should be no cameras? Or that more police resources should be utilised? As a councillor used to 'long detailed documents' you'll be well aware of costs.

2. Similarly, abd produce a map of cameras. This is now widespread now that satnav is standard. I remember seeing one of the first of its type in the days when only professional people had such things as mobile phones (halcyon days!?)Indeed, there was an unofficial league table for barristers of journey times to a distant court.

2. You should be proud that you were not the worst offender on the Mail site. Imagine if Jacqui Weems had her own site like yours!

3. There is no 3.

4. You are given quite a bit of space for comments on the Mail - at least you get yours published - even though you complained to the PCC about them.They don't quite rise to the standard of free comment afforded here, but hey ho.

5. The piece itself is primarily about the Mail obsession with speed. It is one of those laws that are deemed reasonable to break unless you are a Pole, single parent (who clearly should be on the bus) or youngster who didn't go to Grammar school.

6. I make no aplogy for what was wriiten as it remains accurate. I do, however, apologise for having a lot of spiders in recent stories as if a story in your beloved Mail points out, a study has shown that right-wingers are more startled by such things. Research eh?

7. As I said in my OP, it is near impossible to quantify the amount of lives saved due to the nature of the problem. However, what is beyond doubt is that speed does kill and that speed is more likely to cause more injury. This is obvious but seems to be overlooked by those people anti-cameras.

It is true that bad driving is the main cause of accidents. However, that does not detract from the problem of speed. Whilst there are motorists (particularly those of the Advanced standard and professional speedsters such as police) who can exceed the limits (and I've had the privilrge of travelling in the front of a police car) as we see from the number of fatalities involving police vehicles in high speed pursuits, it is not fail proof.

It is also true that problems can be caused by drivers travelling too slow - causing gridlock and the knock-on effect. Again this should not detract from the matter under discussion.

Of course, it all boils down to analysis of figures. It is one thing to suggest they have a negligible effect but it is a hell of a leap to state as you do, "that speed cameras can actually cause accidents and negate the positive effects of better car and road engineering over the years."

You see if drivers are able to exceed the arbitrary limits safely, what is causing the accidents? Failure to allow enough space for braking? Suddenly braking upon seeing a gatso? Maybe the cameras are next to posters of naked models, other accidents to gawp at, or giant spiders on tower blocks!

I'm not bothered about your links to the BNP. I think you have the obsession with that judging by your site.

Either you realise what a bunch of racists they are, or you don't; there is no middle ground.

At least you have the balls to answer your critics/mockers. Credit where it is due. The cowards of the BNP like Barnbrook, Darby et al, don't even bother.

I do have a life btw, but thanks for asking. To continue your predeliction for puns (and hey, I'm as guilty as the next Ned Sherrin) I dabble beneath the scales of justice!


Cllr Chris said...


The banter is genial enough - unlike some other sites I could name!

I appreciate (although obviously would not agree with) your reply.

I'm a little confused though. You say " ....I make no apology for what was written as it remains accurate"..... Yet what you said was "...the Eric The Fish Award For Being Certain Without Evidence goes to our friend Cllr Chris for this gem ....".

Now - correct me if I am wrong - but did I or did I not give you detailed and extensive evidence of the type you claim does not exist? Indeed you even argued with that evidence - so you must recognise that evidence was there. You may not agree with my conclusions around that evidence - you may claim the evidence was flawed - but you cannot claim it was not there. Neither, if it mattered, could you claim I only read it after my Mail comment as I have shown an interest in this subject (and other items of road safety) for the past several years. So how can you say your Eric The Fish Award statement is "accurate"? It says "without evidence" I have shown you the evidence. An explanation - if not the apology then?

Still - don't want to put you on a line - I can live without an apology. I do comment an awful lot on the Mail (much not published of course). And the Mail were very professional, even kind, about my complaint against them (it was after all a fair complaint). So I'm sure there was no animosity.

Your spiders might well find a few comments on other news media too on the internet. So - buck up - plenty more opportunity to dish me a wounding blow as I pontificate wildly about subjects on which I know next to nothing. For instance I believe I recall commenting on one actresses boob job the other day. Now - what on earth would I know about that!!! :-)

Kind regards

(ps my experience of solicitors would most likely be much the same as yours - avoid them like the plague!!)

eric the fish said...

You cannot produce what you claim to be evidence after the fact. Perhaps in future, you'll at least give a hint in your posts in Der Sturmer.

As for the revelation that you comment on other subjects, it is good to see that you keep abreast of current affairs.

Perhaps you could include such words of wisdom in a kind of updated Tamworth Manifesto. I'm sure Noel Edmonds would be happy to assist.zwagdunb