Why Vince Cable should head up the Met Office - predicting the weather is a serious responsibility

01 August 2009

This week the Nationwide has reported that house prices have risen for three consecutive months. And there is more glee on the Stock Market which surged extremely close to its highest point for a year, encouraged by some better than expected corporate figures.

Rolls Royce has turned in good results and BSkyB reported a very strong finish with pleasing customer growth in the last three months to June. And the drug makers at Astra Zeneca have breathed a collective sigh of relief on discovering that swine flu was not, in fact, a government prompted diversionary tactic as some of us cynics suggested. So, on the back of a half year pre-tax profit of $5.6bn they can now make hay, as hay fever is the least of our snot engulfed worries.

But not everyone is ready to join the ‘Green Shoot Gang’. Moody’s ratings agency has downgraded its forecasts for the year, estimating that the UK economy will shrink by 4.4% by December. And the Centre for Economic and Business Research has issued the sobering prediction that, if we embark on a double dip recession, then unemployment figures will reach 3.8m within two years.

Forecasting the economy is not always easy, and experts’ advice often conflicts while modest investors look for a clear light to follow. For sure there are cycles, but we all crave clarity of guidance. Which brings me to Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrats shadow chancellor, the sensible voice amidst the blancmange of accusations and recovery plans that has characterised economic debate in the Commons over the past twelve months. The Right Honourable member for Twickenham knew that the economic Tsunami was on the way before 2007. In that alone he was not unique - but he said it. We just didn’t hear (no political motive in this blog).

Forecasting the weather is much harder than making sound fiscal predictions. But again, it is clarity and a realistic message that we want. The boffins at the Met Office, I’m sure, are the best in the business but they don’t understand that saying ‘there is a 65% chance of a warmer than normal summer’, will be translated by the media as: ‘IT’S GOING TO BE HOT, HOT, HOT – RUN TO THE BEACH EVERYONE!”

Not only does Dr Cable have a brilliant economic brain combined with a common sense style, he’s also media savvy. So my guess is that if he’d been in charge of the London Weather Centre in May, I wouldn’t have rushed out and wasted lots of cash buying sun screen and bbq briquettes!

So he gets my vote, at least for running the met office. And if he is too busy why not let a journalist have a go:

In 2010 we will see a week and a half of sunshine in May probably followed by a predominantly wet summer with temperatures hovering around the seasonal average i.e. cold.

You heard it here first.

Stuart Wilkin writes for Insider

Posted  01 August 2009


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