In cricket and politics, the best hitters can read spin

28th Jun 2021


Cricket and politics mix readily; well they do in my house anyway. And the summer is prime time for watching cricket and deciphering political spin. Let us take, as an example, a recent article that credited the CCC with stating, “simply replacing all the natural gas we use in the UK with green hydrogen would require the equivalent of 30 times the capacity of all the UK’s existing offshore wind farms”. Now that statistic might be true, but it is hardly an innocent remark.

Let us decode the spin.

Firstly, who is suggesting this replacement takes place? I don’t know anyone, do you?

Secondly, why limit the comparison to just green hydrogen? More responsible figures in the debate see a role for blue hydrogen (with CCS), imported hydrogen, biomass with CCS as well as electrolysis. (See page 158 of the Sixth Carbon Budget, produced by, yes, the CCC).

Thirdly, why use the term ’30 times the capacity’ when you have the actual data to hand? The CCC could have said, ‘our analysis shows a range between 160 and 375TW of hydrogen needed by 2050’. They didn’t, why? Could it be that they wanted to exaggerate the requirement, to downplay the growing call for a widespread hydrogen economy, which is contrary to the CCC’s analysis? Or did they think the average reader of The Times could visualise 30 times the UK offshore wind farm capacity but not 375TW hours of gas?

I’m not much of a batter, but I recognise spin when I see it. This has all the hallmarks of prepared lines to take, produced by a PR team and delivered by the CEO. But my issue isn’t just the spin, but the motive behind it. Why wasn’t the comment simply factual? Advisors, when speaking to the public, (and when paid by us, the taxpayer) should stick to the facts and cut out the spin. Playing a straight bat earns more respect than trying to be clever with spin. It’s a risky game bowling spin, at times you can bamboozle, other times you get hit out of the ground.