During World War II, the RAF were losing a lot of planes to anti-aircraft guns. When they studied the planes that came back from missions, they noticed some areas tended to have more bullet holes than others. So they decided to make sure any new planes were reinforced in those areas.
But a clever statistician called Abraham Wald pointed out that there was a glaring error in their thinking.
The planes they’d included in their study had taken bullets and still managed to get back home. What about the planes that hadn’t made it back? They must have been hit in the really important spots.
Wald’s plan was to reinforce new planes in exactly the areas where the ones that came back hadn’t taken any damage.
Welcome to the wonderful world of reframing the problem.
Now let me introduce you to a more contemporary issue. The issue of a no-deal Brexit.
Most people agree it’s a Bad Thing. Eurostar suspensions. Cattle culls. Expensive loaves of bread. Plummeting house prices. All that stuff. And yet we have a prime minister dead set on ruddy well leaving the EU on the 1st of November, deal or no deal.
In any other time, this would be considered madness.
The problem is that I don’t think we’re afraid of it anymore. If you’re a hardcore Brexiteer, ‘no deal’ even sounds nice and confident. The sort of thing you’d say in a negotiation.
Europe: “How about an Irish backstop?”
Britain: “NO DEAL!”
So let’s reframe it. Just like we did with global warming climate change.
From this point on, let’s stop calling it a no-deal Brexit. Let’s call it a no-plan Brexit. Because let’s be honest: we have no idea what we’re doing, or what we’re getting into.
I’d love to see the Brexiteers rally behind that.
[My colleagues have asked me to point out that these are all my opinions, not theirs or Schwa’s. So call off the attack dogs, Boris.]