Today, something happened that I found ferociously unsettling.
As I have mentioned before, I read a lot of newspapers. I mostly read papers I am likely to become enraged by, although even with that as my intention, I still have to avoid The Guardian - I am looking for material for this blog, not a fucking social conscience or an aneurysm (both of which are near the top of my "do not want" pile, along with a Prius, a job as a social worker in the Liverpool slums and an anthology of poetry by the homeless that has appeared in the Big Issue - this is why I can't read The Guardian).
The trouble is, if you read newspapers that you hate, very occasionally you will read something there that you agree with. And that makes you question everything. It happened to me today with The Daily Express, and I have been a babbling, confused mess ever since.
The Daily Express has forged a campaign to try and petition David Cameron to hold a referendum in May on whether or not Britain should stay in the EU - tying it in with a referendum on alternative voting (which I don't think anyone much understands about). They believe that this would encourage a far greater voter turn out. I agree. Undoubtedly - tag a whopper of an issue like that on to a minnow that nobody knows or cares a great deal about? You don't have to be a master of political forecasting to predict that that will have a positive effect on voter turn out.
So I agreed with that bit, fine, but that bit is a no brainer.
What I also agreed with, was their reasoning on why this referendum would be such a good idea, and, crucially, why the decision the public should make is to back out of the EU.
This is a huge topic, and I'm not going to get into the myriad reasons why I don't like my country being part of what The Express rather sensationally call the European "Superstate". Not right now, anyway, because it's Thursday, and I have to go to a pub quiz down my local, so I don't have time. That beer money isn't going to win itself, kids. So, slightly nerdy social commitments notwithstanding, the focus of today's rant is on one particular directive from Brussels, which was brought in last week and which is a steaming pile of chemically pure bullshit.
Basically, they have decreed, as is their wont, that insurance companies are not allowed to discriminate between men and women when calculating premiums. OK, so that sounds like quite a boring thing to get all spleeny about, but stick with me.
Insurance, as an industry, has at its core the concept of risk. Essentially, the more risk there is of them having to pay out, the more they will charge for a policy. It has ever been thus.
It's a simple concept, but the models and software (yeah, I know, risk management, software, this is all as riveting as fuck) that are used to calculate this stuff are complex and worth millions. Massive amounts of data are used to profile where risk is higher, and this process, by its very nature, is discriminatory. You can analyse whether a young person is more likely to claim on their car insurance than an older person, or whether a woman is likely to live longer than a man, and you can put a person's details up against this data to work out how much risk insuring them with a given insurance product represents. What you can't do, is predict how much of a risk insuring a person represents if you aren't allowed to consider anything about them that makes them different from any other person.
Some companies specialised in discriminatory insurance, which enabled them to offer better premiums to say, female drivers, or the over 50's. This allowed the market to be competitive and products to be tailored to clients' specific needs - commercially, this was a better deal for everybody.
But no. The EU is not happy to admit that anybody is different from anybody else. You can't have a product tailored to your specific needs, because your needs must be the same as every other human being's needs, because everybody is the same and equal and that's how the world will become a better place.
Bullshit. If an insurer cannot analyse whether you are a man or a woman, they will have to charge you the premium for the group most statistically risky, just to be on the safe side, or they will be royally fucking themselves. So theoretically, just about everybody would see their premiums go up. Good news for the insurers? No, because they can't innovate in their products and can essentially only offer the exact same thing as their competitors.
This effectively means that by way of some meddling by a council of people from other countries into something that nobody was particularly offended by, everything is just a little bit more fucked than it was before, and it's very hard for me to see who exactly is benefiting. This is the worst thing about the stuff the EU imposes, it's not like there is even any fucking point to it for anyone on any side. It's just anal, PC bossiness for the sake of anal, PC bossiness.
And so, for the first time ever, I am on the side of the paper that still prints at least one story per day about Lady Di. Strange times call for strange alliances, people.
As mentioned yesterday, you can now follow me on the dreaded Twitter if that floats your metaphorical boat, at www.twitter.com/Pony_and_Trap. Now I'm going to the pub.