Michael Simmons

Michael Simmons

Michael Simmons is The Spectator's Data Editor

Boris faces the music at the Covid inquiry

12 min listen

It was a big day in the Covid inquiry as Boris Johnson gave evidence for the first time. Just as Johnson launched into an apology during his opening statement, protestors off-camera made their presence known. There were also revelations concerning the attention he paid to Sage minutes and Cobra meetings and the former prime minister

Carbon capture: how China cornered the green market

30 min listen

On the podcast: In her cover piece for the magazine, The Spectator’s assistant editor Cindy Yu – writing ahead of the COP28 summit this weekend – describes how China has cornered the renewables market. She joins the podcast alongside Akshat Rathi, senior climate reporter for Bloomberg and author of Climate Capitalism: Winning the Global Race to Zero Emissions, to investigate China’s

Did Covid expose a ‘failure of imagination’?

11 min listen

This week it is the scientists’ turn to appear before the Covid Inquiry with Sir Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer and Sir Patrick Vallance. James Heale speaks to Fraser Nelson and The Spectator’s data editor, Michael Simmons to discuss the findings this week. 

Was Eat Out to Help Out really behind the second wave?

Did Eat Out to Help Out increase Covid? It’s a conclusion the inquiry and lockdown’s cheerleaders seem keen to push. Today they got their wish with Sir Patrick Vallance telling the inquiry it is ‘very difficult to see how it wouldn’t have had an effect on transmission’. Those comments have already been taken out of

Michael Simmons, Christopher Howse and Melissa Kite

19 min listen

This week, Michael Simmons looks at the dodgy graph thats justified the second lockdown (00:55), Christopher Howse examines what happened to received pronunciation (05:56), and Melissa Kite wonders whether Surrey’s busybodies have followed her and her boyfriend to Cork (14:47). Presented and produced by Max Jeffery.

We’re still recovering from lockdown’s impact on children

Some 140,000 children missed more than half of the school days they should have attended this spring. Research by the Children’s Commissioner, published today, finds that only 5 per cent of these ‘severely absent’ kids go on to achieve five GCSEs. For year ten and 11 pupils who are persistently absent – meaning they miss one

Dodgy data risks breaking Universal Credit

As many as one in 20 Universal Credit payments to working Brits are wrong. Claimants are at risk of destitution when they’re underpaid and accused of fraud when they’re overpaid, as the Department for Work and Pensions has been using a flawed data stream provided by HMRC to calculate Universal Credit payments. This week The Spectator revealed how

The taxman’s dodgy data

Ten years ago, HMRC unveiled what was billed as ‘the biggest change’ to the tax system since PAYE began in 1944. The taxman mandated employers to report their workers’ pay every time they ran payroll. Introduced to support Universal Credit by providing earnings data in close to real time, it has since been used to

What can we hope to learn from the Covid inquiry?

16 min listen

This week there have been some interesting developments in the public Covid-19 inquiry where scientists and mathematical modellers have been giving testimony on how prepared the government was to tackle the pandemic and how they used expert advise.  Within the sessions, WhatsApp messages revealed that Dame Angela McLean – who at the time was chief

The Covid inquiry asked the wrong questions of Neil Ferguson

SPI-M-O are at the Covid inquiry this week. They’re the shadowy group of mathematical modellers who contributed – more than most – to the evidence that backed up lockdown. On Monday we heard from Professor Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University. Surprisingly – for an inquiry that seems from the outset to be focused on the

It’s official: we don’t know how many people are unemployed

For perhaps the first time in its history, the Office for National Statistics does not know how many employed, unemployed and economically inactive people there are in the country. This morning, the monthly labour market figures were due to be published. But late last week news slipped out that the employment portion of the release

How the SNP botched Scotland’s census

Scotland’s first census results have finally been released: just 444 days after England managed to publish theirs. The once-a-decade count of the population was disastrous at worst and botched at best. As the first deadline for returning the census loomed last April, some 700,000 households – a quarter of the country – were threatened with

Scotland’s drug deaths shame

Scotland continues to suffer drug deaths at levels unseen anywhere else in the UK or Europe. Three Scots die as a result of drugs every single day. That is nearly three times worse than any other country for which records exist. This scandalous figure has just been updated, and shows that, although the number of

Degrees of failure: is university still worth it?

33 min listen

This week:  The cover of The Spectator magazine looks at whether after years of Covid-based disruption, rising cost and lecturer strikes, university students are getting what they paid for. The Spectator’s data editor Michael Simmons writes a sidebar in which he rails against some of the changes that are happening to university freshers’ week and joins the podcast alongside

Michael Simmons

In defence of drunken freshers’ weeks

I don’t remember much of freshers’ week at Edinburgh. Friends have helped to fill in the blanks. I vaguely recall a police officer handing out vodka shots to show how easy it was to fail a breathalyser test. A famous DJ had his set in the union cut short because he played the song ‘Blurred