Readers may be familiar with the operation of the pools panel. This body of football aficianados are invited to guess what might have happened, had the weather not prevented a particular fixture from taking place. (The original pools panel in 1963 comprised Sir Gerald Nabarro (a moustachio’d Conservative backbench MP), George Young (no relation - an ex –Scottish international) and the Tommies Lawton and Finney.
Supplied with the relevant statistics and a good lunch, they forecast the result of the postponed games for the benefit of those who played the pools; or, more accurately, for the benefit of those who operated the pools.
This pragmatic approach to the unpredictable intervention of the Almighty is now being extended to the field of education. Exam boards, I read, are working on contingency plans to award children GCSE and A-level grades, based on coursework and marks from modules already sat, if they are unable to attend an exam because of swine flu.
In the words of the Minister "There are already procedures in place if candidates can't sit their exams and are given special consideration. These can be put into action if things get worse. In contingency terms, all these things are being discussed by exam boards."
But why stop at exams? What happens, I ask myself, if the Prime Minister were to summon up the courage to invite Her Majesty to dissolve Parliament, and, between dissolution and polling day, the World Health Authority raised the pandemic level of swine flu to six, and we were all confined to our homes with face masks and packets of Tamiflu? It would not be possible to postpone the General Election; that requires a change in the law, and there would be no one entitled so to do. Canvassing and voting would be banned by COBRA, master-minding operations from a germ-free bunker in Whitehall.
Assuming the election is held when the football season is over, I believe we should invite the Pools Panel to intervene and decide the outcome. Candidates would submit the relevant information on form (in my case, played nine, won nine and appearing in front of a home crowd). But of course others would be allowed to submit their own case and the decision of the panel would be final. At 5 pm on a Saturday, James Alexander Gordon would be enticed out of retirement to read out the results. The appropriate Party Leader, who would be over the moon, would go off to the Palace to collect the trophy and the Leader of the Opposition would be sick as a parrot.
If it works, we might raise our sights. The next time a war looks imminent, the Pools Panel could declare the winner, without a shot being fired.