As the weather gets continually worse, the Meteorological Office feels an increasing need to improve its public relations image in case it gets the blame. So the big initiative of 2015 wasn’t a computer model to predict weather patterns or a more sensitive anemometer – it was the decision to make storms sound more media friendly by naming them after people.
But this apparently simple PR masterstroke turned out to be a can of worms in terms of political correctness.
The Met Office – working together with its Irish counterpart – asked the public to submit suitable names for storms. The ostensible reason it gave was to “aid the communication of approaching severe weather through media partners and other government agencies.” The public duly responded with thousands of email suggestions through FaceBook and Twitter.
But it was when it came to sort through the suggestions that the Met Office realised it had a potential PR disaster on its hands and political correctness took over – as the final list shows.
Their first task was to avoid the mistake made by the United States National Weather Service in the past when it named storms only after women – the implication being that these destructive natural phenomena somehow had feminine characteristics. The British list shows an admirably even-handed alternation of male and female names.
Nationalist issues were also involved because Atlantic weather systems affect Ireland as well as the British mainland, so we have names like Clodagh and Tegan on the list, alongside Steve and Wendy.
But it’s not so much the names that are included that show the fingerprints of political correctness as those that are conspicuous by their absence.
Mindful that Atlantic weather systems are usually unpleasant, can be harmful and destructive and – in extreme cases – violent, fatal and ruinously expensive, those responsible for compiling the list were careful not offend ethnic or religious groups by omitting names such as Jesus, or Mohammed, or Raj or Deepak.
There’s also nothing identifiably Jewish – no Aaron or Abraham or Rachel or Ruth. Where there is a difficult letter to fill, like J, the Biblical origin of the name (Jacob) has been disguised by Anglicising it to Jake.
Finally, the Met Office’s PC department have made sure there are no names that could give offence by being related to royalty – no Elizabeth or Charles or William, no Camilla or Kate.
However, I think they may have slipped up by letting Phil through. I can’t wait to read the Sun headlines when hurricane Phil is giving the peasants of North Wales a good lashing.