The Top 10: Subjects on Which Otherwise Sane People Go a Bit Loopy

John Rentoul
Jane Austen will feature on £10 notes from September. But whoever is on whichever note, someone will moan: Bank of England

This list started with letter to The Daily Telegraph from Lord Lexden, the historian of the Conservative Party formerly known as Alistair Cooke, saying that a new Royal Yacht Britannia had “overwhelming support” and would fulfil a “deep longing” for Britain to show that it is “confident” outside the EU. Laurence Janta-Lipinski pointed out that 57 per cent in one poll said spending public money on it would be unjustified. Philip Cowley said it was “one of those subjects where otherwise sane people go a bit loopy – see also wind turbines, fox-hunting, recycling”. Here are 10 more.

1. The price of Freddos. Used to be 10p, now 30p. Nominated by Anna Rhodes (“and the entire Independent office”), who also suggested “politicians not knowing the cost of a pint of milk” and “bus timetables”.

2. Hospital car parking charges. “Am I alone in wanting the NHS budget to be spent on healing the sick?” asked Graham Kirby‏. Actually, just “parking” would qualify.

3. The Great British Bake Off moving to Channel 4. I believe it is a cookery programme, m’lud. Jack McCabe‏ suggested that the response was not proportionate to the change.

4. Thought For The Day. The god slot on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, which fails to move Andrew Old, for or against. He also nominated faith schools, the monarchy, badger culls and how to pronounce “scone”.

5. People on banknotes. Thanks to Ian Blandford‏, who also listed flags, poppies, Israel and history lessons in schools.

6. The BBC’s weather map, over which Scottish Nationalists “lost it”, according to Adrian McMenamin, because the perspective appeared to make Scotland smaller. He also said: “The Irish fought a civil war over which version of an oath of allegiance parliamentarians should swear.”

7. Apple and its products. Rob Ford alone nominated 10 things. The other nine were: genetically modified food; Star Wars; Star Trek; Margaret Thatcher; the 1980s; the European Court of Human Rights; speed cameras; John Lewis Christmas adverts; and road pricing.

8. Wine, dogs and grammar. Another multiple entry, which sounds like a weekend in Crouch End, from Hugo Rifkind. He also suggested Crossrail, ID cards and the Pope; Bob Dylan; cannabis; artificial intelligence and Helen Mirren.

9. Background music on TV. Proposed by Mike Martin, along with the size of Cadbury’s Creme Eggs, teachers’ holidays and building anything in a village.

10. Trying to buy the correct light bulb in one visit to B&Q. John Whittle had a different take, of things that ought to be trivial but which induce justifiable loopiness, including getting the clear wrapper off a new CD and turning a screw, nut or bolt from behind.

Inevitably, some readers tried to undermine the editor’s authority by nominating modern architecture and changes to Twitter (Andrew Denny‏), incomprehensible blind spots about the Beatles (Colin Gumbrell‏), and the compiling of lists (Lawrence Freedman‏). They were doing it deliberately, but others (Sam Freedman‏ and Jambo Stuart-Clarke‏) inadvertently nominated subjects about which I think it is right to feel, if not strongly, but that they matter: bin collections, the colour of passport covers and the metric system.

Next week: Self-referential songs, such as “Five Years” (“I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour, drinking milk shakes cold and long/ Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don’t think you knew you were in this song.”)

Coming soon: Embarrassing siblings

The e-book of Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop is just £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to