Over the years a number of us have made fun of Polly Toynbee’s approach to facts and evidence. There even used to be a blog called Factchecking Pollyanna, the archives of which are available here, with commentary.
To today’s example:
Aged five, I stood at the school bus stop in the great London smog of December 1952: no sunlight, fog so pea-soup thick we couldn’t see the bus to flag it down. Though as many as 12,000 died, good came of it. The Clean Air Act cured my wheezing winters of pre-penicillin bronchitis.
Polly was, from this evidence, born in 1947. Penicillin was generally available in the UK from 1946:
On 15 March 1945, Penicillin could be made available over the counter in US pharmacies, although it would not be available to British civilians – as a prescription drug – until 1 June 1946, the year after Florey and Chain received a Nobel prize for their work.
The availability of penicillin predates both the NHS and Polly. Thus she did not suffer pre-penicillin bronchitis, did she?