So not only does England only ever win the World Cup under a Labour government, but the weather is better, too. Even under the present regime no spin doctor has yet had the brass neck to claim cause and effect. But it does seem that health secretary Frank Dobson and his colleagues have escaped a stern test of their stewardship of the NHS this winter thanks to an unseasonally warm early January and the vagaries of viral mutation (See News Focus, page 9).

Of course, the extra pounds300m and better planning will have helped; though chancellor Gordon Brown may now be wondering whether he can have his money back. Having forked out once, he will certainly be less inclined next year to come up with extra money, no matter how bad the weather forecast. Having cried wolf this year on the health service's behalf, Mr Dobson will have his work cut out to convince Cabinet colleagues that the NHS's share of public spending next year and beyond should rise above current forecasts.

But it is essential that he should succeed, for even in this mildest of winters there is clearly little slack in the hospital system. The anecdotal evidence suggests that the long-term rise in NHS demand has certainly not been thrown into reverse, and welcome though they are, waiting list action teams and 24-hour helplines are not the whole answer. As for the chances of a second winter like this one, Scottish readers excepted, you would be better off putting your money on an England victory in Paris this summer.