Weathervanes and Signposts

Oh dear. My Conservative MP has just revealed himself to be a global warming alarmist. From his emailed newsletter:

Bill Wiggin MP trials fully electric BMW i3 to his summer surgeries
At the recent ‘Road to Zero’ Parliamentary reception, sponsored by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, Bill Wiggin MP won the opportunity to trial an electric car. Bill, who already drives a hybrid car to help reduce carbon emissions, is looking forward to driving the fully electric BMW i3 to his summer surgeries. 

From the same newsletter:

Bill Wiggin MP welcomed climate change activists from North Herefordshire who had travelled to Westminster to express their concerns. Key issues discussed included the scope and urgency of climate change, how best to use the influential position of the UK as a global leader in tackling climate change, and how technology plays an increasingly central role in encouraging greener lifestyle choices.

But in this respect he’s not much different from our new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, of whom he’s a strong supporter.

Bill Wiggin MP said “I am delighted for Boris and wish him the very best for a successful premiership. I am excited for the future of our County and our Country under this leader. He has the energy and vision to break the Brexit deadlock and leave the EU by 31 October.”

At least Bill Wiggin didn’t vote for the UK smoking ban, and so that puts him on the side of the angels (as opposed to the demons in Tobacco Control).

But I’m a bit surprised that he’s a climate change activist, who has just taken delivery of an electric car. I’m also a bit surprised that Boris seems to be a global warming alarmist as well.

It’s a bad sign, because it means they’re both People Who Believe Experts.

For almost certainly neither Bill Wiggin nor Boris Johnson know anything about climate and climate change, so they’ll both be listening to people who do know something (or claim to know something) about it.

And if they both believe the Experts about climate change and global warming, they’ll believe the Experts in pretty much everything else as well. Such people don’t really have their own opinions. Their opinions are shaped by other people, who do their thinking for them. They’re consensus thinkers. They’ll go along with the majority opinion, whatever it happens to be.

This is one reason why I don’t think Boris Johnson is going to deliver Brexit. I don’t think he’s determined enough. He’s famously been sitting on the fence about it (see below), and seems to have been a fairly recent convert to the Brexit cause. And that’s what is to be expected of someone who listens to The Experts in all matters. If they change their minds, he’ll change his.

Boris is what the late Tony Benn would call a “weathervane” politician (as opposed to a “signpost” politician, who always points in one direction). If the climate of opinion on any matter changes, he’ll change his opinion too.

By contrast, someone like Nigel Farage is a “signpost” politician. He points in one consistent direction. And neither he nor members of his Brexit  party believe Boris will deliver Brexit either.

“No, we can’t believe Boris because this is the man who first of all reportedly wrote two different versions of his columns to The Telegraph on whether we should Remain or Leave.”

Mr Johnson has u-turned on a number of positions in the past, including having voted for Mrs May’s withdrawal treaty on its third vote in the House of Commons, despite having voted it down twice before on grounds that it would reduce the United Kingdom to a “vassal state” or “colony” of the EU.

About Frank Davis

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15 Responses to Weathervanes and Signposts

  1. Rose says:

    As someone who was born during the dreadful, toxic industrial smogs, though I never believed in Global Warming – “the hottest year since records began” in 1850 during the Little Ice Age, I have no objection to cleaning things up .
    I appreciate that there is nothing quite like a deadline to get things moving and governments always seem to use fearmongering as a spur.
    When you clear away the distractions and stupid mistakes like talking green but quietly sending all our plastic waste to Indonesia (Leeds several years ago, they got found out by local tv) There is a lot to be said for the new innovations triggered by environmentalism, my washer and boiler being a case in point, I like the return of the new deposit bottle scheme as well. Just like when we were kids. The return of paper bags too, we changed to plastic bags only because the activists of the day insisted that paper manufacturers were killing the forests, even though they replanted more than they took.
    So as long as they don’t actually kill anyone or force them into poverty with their misguided zealotry, I’m inclined to be reasonably quiet.

    The great smog’s deadly toll

    “In the great London smog of 1952, some 4,000 people, mostly elderly, died. It was said to be the worst peace-time disaster in the capital since the Great Fire of London.

    Lessons were learned but on the 10th anniversary, the smog descended on Yorkshire and it was found not too much seemed to have changed. On December 6, in certain parts of Leeds, the sulphur dioxide concentrations were higher than the lethal levels recorded in London a decade earlier.

    Here is our report and comment:

    LONDON and Leeds were the areas worst hit by smog yesterday. In London last night the number of deaths neared the 70 mark and in Leeds over 50 people were in hospital “acutely ill” with respiratory illness.”

    “In the Kirkstall Road area of Leeds, the sulphur dioxide concentration was greater than that registered in London in 1952. At 5,185 microgrammes per cubic metre it was the highest ever registered in the city.

    The smoke content of the air has decreased since the last bad smog in 1959 said Mr RA Dalley the city’s analyst. This was due to the smoke control zone.”

    “Children’s lungs so damaged “will never be the same again”. So said Dr Mary Catterall, Research Officer in Respiratory Diseases at Leeds General Infirmary on Tuesday. She added: “Tonight there are probably thousands of people in the West Riding alone not only suffering from breathlessness but from pain in the chest and sleeplessness. In the great London smog of 10 years ago thousands died as a direct result of smoky fog. Nor is it to physical health only that damage is done; but it is by far the most important.”

    “Can nothing be done? Of course it can. The United States has turned many once grim, grimy, lethal industrial cities into shining, clean places where it is not only a joy to live but is also safe to live. Not so Britain. The Clean Air Act was passed over six years ago. Local authorities were vested with full powers to enforce smokeless zones.

    They have done very little. They have preferred to enlarge small difficulties into major obstacles; they have temporised. By so doing, they have put the health and well-being of those to whom and for whom they are responsible in hazard. They are responsible for deaths by smog.

    It is not to be tolerated that Leeds will not be smokeless before 1975, Hull before 1971, York before 1972, Bradford before 1975. The inhabitants of the cities and towns of England should bring every kind of pressure to bear on local authorities and MPs to accelerate the abatement of this filthy, costly, deadly nuisance.”

    So what did they do?

    First they blamed tobacco loudly and then quietly got on with implementing the Clean Air Acts.

    “After the 1962 report (on smoking and health), it was smoking and the type of public health which it epitomised which was to become the central public health issue. Smoking was something which the individual could do something about; air pollution was not,’ explains Professor Berridge.”

    But I don’t want a return to the days of choking smogs and the skies raining soot.

    • Smoking Lamp says:

      Indeed, there is substantial evidence that smoking was used to obscure (read cover up) the links between air pollution and disease. As reported at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine: “Fear of political embarrassment led to government cover up of link between air pollution and lung cancer”:

      Smog Conference: Leading historian documents how shift in public health agenda and political necessity combined to keep air pollution off the agenda.

      Delegates attending an international conference in London today to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Great London Smog of 1952, which caused an estimated 12,000 deaths, will hear how governments from the late 50s onwards deliberately downplayed the huge threat to public health caused by air pollution, and sought to shift the blame firmly onto cigarette smoking instead.

      Professor Virginia Berridge of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s History Unit has researched papers relating to cabinet committee meetings in the late ’50s looking into smoking, air pollution and lung cancer. She asserts that although there were clear political reasons for obscuring the link between air pollution and lung cancer, other factors, including a shifting public health agenda, which focused on an individual¹s responsibility for their health rather then environmental influences, were also key in ensuring that the issue of air pollution was ‘damped down’.

      ‘If you look at the manner in which the public health agenda has shifted since the aftermath of the Great Smog right up until the rise of the environmental movement in the 1980s, you can see that ‘smoke’ – be it atmospheric pollutants or cigarette smoke – has been a continuous symbol throughout the period’, she observes.

      In 1953, Dr Guy Scadding, speaking on the television programme Matters of Medicine, had expressed a belief that air pollution was as much a factor in whether someone developed lung cancer as smoking, citing the significantly higher number of deaths from the disease among those living in polluted cities, as opposed to the countryside, and assuming that rates of smoking were likely to be similar in both populations.

      A few years later, in 1957, the Medical Research Council was planning to issue a statement saying although smoking was a significant cause of lung cancer, up to 30% of cases might be caused by air pollution. But the Cabinet committee on cancer of the lung, fearful of another political embarrassment which could be caused by stressing the air pollution connection, asked the MRC to reconsider its statement. On 31 May 1957 a modified version was published, which asserted that although it was likely that atmospheric pollution did play a role in lung cancer, it was ‘a relatively minor one in comparison with cigarette smoking’.

      A committee was appointed by the Royal College of Physicians in 1959 to consider both the connection between smoking and air pollution, and to produce a report. But when it met on 17 March 1960, it decided to publish a separate report, giving smoking priority.

      ‘It was agreed that the evidence would be of an entirely different quality and nature’, explains Professor Berridge. ‘It was pointed out that individuals could avoid the dangers of smoking but not those of pollution. It was also thought that a section on atmospheric pollution within the main report might detract from the main arguments on smoking and lung cancer’.

      ‘What was happening in this committee was a shift away from a concept of health and wellbeing related to an individual¹s environment, occupation, class or work, towards one focused strongly on that individual’s responsibility for his or her health, which smoking came to symbolise. After the 1962 report, it was smoking and the type of public health which it epitomised which was to become the central public health issue. Smoking was
      something which the individual could do something about; air pollution was not,’ explains Professor Berridge.

      ‘The first Royal College of Physicians’ report in 1962 was a harbinger of a new style of public health, the first building block in a change which was fully in place by the end of the 1970s. But it was not until the 1980s that environmental public health finally began to make a comeback and, once again, it was the issue of smoking – and passive smoking in particular – which was to prove the turning point. However, this environmentalist agenda differed significantly from the earlier one. Passive smoking and the policies it helped to emphasise, combined with the individualism of 1970s public health and the new environmentalism of the ’80s, led to “environmental individualism”, bringing the two disciplines together at last’, concludes Professor Berridge.

      • Rose says:

        The Great London Smog 1952

        “On Friday morning, the fog was thicker than many people could ever remember. As the day wore on, it grew thicker still, even penetrating buildings. At Sadler’s Wells Theatre, a performance of La Traviata had to be abandoned when the audience could no longer see the stage. Cinema-goers were similarly disappointed.

        Those who were caught outside in the fog found their skin and clothing caked with filthy particles. Buses inched their way through the murk, their drivers navigating by hanging out of their cab windows, their windscreens blacked out by a film of slime. By Friday night, the number of respiratory cases admitted to hospital had doubled. But the gloom made the work of the ambulance service all but impossible.

        At the Smithfield Show at Earls Court, where the fog had seeped into the prize cattle’s quarters, many animals were taken sick, just as they had in the great fog of 1873. Thirteen had to be destroyed, and autopsies later showed that the animals had suffered from severe inflammation of the airways in their lungs.

        The fog did not lift until 10 December. The government’s interim report on the episode showed that there had been some 12,000 deaths as a result of the severe conditions.

        Then the ‘spin doctors’ of the day moved in. A cut-off date of 20 December was imposed, and at a stroke, the death toll was slashed to 4,000 in the final report issued nearly a year after the event. The Conservative government issued millions of flimsy masks as a measure against future disasters, although its own experts had informed it that the masks were worse than useless. The death tolls in several subsequent heavy fogs served only to prove the experts right.”

        The goverment were so panicked that they even invented a flu epidemic to cover up the number of deaths of all ages , because they knew they were responsible at least in part.

        “Findings published in New Scientist suggest that, contrary to official statements at the time, the killer pollution was far from an inevitable event over which the government had no influence. Critical to the level of contaminants in the air was the decision to raise funds by exporting high-quality coal.

        Poorer, more sulphurous material was consigned for domestic use, and the smoke from a million open coal fires poured into London’s lower atmosphere when there was no wind to disperse it.

        Anyone wishing to trace the history of political spin in modern times might find comments by politicians during the crisis illuminating. Government records reveal that local government minister Harold Macmillan telling the Cabinet: “We cannot do very much, but we can seem to be very busy – and that is half the battle nowadays.”

        Ministers decided that doctors should prescribe up to two million cheap gauze “smog masks’ to people with heart and respiratory diseases – even though they knew the masks were useless. Health minister Iain Macleod told Macmillan that the distribution of masks was “only a gesture” and that there was “no known mask” which would protect those at risk.

        In reality, there was something that might have been more than a gesture. The offer from an American tobacco company to donate 100,000 masks that used new filter technology was turned down, for fear that the company might later advertise its cigarette filters as “so good they keep out London smog”.

  2. garyk30 says:

    Belated anniversary:

    Sir Walter Raleigh brought the first tobacco back to England from Virginia on July 27th, 1586.

    The antis have been bitching about it ever since.

    • Rose says:

      The antis only started bitching in earnest after we had lost the wonderful Gloriana and the miserablist James 1st of England, 6th of Scotland and his merry band of Puritans had taken over the country, because having had to be the Virgin Queen to protect our country from takeover by foreign princes, she had no heir.
      It must have come as a dreadful shock to Elizabethan England, but with James 1st’s passion for witchunting, it undoubtedly got much worse.

      James 1st of England on tobacco

      “And now good Countrey men let us (I pray you) consider, what honour or policie can moove us to imitate the barbarous and beastly maners of the wilde, godlesse, and slavish Indians, especially in so vile and stinking a custome?

      Shall wee that disdaine to imitate the maners of our neighbour France (having the stile of the first Christian Kingdom) and that cannot endure the spirit of the Spaniards (their King being now comparable in largenes of Dominions, to the great Emperor of Turkie)

      Shall wee, I say, that have bene so long civill and wealthy in Peace, famous and invincible in Warre, fortunate in both, we that have bene ever able to aide any of our neighbours (but never deafed any of their eares with any of our supplications for assistance) shall we, I say, without blushing, abase our selves so farre, as to imitate these beastly Indians, slaves to the Spaniards, refuse to the world, and as yet aliens from the holy Covenant of God?

      Why doe we not as well imitate them in walking naked as they doe? in preferring glasses, feathers, and such toyes, to golde and precious stones, as they do? yea why do we not denie God and adore the Devill, as they doe?”

      But the antis don’t dare make that argument these days for obvious reasons.

      (You can tell that it’s raining and I’m taking a break from re-decorating the entire house, can’t you?)

      • garyk30 says:

        Decorating is such a chore. :)

      • Charles Burns says:

        Is that the same King James who “corrected” the Bible to change or omit passages favorable to the dreaded Papists and not so favorable to HM’s crew out there stealing Catholic wealth and property, and by doing so became families the defendants of which now sit in the House of Lord’s?

        • Rose says:

          Yes, he commisioned the King James Bible to better suit the Puritans but I didn’t know what amendments he had made.

          “King James wrote a dissertation titled Daemonologie that was first sold in 1597, several years prior to the first publication of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible. Within three short books James wrote a philosophical dissertation in the form of a Socratic dialogue for the purpose of making arguments and comparisons between magic, sorcery and witchcraft, but wrote also his classification of demons.

          In writing the book, King James was heavily influenced by his personal involvement in the North Berwick witch trials from 1590. Following the execution of a notorious sorcerer in the year 1591, the news of the trials was narrated in a news pamphlet titled Newes from Scotland and was included as the final chapter of the text. The book endorses the practice of witch hunting in a Christian society. James begins the book:

          The fearefull aboundinge at this time in this countrie, of these detestable slaves of the Devil, the Witches or enchanters, hath moved me (beloved reader) to dispatch in post, this following treatise of mine (…) to resolve the doubting (…) both that such assaults of Satan are most certainly practised, and that the instrument thereof merits most severely to be punished.”

          Not a man whose judgement I would trust on anything.

        • Charles Burns says:

          Not sure but was it him who changed to men of Goodwill to Goodwill to men. I always thought that was at least dishonest.

  3. waltc says:

    I just now on CSPAN caught Boris’s address to Parliament, his pledge to a willy-nilly Brexit and his handling of Corbyn who pulled out all the tired and universal (here, too) tropes of the left while tying Boris to Donald and believing that to be the crowning insult. Christ, those people on tne left are as trite and as predictable as a hangover. All of which is to say that I found your Boris impressive and refreshing and I’d guess that if anyone can deliver it’d be he though the decks (as here) are stacked against him. We seem to be in the same battle on both sides of the ocean and the outcome for each will be telling for the other.

  4. beobrigitte says:

    But I’m a bit surprised that he’s a climate change activist, who has just taken delivery of an electric car. I’m also a bit surprised that Boris seems to be a global warming alarmist as well.
    The climate change lobby, like the anti-tobacco lobby, is very powerful. Sceptics are silenced and told: “The science is settled”.

    To the electric car obsession: The determination of only ONE CAUSE of “climate change” (CO2) and it’s emission reduction plans are about as short-sighted as it gets. In order to “save-the-planet” we cause massive destruction of regions of it.
    Just 2 examples very briefly
    Lithium mining: uses a lot of water, is done mostly in already very dry areas.
    Rare earth mining: the radioactivity renders adjacent land/lakes unusable. Affected are the poor farmers/fisher men living there, depending on both.
    According to human rights activists child labour has increased.

    Isn’t it convenient to shove our problems to the developing world yet again?

    And, who or what is generating the additional electricity required to charge the electric cars with?

  5. slugbop007 says:

    Et tu Boris?


  6. Charles Burns says:

    Recently, several hundred Great White Sharks, a protected species for 20 years in the US, have been coming to Cape Cod, in Massachusetts and biting, even killing, a very few summertime beachgoers, even in waist deep surf. They come to hunt their natural prey, the grey seal, the population of which, after FIFTY YEARS of protection, has grown to such astounding numbers that great herds of “cute” seals by their hundreds, haul up on the beach to rest, after eating half their own weight in fish (thereby decimating the already decimated local fishing fleet,) while making loud and unpleasantly alien sounds and stinking to high heaven.

    As the interviewer asked the shark scientist, hoping for an affirmative answer, if “climate change” is the reason for the great influx of sharks, the shark expert, to his credit, said no, not at all.

    It seems they have records of shark populations off Cape Cod going back to the 1800s. Now, sharks migrate up and down the Western Atlantic according to the seasonal rise and fall of ocean temperature. And the sharks have NOT changed their migration patterns one iota in 150 years!

    Apparently the Great Whites do not believe in climate change and “rising” ocean temperatures. They still come to and leave Massachusetts waters at the same times that they always have.

    The problem is the unintended consequences of Save the Planet mentality manifested in government policies. There are now too many seals and too many sharks. So now shark alarmists have convinced the public to not go in the water, with a result that thousands of summer vacations have neen cancelled.

    But that’s OK, say the progressive smoker haters. We all must radically change our behaviours to protect “nature.”

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