An Ppen Letter from My Old Mate David Cameron to the People of Britain

August 25, 2011

 

Cameron: an apology (Photo: Rii Schroer)

Cameron: an apology (Photo: Rii Schroer)

In the latest Spectator I have written an open letter to my old university mate David Cameron. Here is a companion piece: the letter I’d like to see him write to the nation, having at last recognised the gravity of the crisis we’re in.

He won’t write it, of course.

Dear Britain,

If you realised just how totally stuffed we are you wouldn’t waste time getting to the end of this letter. You’d already be outside Number 10 with pitchforks demanding my head on a spike – and you’d be quite right to do so, for I have failed you. My cabinet has failed you. My Coalition government has failed you. And it’s no good our trying to blame the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown administrations for having failed you even more. We are where we are – and where we are is about as dire a place as Britain has ever found itself in in its entire existence.

That includes, let me assure you, even the darkest days of the Second World War. Back then, however bad things might get, we were cushioned by an empire, by America, by a sense of unity and purpose, by a national character defined by resilience, self-reliance, patriotism, decency and an absolute determination – even unto death – never to surrender to tyranny in any form.

Today, none of this applies. Our empire is gone; the US – read Mark Steyn’s brilliant After America – is now owned by China; our national character has been diluted by waves of unchecked immigration and by the sapping of moral and intellectual purpose which comes with decades of ingrained “progressivism”. As for tyranny we’ve already long since surrendered to it. It’s called the EU – and the fact that it has a caring, sharing, equality-loving, nurturing, “communitarian” face does not make it any less dangerous or anti-democratic than the kind of regimes that Louis XIV or Napoleon or Hitler or Stalin were trying to impose on Europe’s once-sovereign peoples. It just makes it more subtle, and sly, and ultimately more effective, that’s all.

Some people will laugh at me for telling you this. They’ll say that I’ve lost my head; that I’m panicking you needlessly. Oh really? And which one of the problems facing us, would you say, was overstated: the fact that the European economy is on the verge of collapse; that Britain currently has a £4.8 trillion debt, which it is nowhere close even to beginning to shave off; that our best ally, America, is in worse shape than we are thanks, not least, to the reckless spending of President Obama; that one in five children have parents who have never been in work; that, thanks to our abysmal, dumbed down, low-expectation schooling we have two generations without literacy, numeracy, or even the beginnings of an understanding of what it might involve to pursue a career which doesn’t depend either on crime or state handouts; that we can no longer afford an effective military; that our police force is so hamstrung by political correctness it is incapable of protecting people or property; that our political class is so utterly remote and ineffectual that voters can scarcely see any point in going to the ballot box any more, for wherever they place the X it won’t make the blindest bit of difference. First came Blair; now you’ve got the Heir To Blair. Nothing has changed; nothing will change until a politician of principle stands up and says: “Enough is enough.”

And that’s why I’m writing this letter to you now. I want, first, to apologise for the disaster I have been since “winning” – or rather “not quite losing” – the last General Election for reasons which were almost entirely the fault of myself and my political advisers.

We took the view – the cowardly, defeatist and wrong view, I now admit – that Britain had grown so irredeemably socialised under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that the only way a Conservative administration could ever regain power was by offering still more of the same (only with a green-tinged blue rosette instead of a red one, to give the punters the illusion they had some kind of democratic choice). The problem with adopting this attitude of “managed decline” – as my ideological soulmate Ted Heath found in the 1970s; and I’m finding now – is that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So what’s to be done? The good news that what needs to be done is very, very simple: the exact opposite of what got into us this mess in the first place. And what got us here, is excessive taxation, regulation, and government spending. We need to remember that there are only two kinds of government money: the kind it rips off from taxpayers in the productive sector of the economy; and the kind it borrows at rates of interest which mean it either has to borrow still more money or take still more money off the taxpayer. Either way the result is the same: an economy in which it becomes increasingly difficult for entrepreneurs, traders, small businessmen – the backbone of an economy – to go about their work. If they can’t go about their work then the economy cannot grow. And if the economy cannot grow, the government will need to take still more money from the taxpayer, or borrow still more money (at possibly even higher rates of interest) merely to maintain its current spending levels. The inevitable result is a spiral of decline.

But while the good news is that the remedy is very simple, the bad news is that it will be extremely hard to apply. One of the main reasons for this is the nature of the political class: whether on the Left or what currently passes for the “centre-Right”, its instincts are much the same – always to ask “what more can the Government do to help?” This is the wrong question, for the answer is always the same: more stifling bureaucracy; more parasite-like layers of administration; more regulation; more spending of money that the government simply does not have.

The other main reason is you, the British people. Far too many of you, for far too long have got far too used to the idea that government’s job is to wipe your backsides for you. And it’s not. Not from now on, at any rate. For one thing we can’t afford the paper. For another thing we can’t afford the staff to do something which most of you are perfectly capable of doing for yourselves. It’s a scandalous waste of other people’s money – taxpayer’s money – and the very last thing we need if we’re even to begin to hope to compete in a global economy against places like India and China and Brazil where the work force are perfectly capable of putting in 12 hour days and wiping their own backsides without any expectation that the state’s role is to do their dirty work for them.

That’s why I’m writing to you now to tell you like it is. What I’m hoping is that I’m straight with you, you’ll be straight with me in return. You’ll never again take the soft, easy, head-in-the-sand path of voting for which ever political party offers to bribe you the most with money it doesn’t have. You’ll vote for the one which acknowledges the scale of the problem facing us all and which has the courage and the will to deal with it.

That political party ought, by rights, to be the Conservatives. And perhaps – before I embarked on my misguided quest to “detoxify the brand” – it would have been. But as you may have noticed recently this is no longer case. We have a Justice Secretary more interested in the rights of criminals than law-abiding citizens; we have a Home Secretary who believes that policing should primarily serve the interests of Britain’s senior police officers rather than the citizens they’re supposed to protect; we have a Foreign Secretary – formerly a principled Eurosceptic – who has since done a Portillo and decided that his post-politics employment prospects are better served by selling British interests down the river at every turn, for that way a comfy future on the Euro gravy train lies.

And if you think the Conservative wets in my cabinet are a liability, imagine what it’s like having to govern with Liberal Democrats. We have an Energy and Climate Change Secretary whose primary purpose is to bomb our economy back to the age of the wattle and daub and the coracle; we have a Business Secretary who loathes business; we have a Deputy Prime Minister who doesn’t know what he wants except that it has to be the opposite of whatever Conservatives want otherwise he’ll get torn to pieces by his own party.

This is no way to run a country. It is especially no way to run a country on the brink of a precipice. That is why today I’m going to offer you a clear political choice. I’m scrapping the Coalition, because 2013 is far, far too late to start out on the rescue package which needs to be initiated now. Instead, I’m going to stake my political career and the future of Britain by calling an immediate general election.

After that it’s up to you: liberty or the soft, enervating tyranny of the Left; growth or stagnation; future or no future; jobs or no jobs for your children and grandchildren. You choose.

Related posts:

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  3. I hate to say this but Cameron’s speech has just won him the election
  4. David Cameron’s shale gas lifeline

 

Simon Singh: Is There Anything He Doesn’t Know?

Singh by Josh
Singh by Josh

Congratulations to Simon Singh. Not only is he Britain’s third most famous celebrity mathematician after Carol Vordermann and Johnny Ball but he is also, it seems, a supremely persuasive debater. His fluent performance in last week’s Spectator global warming debate was adjudged by both Andrew Neil and Spectator editor Fraser Nelson to be the best of the evening.

As Nelson noted in a Tweet:

Simon Singh @slsingh makes superb defence of climate orthodoxy. It’s the “don’t think trust experts” argument, but delivered brilliantly.

Singh chose to take offence at this, prompting Tweets of sympathy from fellow travellers including columnist David Aaronovitch and BBC talk radio host Simon Mayo. To put Nelson in his place, he fired off what he apparently considered to be the five killer questions which proved his point entirely:

1. Do you agree that increases in CO2 and other greenhouse gases lead to an increase in the global temperature?

2. Do you agree CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased from 280ppmv to 380ppmv (35%) during period of industrialisation?

3. Do you agree that the Earth’s climate has warmed by 0.6 degrees in the last 50 years?

4. Do you agree human contribution to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is major factor in the warming over the last century?

5. Do you agree best scientific predictions estimate further rise of 1.1 to 6 C over 100 yrs based on good (not perfect) models?

Er, can anyone else detect in Singh’s response the sound of Punxsutawney Phil, scrabbling his way out of his little groundhog hole for the billion and first consecutive day in a row?

Let’s have a shot at answering them for him.

1. No. This remains an unproven hypothesis, predicated on assumptions of positive climate feedbacks which exist only in computer models not observed reality.

2.  Yes, CO2 levels have certainly risen in that period, but correlation is not causation. And in any case, CO2 levels have continued to rise since 1998 when there has been no global warming.

3. Possibly, though the unreliability of the temperature data sets which have been artificially adjusted by politicised, parti-pris institutions like NOAA and the CRU makes it hard to be sure.

4. No, this remains at best an unproven hypothesis.

5. No: almost every word of that sentence is based on politics not science. The models are hopelessly flawed and inevitably so given that climate is a chaotic system. Even if they were accurate and the 6 degree rise is looking increasingly implausible greater warmth will, on balance, be good for the planet. It’s global cooling we should fear far more.

Do I know all these answers (suggested improvements welcome, by the way) because I’m the most brilliant scientist of my generation who could have solved Fermat’s Last Theorem in five minutes if only I could have been arsed? Why, no. I’ve become acquainted with this really very basic, entry level climate science using a technique I practised occasionally on my Oxford English literature course known as “reading.”

“Reading” is a good way of learning stuff. Singh ought to try it some time, as perhaps ought his celebrity chums Aaronovitch and Mayo (who claims to have quit reading the Spectator because of its ‘anti-science bias’.) It really would make all the difference to their understanding of current thinking on Climate Change.

That list of killer questions brandished by Singh as his ne plus ultra of scientific authority? Well it might just about have passed muster  five years ago, when the public was still treating films like An Inconvenient Truth as if they were the Sermon on the Mount.

But since then, there have been one or two changes.

Books like this and this have been written.

Sceptic sites like this, this and this have acquired critical mass.

Stories like this have broken.

This isn’t to say that it is compulsory to believe every word they say. (Though I’ve yet to read a successful refutation of Andrew Montford’s book, for example) But what is utterly, credibility-shreddingly, intelligence-insultingly risible is for people like Simon Singh to stand up in a public debate hall and act as if none of them has ever happened.

Yet this is just what Singh did in the Spectator debate. (And what the rest of the Warmist establishment continues to do too: watch this space for an account of the University of East Anglia’s desperate attempts to silence this column).

He resorted to that last refuge of the scoundrel: the Appeal to Authority.

The reason you should believe in AGW, he argued, is because most of the world’s expert scientific bodies do. Since Simon Singh apparently so reveres the thing he calls “science” (but which I would call the ruling science establishment hegemony: something altogether different from the disinterested pursuit of knowledge which I believe “science” properly is), let me invoke two great scientific thinkers to put him back in his box.

I’m grateful to Nicholas Hallam at Bishop Hill’s blog for drawing them to my attention:

When men are established in any kind of dignity, it is thought a breach of modesty for others to derogate any way from it, and question the authority of men who are in possession of it. This is apt to be censured, as carrying with it too much pride, when a man does not readily yield to the determination of approved authors, which is wont to be received with respect and submission by others : and it is looked upon as insolence, for a man to set up and adhere to his own opinion against the current stream of antiquity ; or to put it in the balance against that of some learned doctor, or otherwise approved writer. Whoever backs his tenets with such authorities, thinks he ought thereby to carry the cause, and is ready to style it impudence in any one who shall stand out against them. This I think may be called argumentum ad verecundiam.

John Locke, “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, Book 4, Chapter XVII, 19

and

Today, the appeal to the authority of experts is sometimes excused by the immensity of our specialized knowledge. And it is sometimes defended by philosophical theories that speak of science and rationality in terms of specializations, experts, and authority. But in my view, the appeal to the authority of experts should be neither excused nor defended. It should, on the contrary, be recognized for what it is an intellectual fashion and it should be attacked by a frank acknowledgement of how little we know, and how much that little is due to people who have worked in many fields at the same time. And it should also be attacked by the recognition that the orthodoxy produced by intellectual fashions, specialization, and the appeal to authorities is the death of knowledge, and that the growth of knowledge depends entirely upon disagreement

Karl Popper, Author’s Note, 1993, The Myth of the Framework

Some readers may detect a soupcon of withering contempt towards Singh and his kind in this particular blog post. I wonder what else he expects when he refers to climate change sceptics as “Muppets”. Unless Singh can raise his game and actually engage with the argument rather than bullying his opponents with the help of Sleb Twitter pals and his Ipse Dixit logical fallacies, I think we all know who the real muppet is.

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2 thoughts on “Simon Singh: is there anything he doesn’t know?”

  1. John D says:3rd April 2011 at 12:56 amHey James, maybe you should retitle your article as “James Delingpole: is there anything he does know?” given your performance on the BBC documentary…
  2. Nige Cook says:3rd April 2011 at 8:05 amThe man dismissed in Socrates’ Apology, according to Plato: “οὖτος μὲν οἴεταί τι εἰδέναι οὐκ εἰδώς, ἐγὼ δέ, ὥσπερ οὖν οὐκ οἶδα, οὐδὲ οἴμαι”.“This man, on the one hand, believes that he knows something, while not knowing. On the other hand, I – equally ignorant – do not believe.”

    This fine distinction between peer-reviewed crap and proved facts is clearly explained by Professor Richard P. Feynman’s address, “What is Science?”, presented at the fifteenth annual meeting of the National Science Teachers Association, 1966 in New York City, published in The Physics Teacher, vol. 7, issue 6, 1968, pp. 313-320:

    “You must here distinguish – especially in teaching – the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. … great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers. … We have many studies in teaching, for example, in which people make observations, make lists, do statistics, and so on … They are merely an imitative form of science … The result of this pseudoscientific imitation is to produce experts, which many of you are. … As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.”

    Pseudoscience, not science, is the consensus of expert opinion; pseudoscience is defended by fashion, mud slinging, etc.

    Professor Irving L. Janis, “Victims of Groupthink,” 1972, p. 197:

    “Eight main symptoms run through the case studies of historic fiascoes. … The eight symptoms of groupthink are:

    1. an illusion of invulnerability, shared by most or all the members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages taking extreme risks;

    2. collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead the members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to their past policy decisions;

    3. an unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, inclining the members to ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions;

    4. stereotyped views of enemy leaders as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too weak and stupid to counter whatever risky attempts are made to defeat their purposes;

    5. direct pressure on any member who expresses strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, making clear that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

    6. self-censorship of deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to himself the importance of his doubts and counterarguments;

    7. a shared illusion of unanimity concerning judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent);

    8. the emergence of self-appointed mindguards – members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter their shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.”

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Rod Liddle knows even less about Climate Change than I do about Millwall FC

Rod’s clumsy play for publicity

Young Rod - in cap, lower middle - enjoys some clean sporting fun with his pater at Millwall, 1935

Young Rod – in cap, lower middle – enjoys some clean sporting fun with his pater at Millwall, 1935

In a shameless attempt to win some readers for his little known Spectator blog, Rod Liddle has thrown together a desperate post with the highly offensive and almost certainly libellous headline The Politically Correct James Delingpole. It’s about my reaction to Richard Curtis’s ecofascist snuff movie No Pressure, which Rod reckons was overdone.

But there is something which does not quite ring true in his attacks upon a film made by Richard Curtis for the 10:10 climate change movement, exemplified by his piece in this week’s magazine. He has been ranting and raving about this film for ages and I cannot tell if his outrage and lack of humour is real, or post-modern ironic.

It’s puzzling that Rod should be puzzled because I did in fact spell the whole thing out on my You Know It Makes Sense column this week.

So let me explain for those die-hard defenders of ‘No Pressure’ why it wasn’t funny on any level whatsoever. And no, it isn’t because of the exploding children. Not per se. Sure, it’s a risky business, in the age of the suicide bomber, trying to extract comedy out of gruesomely atomised kids. But that doesn’t necessarily put such things beyond the pale. In comedy nothing ought to be beyond the pale, for that is part of its purpose, as the safety valve which allows us to say the unsayable. What matters is its context and its satirical point. Only then are we in a position to judge whether the sketch ‘works’ or whether it has failed horribly.

The reason Curtis’s joke failed horribly, I went on, is because it worked neither as effective satire nor as comedy of observation.

The joke would only work if all reasonable people thought ‘Christ, climate change deniers are a pain. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we could just — tee hee — kill ’em rather than have to engage with their tedious, action-delaying arguments?’

What I didn’t mention in the piece for reasons of space, though I think it’s quite an interesting paradox is this: though the original No Pressure video was desperately unfunny, many of the pastiches were funny. The one where children were exploded, for example, for not submitting to the “Religion of Peace” had a readily comprehensible satirical point that Richard Curtis’s did not.

Anyway, of course I wasn’t really offended that Rod chose to embarrass himself by getting things so totally wrong and making everyone hate him and think he’s incredibly stupid and smelly. What I am, though, is disappointed.

Here’s the bit that really disappointed me:

You do not have to agree with Curtis, or 10:10 (though I don’t see what’s wrong with cutting carbon emissions, regardless of whether you sign up to AGW) to find it funny.

Do you see the bit I mean? It’s that trite bit in parenthesis where the normally well-informed, clear-sighted and acerbic Liddle ventures an opinion based on little more than WWF and Greenpeace press hand outs.

If Rod ever took me to a Millwall match – I’m not asking, you understand, this is just a theoretical scenario – I think I’d know better than to declare in a loud, fruity voice that the offside rule was silly, very silly, or that the game would be lot more enjoyable if the players weren’t so infernally competitive and the fans so foul-mouthed, and couldn’t someone teach them to sing the Eton Boating Song instead of all this four letter stuff?

I would expect Rod to show a similar degree of diligence in matters he clearly knows eff-all about, climate change being the most blindingly obvious one. And the same applies, though to a lesser extent, to my blog colleague – and Rod’s old mucker – Andrew Gilligan.

Gilligan has been doing some stormingly good exposes, of late, on the unutterable uselessness of wind farms. But blogging last month he went and ruined an intelligent, well-argued blog with this entirely unnecessary paragraph:

The problem with British greens is not that they’ve misdiagnosed the problem – I’ve very little doubt that climate change is real. Even in the unlikely event that the science is wrong, it’s not a gamble we can afford to take.

And your evidence for that statement is what, exactly, Andrew? Or, to put it another way, how would you feel if I were to write a blog astringently critiquing Lutfur Rahman and suddenly declare, en passant, that I’d walked past the East London Mosque the other day and that its calm, peaceful, delightfully mosquey appearance had left me in “very little doubt” that claims of its extremist tendencies were an outrageous calumny.

The sad thing here is that both Liddle and Gilligan are journalists I very much admire: proper, courageous, counterintuitive journalists who do their research, are never afraid to speak truth to power and write with verve and conviction. One day, I’m sure, they’ll come round to appreciate what many readers of this blog already do – that the Climate Change circus  represents possibly the greatest outbreak of mass hysteria in history, that it’s probably the worst pseudoscientific scandal in history and that it’s being used as an excuse to impose on us the biggest bill in history. It’s a story that is worth proper investigation and the sooner the cause of truth and justice has the likes of Liddle and Gilligan fully onside, the better for us all.

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