On my personal blog I recently discussed the electioneering tactics of the Conservative party as they prepare for the next election. One recent ploy has been to recognise that a Tory party of grey haired old white guys wasn’t terribly appealing to voters, particularly women. This led to Cameron reshuffling his cabinet, appointing many more women (often middle aged) to the cabinet and the expense of more senior (often male) minsters.
Now while most of the men retired/fired as a result left gracefully, the arch conservative (and climate sceptic) former environment secretary Owen Paterson did not. Instead he had an angry confrontation with Cameron, in which he threatened “to out UKIP UKIP”, referring to the “swivel eyed” mad house of UKIP, otherwise known as the UK tea party.
Paterson then went off in a huff and had a good old rant in The Telegraph. In this article he affirmed his credentials as a climate change denier, while blaming his sacking not on Cameron, but on “the green blob”, whom he describes as ”a tangled triangle of unelected busybodies… who keep each other well supplied with lavish funds, scare stories and green tape”. Paterson then set himself up as the true blue champion of “the real countryside of farmers and workers”
Now the sharper amongst us may recall Owen Paterson as the minster being howled at by just such “farmers and workers” during the winter floods, largely due to the inaction of his department in dealing with the problem. This, along with the fact that he is a wealthy landowner does somewhat contradict his attempt at adopting a “man of the people stance”.Also as I recall pointing out at the time one of the consequences of the climate change Paterson denies is that such extreme weather events will in future become more common, and thus minsters feeling the raw end of public anger is part of the price to be paid for inaction on climate change.
And of course we cannot blame climate change alone for these floods, Paterson’s rather naive view that rivers exist only to act as little more than gutters was among his greatest hits. And cutting the amount spent on flood defences (against the advice of the Environment Agency) prior to the floods hardly helped.
And not listening to the scientific experts is something of a trend for Paterson. He only met with the government’s chief scientific adviser twice in 15 months (his predecessor met once a month). Paterson also ignored scientific advice and instigated an expensive culling of badgers that ultimately failed in its objectives. He also blocked efforts to curb the use of pesticides that are suspected of being linked to the alarming decline of bees. And far from trying to prevent fracking, or at the very least see the sorts of issues with it we’ve observed in the US are avoided, instead he urged full steam ahead for fracking. The term putting the fox in charge of the hen house doesn’t quite cut it!
However, clearly rather than accepting he was the victim of his own demise, Paterson’s ego forces him into the ridiculous fantasy that it was those nasty evil greens that were to blame. He for example highlights the funding that the Green lobby receives from the EU, ignoring the vastly higher sums the fossil fuel industry or pharmaceutical lobbyists he pals around with spend annually.
Needless to say, there will be many in the “Green blob” who will be glad to see the back of him. What Paterson’s reign does perhaps demonstrate is the sort of mental gymnastics those on the right will perform to maintain their fantasy. It also shows that Cameron is making a dangerous mistake by trying to appease the lunatic fringes of his own party. This was the mistake the Republicans made, and now they find themselves bracing closed the door to stop the Tea Party lunatics from taking over the asylum.
And it also shows that appointing a climate denier to the post of environment secretary makes about as much sense as making an avowed pacifist minster for defence!