If we didn't already have a worthy Wanker of the Week, journalist John-Paul Flintoff would have been a very strong candidate.
Today's Sunday Times Review (20th April 08) has a major article he has written, an interview with Nigel Lawson, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has joined the ranks of the climate change sceptics. He believes David Cameron's green agenda is overblown, biofuels are useless and carbon trading resembles 'nothing so much as the sale of indulgences by the medieval church'.
Unfortunately, Flintoff doesn't appear to understand the nature of an "interview". Most of us believe that when interviewing a famous person, the journalist should ask pertinent questions and then publish the answers, although we normally accept that a certain amount of licence must operate in order to make the resulting article (a) interesting and (b) short enough for publication.
Flintoff's approach is rather different - he asks questions, listens to the answers and then writes down his own personal opinion.
He nails his colours (his own colours, that is, not Lawson's) to the mast right from the outset …
"I can't pretend I'm expecting to get on with Nigel Lawson. In fact, I'm worried that I might lose my cool - say something I'll regret, perhaps even bop him on the nose. On receiving his new book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, I find myself handling it as though it is toxic; I even flinch at the expression of fierce intellectual arrogance in the author's photograph.
"Lately, he's raised my blood pressure even further by pooh-poohing the idea of climate change and resisting any attempt to address what most people accept as a pressing reality."
Really, Mr.Flintoff? What most people accept as a pressing reality? Who do you mean by "most people" - you and George Moonbat? Forgive me if I follow your own example and ignore journalistic integrity by writing from a purely personal standpoint, but of all my own acquaintance I can only think of three people who actually believe in man-made global warming, and one of them's a 14-year-old girl. In my experience, most people agree with Nigel Lawson.
Flintoff continues "To begin with, I tell Lawson I'm glad somebody of his background has made absolutely clear the uselessness of biofuels, carbon trading ("it has done nothing to reduce emissions, merely awarded subsidies to selected emitters"), and carbon offsetting ("a scam . . . it resembles nothing so much as the sale of indulgences by the medieval church")." Makes you wonder who's being interviewed, doesn't it, Lawson or Flintoff?
"I ask why his book overlooks the likelihood that oil may be approaching a terminal peak in supply. If, as most scientists believe, warming is caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, surely he should have tackled this important issue?
"People have been talking about 'peak oil' for as long as I can remember," Lawson says, with a sniff. "It's not going to happen in the foreseeable future."
Hang on a minute. The Hirsch report, commissioned by the US Department of Energy, concluded that we need to prepare for the likelihood of oil shortages at least two decades in advance. And President George Bush, challenged recently to ask the Saudis to pump more oil for the US, replied that they may not have the capacity to pump more. Lawson is unfazed. "They've got plenty," he says.
End of argument. How can he possibly know this? Saudi oil reserves are not independently audited. But Lawson has a kind of lofty certitude in such matters."
Lofty certitude? Well, b*gg*r me quietly with a badger, he's only an elder statesman, a baron, a rich and successful businessman, a leading member of British society, in his day the longest-serving Chancellor since Lloyd-George (incidentally, my father knew Lloyd-George - GOS), a former editor of The Spectator, a successful author and one of the finest public speakers alive - what right does he have to an opinion? Especially one that differs from yours, all-knowing Flintoff with whom all men must agree?
"Predictably, he is a big supporter of nuclear energy." But Flintoff doesn't even bother to ask him any questions about it - his own opinion is far more important: "Yet experts point out that if we try to match the world's current energy requirements using nuclear power alone, we'll run out of uranium in little more than a decade. Lawson ripostes, perhaps rightly, that uranium prospecting has never been carried out properly, so there's probably much more out there," but Flintoff brushes him off with consummate ease: "Even so, nuclear energy is still only a relatively short-term solution, and fraught with political problems."
Finally Flintoff moves in for the kill, getting to grips with the biggest issue of all: "I move on - to the future of the human race. In his book, Lawson states: "We care about our children and our grandchildren, but we do not normally lose sleep over the welfare of our grandchildren's putative grandchildren." Thus, it would be wrong to expect the present generation to make sacrifices for people who may or may not live hundreds or thousands of years hence. But surely, Lord Lawson, if we aim for a way of living that is truly sustainable - if we leave the world as we find it - then not only our own children but every succeeding generation would benefit? And one way we might do this would be to switch to a monetary and economic system that doesn't require constant growth.
"There's nothing unsustainable about the way we do things now," says Lawson. There is a pause.
I'm stumped. Every economist and businessman distinguishes between capital and income, I say. And by burning up fossil fuels, we're spending nature's capital, with no hope of replenishing it. To this Lawson has no answer."
Well, that's Lawson floored, then. Now the so-called "interview" is almost over - Flintoff really can't devote any more of his valuable time to this dotty old has-been. With a masterly diatribe he demolishes the Baron in short order: "For all his talk about bravely tackling orthodoxy, he remains wedded to a powerful orthodoxy of his own: mainstream economics. His arguments against tackling global warming come back again and again to the idea that globalisation, and economic growth, as measured by gross domestic product per head, are fundamentally necessary and even inevitable. Yet people around the world are rioting as food becomes unaffordable. In part, this is because land has been sacrificed to growing biofuels, but it's also down to the demands of global trade. Wouldn't Kenyans, for example, be better off growing food for themselves, rather than mangetout for supermarkets?"
Nigel Lawson must have been deeply offended. God knows, the article offended me, and I'm not all that keen on the Tory politician who masterminded Thatcher's privatisation policy. It is a truly appalling piece of work, unworthy of a newspaper which usually manages to maintain a pretty balanced view of the world, and demonstrates vividly just what a task we face if we are ever to achieve a rational and truthful approach to the world's use of its resources.
The fight against the global hysterics is not so different from the long-running battle between the Catholic Church and scientific enlightenment. All right, we can take just a little comfort from the fact that few churchmen still insist that the earth is the centre of the universe (and flat), or that God actually did create the world in a week. But there is still plenty of bigotry around. There are still people who seriously believe that it's OK to kill those who don't believe in the same fairies as you, or that women are not really to be treated as human beings, or that you shouldn't share a swimming-pool with … well, anyone.
They know they're right, because God (or Allah or The Hornèd One or the Tooth Fairy) tells them so. And if they're right, then everyone who disagrees with them must be wrong, and therefore (a) stupid and (b) evil.
So tell me, Flintoff, is there actually any difference between you and Abu Hamza? Apart from the fact that you've still got both hands, and the best use you could find for them was to write a book about your electric car?
Nigel Lawson's book is called "An Appeal to Reason", and you can buy it here.
John-Paul Flintoff has also had a book published. It's called "A Survivor's Tale" and it's an account of his schooldays at Holland Park Comprehensive where his education included winding up teachers, snogging girls, playing football, fighting and playing "Message in a Bottle" on the xylophone. How impressive is that? No wonder he was able to dismiss Baron Lawson so easily.
Quite an achievement, really - not writing it, but finding someone stupid enough to publish it for him. We're not providing a link, you'll notice. We don't want you to buy it.
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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