A scathing attack on the coalition government’s climate change policies launched by sacked environment secretary Owen Paterson was written with the assistance of his brother-in-law and Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) supporter Lord Ridley.
The speech, delivered at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers under the shadow of the Houses of Parliament, called for the Climate Change Act to be suspended and then scrapped and attacked the “bullies in the environment movement”.
Paterson (pictured arriving at the event) went further than any senior conservative in attacking David Cameron, his Prime Minister and party leader, for appealing to the public on environmental issues. Some tory MPs are privately seething at such an act of apparent disloyalty so close to a general election.
“Blind adhesion to the 2050 targets will not reduce emissions, and will fail to keep the lights on… the current energy policy is a slave to flawed climate action”, he said in a draft of his speech trailed on the front page of the Sunday Telegraph.
Edward King, the editor of Responding To Climate Change (RTCC), had been forwarded an embargoed copy of Paterson’s speech ahead of the annual lecture for Lord Lawson’s GWPF charity. He discovered in the metadata of the Microsoft Word file that Lord Ridley had apparently created the document.
— Edward King (@rtcc_edking) October 15, 2014
Lord Ridley took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to confirm he had assisted Paterson in writing the speech, but tried to downplay his involvement. “50 tweets on how I (gladly) input ideas to Owen Paterson MP’s speech tonight, none of them on substance. It seems we have won the argument,” he wrote.
50 tweets on how I (gladly) input ideas to @Owen_PatersonMP's speech tonight, none of them on substance. It seems we have won the argument.
The revelation led to environmentalists criticising Ridley. One compared the dynamic duo to Keith Harris and his ventriloquist duck Orville Wright. Elsewhere, people reminded Twitter users that the former banker had been at the helm of Northern Rock when it almost collapsed, leaving a “catastrophic black mark” on his career.
Lord Ridley, formally Viscount Ridley, but publicly known as Matt Ridley and the author of The Rational Optimist, followed in his father’s footsteps as chairman of the bank. Northern Rock then went on a reckless spree of short-term borrowing on the international markets to fund long-term “subprime” mortgages.
Incredibly painful memory
Ridley, a fierce advocate of free market capitalism, was forced to turn to the state and ask for an emergency £3 billion government handout after global borrowing became more expensive due to defaults in subprime mortgages the US.
Matt Ridley said at the time: “I enormously regret what happened at Northern Rock. It's an incredibly painful memory for me, and it's something that I will live with for the rest of my life. I have nothing but remorse for my role in what happened. I've apologised and explained as much as I can…”
After helping to trash the British economy in what became the worst financial disaster for a generation, Ridley decided to turn his attentions to the global ecological system.
Ridley’s own home, in the family seat of the 8,500-acre Blagdon Hall Estate in Northumberland, was never under threat. His father, also Viscount Ridley, had also acted as chairman of Northern Rock.
His uncle, Nicholas Ridley, served as a minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, and authored the leaked 'Ridley plan'—setting out how to destroy Britain's unions organised within nationalised industries.
Last night's “Copy- and paste-gate” bares an uncanny resemblance to a similar incident in 2005 when a blogger discovered a speech presented to the US Senate by Lord Lawson which was written into a Word document created by a public relations professional closely associated with the oil multinational ExxonMobil.
Closed to reason
Lord Lawson delivered his testimony before the Senate on 5th October 2005 saying: “I believe that the IPCC [UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] process is so flawed, and the institution so closed to reason, that it would be far better to thank it for the work it has done [and] close it down…”
The Word file of the speech provided to the Senate was created by Christopher Springham. Springham had been a corporate spokesman for Mobil for 12 years before moving to Luther Pendragon in London where he did some work on their ExxonMobil account.
Springham, like Ridley, tried to play down his involvement in the speech when things became public. He said he had copied and pasted an article written by Lord Lawson for Prospect magazine into the Word file as a quick favour.
It was an environment blog that found Springham’s name in the metadata of the Word file.
Springham told me: “They found me and Googled my name and in a fit of conspiratorial genius, found what may have seemed like a golden connection. They noticed I had once been a spokesperson for Mobil Oil, therefore must be a climate apologist, a climate denier, and must therefore be in cahoots with this peer of the realm in filling the Senate with anti-climatic rhetoric.”
Lawson said at the time the story became public that he had substantially rewritten the draft which had been sent before delivering it to the committee.