Following ‘the rowdiest’ Any Questions in programme history held at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth – complete with anti badger culling and anti wind turbine protests – James Delingpole wrote a blog, published in the online Daily Telegraph, attempting to clarify his side of the story.
As someone who works at CAT, my take on the evening was unsurprisingly a little different: the real shock of the programme was not the anti wind farm cheering or right wing loon James Delingpole! It was something a whole lot more sinister. Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson was asked if he agreed with James Delingpole’s opinion that climate change was anti-scientific, ideological nonsense. His response might come as something of a surprise given this man’s role in the UK government. Apparently the climate and temperature have not changed in the last 17 years. Jaws dropped in disbelief, and Peter Hain managed to splutter a reply: “and this i s the minister for the environment.”
It was always going to be a lively programme: from the moment word got out that Any Questions was happening in Machynlleth both pro wind farm and anti wind farm groups started ringing up for tickets. The news that Owen Paterson was going to be on the panel excited everyone, and when James Delingpole was announced it seemed like a BBC set up. Bring two wind turbine hating public figures to Europe’s leading eco centre, pitch them against socialist, republican, Welsh nationalist Leanne Wood, and well, let’s see what happens.
Earlier on in the afternoon a small but vocal group of people dressed as badgers had started a demonstration in the car park. A brief blockade of ‘badger killing’ Owen Paterson’s car followed, but all in all it was a good-natured affair. Those ‘desperately earnest and well meaning’ volunteers, so well described by James Delingpole in his blog, did their jobs of showing people to their seats and generally being welcoming and polite.
As the evening began, the atmosphere was electric. Encouragement from BBC warm up man Peter Griffiths and then Jonathan Dimbleby for audience participation was perhaps not necessary, given how the evening unfolded. The audience were opinionated, lively and more than willing to respond to answers from Leanne Wood, Peter Hain, Owen Paterson and James Delingpole.
There were a lot of interesting moments, much cheering, some booing. It was a pleasure to host the event at the Centre for Alternative Technology, not that we imagine that BBC Any Questions will be coming back in the next 40 years!
But those few words, buried amongst the cheering, booing and angry badger man’s outburst, stand out in my mind as the most disturbing revelation by BBC Any Questions on Friday night. Cabinet Minister for the Environment – not Welfare, Education or Defence – clearly stated “The real question is: is climate change influenced by man made climate change? The climate, the temperature has not changed in the last 17 years.”
Unbelievably, the UK has a Secretary of State for the Environment who believes that climate change is not happening; you couldn’t make this stuff up. It‘s absurd that as the level of carbon emissions in the atmosphere reaches 400ppm, as people around the world struggle in the face of adverse climatic conditions, as India bakes and Central Europe floods, as think tanks and NGOs advise that climate change will cause food shortages, political instability and rising sea levels, the Secretary of State for the Environment for the UK can sit glibly in front of an audience, on national radio, and say that climate change is not happening.
What’s more, when asked if local protests against wind farms should be able to stop developments from going ahead, he responded with a clear message that from now on landscape, topography and heritage should take precedent over national energy targets. Leanne Wood’s valuable point that this should be rolled out to include all energy generation stations was a little lost on him. For him it’s the wind turbines that are the problem.
It was shocking what happened on Friday night at BBC Any Questions. Any illusions of “greenest-ever” governments or intentions to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions in the UK were shattered into pieces.
I thought that James Delingpole was going to be the right wing loon on the Any Questions programme on Friday night, but I was mistaken: it was Owen Paterson. The problem is that his ramblings are not confined to the back pages of the Daily Telegraph – he is a cabinet minister and he is responsible for the environment.