No, ex-minister

Posted by Graham Thompson — 21 July 2014 at 12:37pm - Comments
by-nc-sa. Credit: Ben Stewart/Greenpeace
Paterson 'effigy' shocked to read of his recent demise

Secretary of State for the Environment Mr Owen Paterson has been sacked, and ‘the countryside’ is reportedly FURIOUS. As is traditional, the spokesmen for ‘the countryside’ and their alleged fury are climate sceptics writing in the Telegraph - and none of those climate sceptics writing in the Telegraph is more furious than Owen Paterson himself.

The ex-minister feels ‘the Green Blob’ (that’s us, FoE, WWF, Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, RSPB etc) has blackened his name and his image. Quite literally, in fact. “I was burnt in effigy by Greenpeace as I was recovering from an operation to save my eyesight’, he writes.

Burning in effigy is an interesting tradition, and we've been doing it in Britain since the thirteenth century. In some towns they make it the centrepiece of a big annual party, and the controversy seems to be part of the fun. But it wouldn’t be a great PR move for Greenpeace, partly because we don’t want to make a performance out of unnecessary carbon emissions, but mainly because it looks a bit like a threat of violence, and we’re strictly non-violent. That means that not only don’t we commit violent acts, but we take care not to do anything which might be seen as encouraging violence.

So of course we didn’t burn Paterson - or anyone else - in effigy, either while he was convalescing or at any other time.

Paterson may be confusing two rather different events. The year before his eye operation some protestors against Paterson’s somewhat unpopular badger cull (the ‘Black & White Blob’, presumably) did burn an effigy of Paterson outside Parliament.

Nine or ten months later, on the occasion of the UK’s worst flooding for decades, a Greenpeace volunteer rowed a dinghy on the Thames in Westminster. The volunteer was wearing a papier-mache Owen Paterson mask, but wasn’t, strictly speaking, an ‘effigy’ and certainly wasn’t burnt.

So it could be an honest mistake. Paterson does have form when it comes to being inexplicably and resolutely wrong about things in spite of all the publicly available evidence (cf. badgers, bees, floods, climate change, ‘the countryside’ being ‘furious’).

Maybe he had a bit of a migraine in May 2013, and confused it in his mind with recovering from his eye operation in February 2014.

But, but, there does seem to be a bit of a pattern in his valedictory piece in the Telegraph. The entire article is devoted to denigrating Paterson’s many critics, and Greenpeace are also accused, by implication at least, of taking money from renewable energy firms and the EU commission. That''s despite a quick Google showing that we never accept money from any business or government. And we're allegedly ‘profiting handsomely’, which is an odd criticism to come from such an enthusiastic defender of corporate interests, and just as wrong as the others. Greenpeace, unsurprisingly, are a non-profit organisation.

This is his central argument in the piece: that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Green Party, Badger enthusiasts, GM opponents and everyone else who ever had the temerity to question Paterson’s commitment to evidence-based policy making are not really concerned about the environment at all, but are just after your money.

Why are so many on the right so unwaveringly certain that no-one ever acts from any motive other than greed?

Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments.

Follow Greenpeace UK