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UK Politics

Andy McSmith's Diary: The wise man, wind farms and a winning way with environmentalism


Professor Tim Congdon used to be one of the country’s leading Conservative economists. For five years, he was one of the “wise men” who made up the Treasury Panel – advisers to successive Conservative Chancellors – but seven years ago, he resigned from the party in disgust at its “badly-rationalised environmentalism” and joined Ukip.

No one can accuse Ukip of “environmentalism”. On its website, you can find this declaration: “Ukip believes that huge amounts of money being paid to landowners for wind farms to be erected on their land, paid for by ordinary people, is immoral and furthermore that wind farms are ineffective, unsightly and damaging.”

It was the right party for the Professor to be in. Until recently, he was their official economics spokesman, but gave that up to concentrate on trying to win a parliamentary seat in the Forest of Dean.

Scotland’s Sunday Herald has uncovered examples of what Ukip might regard as “immoral” payments to landowners. The Perth-based electricity supplier SSE needed access through three forests in Kintyre so that they could build a wind farm at Cour, and paid the landowner for the right to cross his land. And E.On Climate & Renewables UK Developments Ltd, one of the country’s biggest wind farm operators, was interested in a site in Caithness, and signed a deal worth thousands of pounds to the landowner, although they did not go ahead with the development. The landowner, in both examples, is Ukip’s Professor Tim Congdon.

He explained to the Herald that when he bought the properties, he saw them as forestry investments, rather than potential sites for wind farms, but when the offers from power companies came along: “I just simply can’t turn [them] down. The sums of money are not the kind of thing that one can.”

Will ye no come back again?

Describing his reaction to David Bowie’s plea for Scotland to stay part of the United Kingdom, David Cameron told the BBC: “I was watching the Brit Awards and when I saw Kate Moss leap to the stage and utter those words I have to say I did let out a little cry of joy because I’m sure that maybe someone like David Bowie might be able to reach parts of Scotland that perhaps I can’t.” If so, he is reaching them from afar. David Bowie, who was raised in Bromley in south London, and now lives in New York, was last seen on Scottish soil on 28 November 2003.

Hazel’s taste of honey

The news that Hazel Blears is to quit next year, having been MP for Salford since 1997, is an excuse to mention A Taste of Honey, that extraordinary play written by 19-year-old Shelagh Delaney, which is being revived by the National Theatre. In the 1961 film version, a very young girl is seen playing in the streets of Salford. That was Hazel Blears, who grew up to be a Blairite minister who bubbled with so much enthusiasm that her detractors called her “chirpy-chirpy-cheep-cheep”, and who came unstuck during the MPs’ expenses scandal. Rita Tushingham, the star of the same film, said of Blears that she did a better job as a five-year-old film actress than she did as a politician.

Hired. Mired. Tired. Expired

Six years ago, as a random experiment that I thought might make an article, I invited a number of celebrities to use six words to sum up their lives. The replies were all so dire, dull and self-important that they were unpublishable, with one exception, which I have never had a proper opportunity to share. It was from Piers Morgan, who summed up his life thus: “Sired. Hired. Mired. Fired. Wired. Expired.” I see that he now says, a propos his departure from CNN, that viewers are “tired” of him.