"Never write about any matter that you do not well understand" – advice to us journalists once given by one of the very greatest, William Cobbett. In my many years as a newspaper columnist I have tried (perhaps not always successfully) to bear it in mind.
And it is one reason why I have, so far as I can remember, never written anything about global warming. But it has not stopped others from wading in, many of them with the message that the current concerns about climate change are nothing but a big scare put about by scientists with little more to go on than the predictions made by their computers.
The interesting and, to me, puzzling point about these climate-change deniers is that they are almost all of them on the political right. You will find them in the pages of The Spectator and The Daily Telegraph. Among politicians, Mrs Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, has written a book on the subject, while the latest to express a sceptical view on the issue is the British National Party leader Nick Griffin. What is the link between reactionary politics and climate-change denial? I've asked any number of people without being given a satisfactory answer.
And why, without any scientific training, do they all feel confident to challenge and refute the opinions of so many scientific experts from all over the world? Perhaps, to go back to Cobbett, they understand all the issues perfectly. But somehow I doubt it.
Up against the power of the lobby
"Why, if Jews are held to have such occult lobbying power," asked the former Labour minister Denis MacShane in Tuesday's Independent, "are they so spectacularly unsuccessful?"
He was responding to a Channel 4 Dispatches programme presented by Peter Oborne and broadcast on Monday. It was a peculiar question to ask, as Oborne had convincingly shown that the Tory party's policy in the Middle East has been largely dictated by the Zionist lobby with the help of generous financial donations to individual MPs and to the party as a whole.
Indeed, the programme began by referring back to a speech David Cameron made earlier this year at a lunch given by the Conservative Friends of Israel. Despite the fact it was only a few months after Ehud Olmert's disastrous invasion of Gaza with widescale loss of civilian life, Cameron made no reference to this. On the contrary, his reassuring message to his wealthy audience was: "If I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel."
I do not know if Mr MacShane saw the whole programme. If he did, he may remember Oborne's description of how Jewish lobbyists had succeeded in forcing the BBC to investigate charges of bias against one of its most experienced journalists, the Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen, and how the BBC Trust had gone so far as to reprimand Bowen publicly. If that isn't an example of successful lobbying then I don't know what is.
I should imagine that the usual suspects will be joining forces to mount an official complaint against Channel 4 and Oborne for broadcasting Monday's programme. We must hope that unlike the wretched BBC they will stick to their guns.
Breaking news: the British don't like Blair
Whatever else the new President of Europe, Herman Van Rompuy, will do, he is not going to "stop the traffic" – the Foreign Secretary David Miliband's criterion which he used in his unsuccessful campaign to promote the candidacy of his old friend and patron, Tony Blair, left.
It was an unfortunate expression to use. The only traffic that might be brought to a halt in Blair's case would be if a rowdy demonstration telling him to go home brought all the cars and buses to a halt.
Readers will, of course, remember the dramatic events of 15 February 2003 when the traffic came to a complete halt in central London as a result of the biggest ever peacetime demonstration in modern history – a demonstration directly caused by Blair. Obviously, Miliband attaches no special importance to that or else he might think twice before using his traffic-stopping image. For that matter, neither he nor Gordon Brown seems to be in the least bit aware of the discredited status of Blair in the eyes of the public. Labour voters, in particular, still hark back to Blair's war in Iraq and all the lies that were told to support it as the reason for their disenchantment.
The fact that after all that, Brown, supported by Miliband, could actively promote Blair as the best man to be European president proves just how out of touch they are with the feelings of the voters. Even though their campaign failed it will only have increased the general feeling of despair among the faithful.Reuse content