Select Committee takes floods evidence from George Monbiot, bars Richard AE North for “offensive remarks”

I had been looking forward to watching (and you can now on Parliament tv) the Envronmental Audit Committee evidence session for the Floods inquiry, in which George Monbiot was called, alongside Richard AE North, former Environmental Health Officer and now leading Eurosceptic blogger.

After a long delay caused by Cameron’s blather about what a fantastic deal he’d got from the EU, the session began. George gave his evidence in his usual articulate manner, peppered with anecdotes to bring the dry statistics to life. Even the notorious Peter Lilley failed to make any impression on George, and Lilley’s rather lame attempts to blame the EU for the floods were brushed aside as the fantasy they are. The only thing George got a bit mixed up on was in relation to how much water a river channel held, and why dredging did nothing (usually) to reduce flood problems.

Peter Aldhous was in the chair, as Huw Irranca-Davies had resigned to stand in the Welsh Assembly. George’s evidence had finished and I was waiting to hear what Richard AE North had to say, when Aldhous made an announcement – North had been barred from giving evidence, because of allegations that had been drawn to the attention of the Committee, that he had made offensive remarks online, and that “on balance” the committee had decided not to take evidence from him.

This is, in my experience, pretty unusual. What could North have said that was so offensive that the Committee felt it would be inappropriate to take evidence from him? Did they think he was going to start calling for Prince Charles’ head on a stick?

As I mentioned earlier this week, I have come across North myself before. I don’t think it would be too fanciful to suggest that North is the brain behind Chris Booker. Booker, the “journalist” you may remember who wrote a number of articles claiming that the Somerset Levels floods in 2013/14 were caused by EU policies, such as the Water Framework Directive and the Floods Directive. This is of course EU phobic lunacy but it fits well with North who sees himself as a leading campaigner for the UK to leave the EU. North is, I would suggest, a right-libertarian – which is bizarre for someone who made a career in the foood-regulation industry. Ok so far so mildly offensive. But surely select committees take evidence from libertarians all the time.

I had a quick look online to see if I could find to what the committee might have had its attention drawn and found this piece by George Monbiot from back in 2010.  Yes, certainly plenty of offensive remarks here.

North was livid that he had been invited to give evidence then barred. He fulminated on his blog yesterday against the “loathsome creatures” of the select committee and took aim at its chair in particular. North was particularly offended that it was the select committee

clerk who yesterday conveyed the news that Mr Irranca-Davies didn’t have the guts or courtesy to tell me to my face.”

Evidently North has not heard that Irranca-Davies is no longer the chair of the committee.

So he lashed out against an entirely innocent person accusing them of cowardice.

Afterwards, I asked him on twitter what “offensive remarks” he thought the committee referred to  – and in reply, he blocked me. I think that says all it needs to about Dr North – this sort of behaviour is, I have found, fairly typical of those on the libertarian right.

As a leading player in the Brexit campaign, we can only hope that North falls out with everyone over the next 3 months and does the campaign real damage.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in Environmental Audit Select Committee, flooding, George Monbiot, RIchard AE North and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Select Committee takes floods evidence from George Monbiot, bars Richard AE North for “offensive remarks”

  1. Pingback: George Monbiot at the Commons Environmental Audit Committee – A Dartmoor and Devon blog

  2. I am usually against disinviting people on the basis of their blog posts, but having followed Monbiot’s link to what the man actually said, I feel that in this case it is more than justified. Indeed, what I want to know is why such a blowhard ignoramus shock-jock was being invited to give evidence to the committee in the first place

  3. tomo says:

    George iirc called air travellers “worse than child molesters” some time ago…. isn’t the verifiable evidence what matters in this case?

    or don’t you care about actual evidence if it’s provided by someone you don’t like?

    • Miles King says:

      Tomo – can you provide a reference to back up your claim about George? If not, it’s defamation and you’ll have to withdraw it.

      • David Wells says:

        Miles is your concern about defamation as an issue or maybe more likely you believe that dear George is such a sensitive retiring creature that he really does need someone to defend the more delusional aspects of his environmental creativity?

        If I remember correctly and you can dispute this if you wish and no defamation intended, on at least one occasion George has joined with David Suzuki in saying that anyone who denies climate change should be charged and hopefully imprisoned for a crime against humanity. On another occasion he parroted another environmentalist creation that steers needed to consume vast quantities of water just to produce 1kg of beef and if this continued it would result in a drought. He continued to promote this cause until someone whispered in his ear that just sometimes a steel needs to take a pee and where exactly would this typical steer hold many thousands of gallons of water?

        Then of course we have the episode where George proudly proclaimed that the way to solve global warming was to promote legislation that every house need to have a certain size of wind turbine attached to the wall and only recanted when he was told that the size of turbine he was promoting would if energised by wind generate sufficient torque to collapse the wall.

        Like Suzuki George is reluctant to discuss data or evidence because he like most environmentalists do by now recognise that their contrived attitudes towards our climate are being ruthlessly deconstructed by satellite data which contradicts environmentalism which only wants to relate to the just 120 years of land based station data and refuses like creationists to recognise that planet earth has been around for about 4.54 billion years and during that time Co2 never did cause anything but because of Maurice Strong and Stephen Schneider now that we are here that makes a difference.

        Co2 is just 0.04% of our atmosphere and 8,000 years ago it was 2c warmer than today with Co2 half what it is today and that between 2001 and 2010 25% of all co2 ever emitted was emitted but the trend for the lower troposphere which even Gavin Schmidt agrees needs to warm before the surface for the “hypothesis” to have some relevant needs to warm first and it isn’t, no tropical hot spot either.

        When David Suzuki was challenged in front of the cameras regarding temperature and Co2 he responded by saying temperature what is that? He just parrots any information that will keep his pretence up and the cash rolling in which if you care to investigate George’s behaviour it would be difficult to image that he does not indulge in exactly the same ideology.

        Think you jumped just a little too quickly for your protestation to make any viable sense of your complaint.

      • Miles King says:

        Thanks David. I’ve published your comments as I believe people have a right to present their opinions, as long as they are lawful ie not defamatory, racist, sexist etc.

        I will make only one comment – to note that you have not repeated Tomo’s defamatory comment – are you seeking to defend him?

  4. John Kay says:

    I suppose Monbiot and North were both invited in the interests of balance – essential in such cabaret – but I often wonder why these enquiries spend such a lot of time listening to opinionated assertions instead of evidence. Don’t we have geographers, hydrologists and soil scientists that could make useful contributions? It would be good to hear their voices – journalists and bloggers already have plenty of opportunity to create tomorrow’s actual and virtual chip wrappings.

    • Miles King says:

      Thanks John. I agree, it’s odd that either should be invited, having not submitted written evidence. I’m not sure whether they are invited specifically to perform some form or pantomime for the benefit of the Select Committee.

      I would expect the Committee to call evidence from experts yes – but then they have already grilled Dieter Helm, who is an economist, not a hydrologist.

    • Miles King says:

      thanks Ralph. I had previously seen reference to Wall’s book on sheep. He seems to be repeating the myths around the water framework directive that Booker and Richard AE North have been circulating. But where did they originally come from?

  5. David Wells says:

    Don’t like criticism then?

  6. North is permanently angry. Fairly recently, I attempted (very mildly) to remonstrate with him for picking fights with his own side even more often than he picks fights with the other side. I was immediately subjected to withering scorn and vitriol. The fact is that very few are able to work with him for very long and the more this happens, the angrier he gets. This is probably why he was dis-invited.

    • Miles King says:

      thanks David. He blocked me on twitter because I had the temerity to mention his racist outburst and that this had led to barring from giving evidence to the flooding inquiry. I read some of his blog posts earlier. Actually I was surprised that there were some very interesting observations that he had made, but as you say, he doesn’t seem to be able to help himself from launching into vitriolic polemic. He certainly won’t be any help to the Brexit campaign, if he keeps popping up on social or traditional media.

      As a slightly reluctant supporter of remain, I ought to be encouraging him, but it gives me no pleasure to see him in the public eye.

  7. I first listened to North speaking at Liverpool University many years ago. He is extremely intelligent, lucid and eloquent when speaking. His books and blogs are nearly always worth reading – except when he goes off on one. He has a tendency to conspiracy theories, which in part is a result of his own experience within the EU, where conspiracies really do happen. Unfortunately, he seems to think that a mere confluence of ideas, or coincidence of events, amounts to a conspiracy in the rest of the world. As a result, he is increasingly unable to conduct a civil dialogue with anyone who mildly disagrees with him. It is a pity that an otherwise good man should waste his talents in this way.

    • Miles King says:

      I take it you’ve read “the great deception: the secret history of the European Union”. This particular conspiracy theory, re Le Cercle’s involvement, is interesting. I havent read the book, but similar references would seem to suggest that it was as much the CIA and MI6 who helped found the EU, as a bulwark against communism (within an without), as it was the French and the Germans trying to stop killing each other.

  8. I haven’t read it either, but at the end of WW2 anything to stop the French and Germans killing each other was probably a good idea. I have a feeling the Bundestag was created by the Allies to bring order into the chaos of a defeated Germany.

    For me the problem is not how the EU started, it is what it has become and the fact that it will continue to cause so much damage before it finally falls apart – and we have to rescue it again.

    • Miles King says:

      Yes I understand the point. As someone who believes in wealth redistribution, regulation and community/social action as a way to delivery social and environmental improvements, the current EU is certainly not the best way to achieve these things. However, I think, on balance, the risk of things being worse if we leave, is greater than if we stay. It does need reforming and we need to be on the inside to help reform it. Also the risk of the EU project falling apart if we leave should not be ignored.

      I would love to believe in a Europe where people in different countries or ethnic/cultural/religious groups behave civilly towards each other in the absence of things like the EU, and don’t start killing each other. But the relatively recent conflict when Yugoslavia imploded, as well as armed conflicts arising from independence movements in places like the Basque country or Northern Ireland, indicates this is still a real risk. I think we should wait a while yet before laying to rest the ghosts of those French and German soldiers and civilians; and everyone else caught up in those conflagrations.

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