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Recursive fraudery: Monckton goes mad in Australia Gareth Renowden Feb 28

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Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley’s tour of Australia must be going very badly, because the “high priest of climate scepticism” is indulging in another of his increasingly desperate displays of attention seeking behaviour. After giving a poorly attended lecture in Hobart last week, Monckton took umbrage at an article in the Sunday Tasmanian (on the web here) reporting the views of Tony Press, CEO of the University of Tasmania’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre, who was not impressed by Monckton’s efforts. In response, Monckton has thrown his toys out of his fossil fuel funded pram, and called for the University of Tasmania to fire Press. Here’s the last paragraph from his typically pompous and ludicrous letter [pdf] to the Vice Chancellor:

On any view, Press is not a fit and proper person to be employed in any capacity at the University of Tasmania. I hope that the University will investigate his misconduct and fraud and will dismiss him forthwith.

Connoisseurs of Monckton’s antics will note that this is a well established pattern of behaviour. Remember when he took exception to the comprehensive dismantling of one of his lectures by John Abraham, and tried to get him fired? Nothing came of that threat — except that Abraham was motivated to become more active in countering climate crank nonsense wherever it appears.

In his latest attack on academic freedom, Monckton accuses Press of fraud:

The multiple falsehoods by Press published in an article in the Sunday Tasmanian on 24 February 2013 manifestly constitute frauds as defined in your policy. Press’ deceptions, false suggestions, suppressions of truth and other unfair means were calculated – individually and by mutual reinforcement – to occasion loss to me and continuing profit to himself.

Monckton’s hypocrisy here is breathtaking. He is himself a fraud, as I demonstrated in this post nearly three years ago. I might also note that in order to suffer a loss of reputation, you first have to have a good one. Anyone who cares to peruse the history of his climate activities, as recorded by Barry Bickmore at Monckton’s Rap Sheet, will find that the discount viscount has a chequered past, as well as plenty of evidence of Moncktonian toy-throwing and threats when criticised1 — none of which amount to more than a considerable waste of time for the people he attacks.

Not satisfied with vilifying Press alone, Monckton has widened his hissy fit to call for the prosecution of climate scientists in general — another of his favourite themes. Here he is at WND2:

A senior Australian police officer specializing in organized-crime frauds tells me the pattern of fraud on the part of a handful of climate scientists may yet lead to prosecutions.

When the cell door slams on the first bad scientist, the rest will scuttle for cover. Only then will the climate scare – mankind’s strangest and costliest intellectual aberration – be truly over.

The strange and costly aberration here is not in the state of our understanding of the climate of our planet, but in the weird and wonderful mindset of people like Monckton who think that climate science is a scam designed to usher in world government.

Monckton brings his conspiracy roadshow to New Zealand in April for an extensive tour of the nation’s smaller venues. I’m sure he will get a warm welcome from the dim and deluded, and the local branch of the Flat Earth Society.

  1. There’s a particularly amusing recent example from the Newcastle Herald here.
  2. He has repeated the call in interviews on Sydney radio station 2GB in the last couple of days.

Prat Watch #4: Foundation and Empire Gareth Renowden Mar 20

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While the noble Lord, Viscount Christopher “I’m no potty peer” Monckton tours the USA and Canada at the behest of his friends at the Heartland-lite Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (aka the Billionaire Liberation Front), his Australian admirers, led by former Climate Sceptic Party candidate Chris Dawson, have announced the creation of… wait for it… The Monckton Foundation. This remarkable institution is set to “open its doors” this month, and has, as you might expect, some laudable, if long-winded goals:

The Lord Monckton Foundation shall conduct research, publish papers, educate students and the public and take every measure that may be necessary to restore the primacy and use of reason in science and public policy worldwide, especially insofar as they may bear upon the rights of the people fairly and fully to be informed, openly and freely to debate, and secretly by ballot to decide who shall govern them, what laws they shall live by and what imposts they shall endure.

It has a vision too — it may be having them still — issued by the charter of Monckton himself:

The Lord Monckton Foundation stands as the wall of the West, the redoubt of reason, the sentinel of science, the fortress of freedom, and the defender of democracy.

Or perhaps a pied-à-terre for a pompous peer? For an organisation spawned in a former colony, the Foundation has a high opinion of Australia’s former rulers:

With the British Empire, governance became truly global for the first time. The world, said the philosopher Santayana, never had sweeter masters.

The Foundation has questions. Lots of them:

Is science dead? Must reason fail? Shall objectivity be slaughtered again on the pagan altar of mere ideology? Is life now objectionable, liberty deplorable, the pursuit of happiness a crime? Has the nation had its day? Is the globalization of governance really a public good? Can democracy survive it? Should not the use of the ballot-box be extended? Should not every supranational and global institution of governance be elected?

Meanwhile, back in the USA, the good Lord demonstrates the full extent of his grasp of reason, objectivity, ideology and the primacy of the ballot box by publicly endorsing “birther” claims that President Obama was not born in the USA and therefore not entitled to be President:

I have watched Sheriff Arpaio’s press conference in AZ and have examined some of the evidence directly. It is clear — as Alex Jones rightly said on the day when Obama first put up his faked ’long-form birth certificate’ on the White House website — that a fraud has been committed, and that, absent a valid official record of Obama’s birth or a very good explanation of the anomalies in the published version, he is not qualified to stand for re-election as President.[…] This is beginning to look like a widespread, high-level fraud.

These frauds are everywhere: hockey sticks, birth certificates, hidden declines. Whatever next, one wonders? A conspiracy to put Monckton in front of any legislature daft enough to have him? Funnily enough

At the invitation of Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, Monckton is coming to Sacramento March 21 to speak to the Legislature, but said that he expects a ’stormy session.’

Not surprising, given his opinion of the sunshine state:

’But flaky la-la-land California will go on pursuing this senseless [climate] policy right into insolvency and bankruptcy,’ Monckton said. ’State expansion will stop. Cap and trade will collapse. And Democrats will be forced out of office, hopefully not to be replaced by the soggy Republicans which have dominated the party for some years.’

And finally: John Abraham, the engineering professor at the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Minnesota, who famously attracted the ire of the potty peer by having the temerity to tenaciously, and devastatingly debunk a Moncktonian peroration, is profiled in a recent St Thomas Magazine. All the 1,000 plus people who signed the Hot Topic post supporting John against threats of legal action by Monckton should read the article. It shows just how much support he received from his university, and what real academic freedom is all about. Perhaps a new campaign? John Abraham for head of the Monckton Foundation! Who better to defend science, objectivity and reason against ideology?

[Build Me Up Buttercup]

John Abraham: How to give good radio Bryan Walker May 28

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It’s hard to know listening to this recent US radio interview with John Abraham whether to be more admiring of his incisive responses or more astonished at the regularity with which tired old denier claims are put forward by the interviewers. The interview perhaps highlights the extraordinary divergences of American society — home to impressively intelligent and dependable science yet harbouring, at high levels of government and in major media, scientific denial expressed with a confidence untethered to any scientific grounding.

John Abraham figured on Hot Topic last year when Gareth ran a post inviting expressions of support for him in the face of Christopher Monckton’s campaign to intimidate him and his University following his famous debunking of Monckton.  The support poured in.

Abraham is a founding member of the Climate Science Rapid Response Team set up last year to provide rapid, high-quality information to media and government officials. He has certainly done just that for America’s Radio News, though I doubt they appreciated it and I notice the interviewer claimed the last word just before they ran out of time, which seems a little odd by normal interviewing standards. Anyway it’s great to hear the firm messages of climate science delivered with clarity and a fully justified assertiveness.

The Carbon Brief and Climate Denial Crock of the Week, which led me to the video, have apposite comments.

Tell it like it is Bryan Walker Nov 08

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Whether denial of climate science was what the Americans thought they were voting for when they cast their ballots for many of the Republican candidates in the mid-term election, or whether they had other things on their mind, the end result is that the US now has an apparent majority of legislators who flatly deny climate change, or, if they don’t go that far, certainly deny the need to address it. It’s an extraordinary spectacle. The science is utterly clear, more so by the day. But the clearer it gets the more sure the denial becomes in that sadly mixed-up country. Their own government scientific institutions are to the forefront in the reporting of climate change.  Their National Academies of Science produce regular accessible reports affirming the science and urging appropriate responses. Their universities provide a large number of scientists working productively on many aspects of the issue. Yet a substantial sector of their politicians are now confidently announcing that they don’t believe it’s happening. Suzanne Goldberg in the Guardian reports an investigation by a website run by the Centre for American Progress think tank which found 50% of the more than 100 Republican newcomers deny the existence of man-made climate change. An overwhelming majority, 86%, oppose legislation that would raise taxes on polluting industries.

’Climate is gone,’ was Karl Rove’s comforting message to the attendees of a shale-gas conference in Philadelphia, Brad Johnson reports. Rove told them that the incoming Republican House of Representatives ’sure as heck’ won’t pass legislation to limit greenhouse pollution from fossil fuels.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday Bracken Hendricks (pictured) put his finger on the radical nature of the conservatism which informs the Republican denial of climate science. It is conservatism at odds with itself.

’…far from being conservative, the Republican stance on global warming shows a stunning appetite for risk.

’…they are recklessly betting the farm on a single, best-case scenario: That the scientific consensus about global warming will turn out to be wrong. This is bad risk management and an irresponsible way to run anything, whether a business, an economy or a planet.’

It’s a very high risk, as he reminds readers:

’The best science available suggests that without taking action to fundamentally change how we produce and use energy, we could see temperatures rise 9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit over much of the United States by 2090. These estimates have sometimes been called high-end predictions, but the corresponding low-end forecasts assume we will rally as a country to shift course. That hasn’t happened, so the worst case must become our best guess.’

The irony, he points out, is that the result would be not the rolled-back government that Republicans are currently espousing but a greatly expanded role for government:

’With temperature increases in this range, studies predict a permanent drought throughout the Southwest, much like the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but this time stretching from Kansas to California. If you hate bailouts or want to end farm subsidies, this is a problem. Rising ocean acidity, meanwhile, will bring collapsing fisheries, catch restrictions – and unemployment checks. And rising sea levels will mean big bills as cash-strapped cities set about rebuilding infrastructure and repairing storm damage. With Americans in pain, the government will have to respond. And who will shoulder these new burdens? Future taxpayers.’

The sheer recklessness of denying climate change or the need for action to address it is breathtaking. It’s unfathomable considered alongside the caution with which the US guards itself against terrorism, for example.  It’s so deeply irrational that one wonders if anything can shift it. Yet the deniers won enough of the votes. Small wonder that Stephen Schneider feared democracy couldn’t cope with the confusion in which the issue of climate change has been wrapped.

The Administration, which doesn’t deny climate science, appears to have lost its nerve or not know how to speak to the public about the matter. However there are encouraging indications that American scientists are ready to enter the bruising public arena to challenge the confident denial that is echoing in political circles. The LA Times reports today that there is rising support  among climate scientists to establish a broad campaign to push back against the congressional conservatives who have vowed to kill regulations on greenhouse gas emissions.

’The still-evolving efforts reveal a shift among climate scientists, many of whom have traditionally stayed out of politics and avoided the news media. Many now say they are willing to go toe-to-toe with their critics…’

The American Geophysical Union plans to announce today that 700 researchers have agreed to speak out on the issue.

Another announced pushback intention comes from John Abraham of St Thomas University in Minnesota whom Hot Topic readers will recall received enormous support here when attacked by Christopher Monckton. He is pulling together a “Climate Rapid Response Team,” which includes scientists prepared to go before what they consider potentially hostile audiences on conservative talk-radio and television shows.

Scott Mandia, professor of physical sciences at Suffolk County Community College in New York explains:

“This group feels strongly that science and politics can’t be divorced and that we need to take bold measures to not only communicate science but also to aggressively engage the denialists and politicians who attack climate science and its scientists.

“We are taking the fight to them because we are … tired of taking the hits. The notion that truth will prevail is not working. The truth has been out there for the past two decades, and nothing has changed.”

If such developments take place on a large enough scale they could be very important. The public would better see just how strong the consensus is amongst those scientists who actually work on the issue. They would also realise the alarm that many of the scientists feel as emissions continue to rise. It’s all too easy for politicians to isolate distinguished figures like James Hansen and portray them as some kind of maverick, but phalanxes of scientists ready to speak out publicly would be a different matter. At least it would make it absolutely clear to the public that if they run with their denialist politicians on this issue they are rejecting mainstream science and exposing themselves to what the science sees as grave risks. I’m not sure that they as yet realise that is what they’re doing.

[Aaron Neville]

Monckton: the final slapdown Gareth Renowden Sep 22

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Britain’s most bumptious climate crank, Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, deputy leader of the UK Independence Party (a party so fringe it probably has a surrey underneath) and inventor of a cure for AIDS, multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes simplex VI, gave evidence to a US Congressional committee last May at the invitation of the Republican party. As Monckton watchers might recall, his testimony was riddled with errors, and now a team of top scientists (including the one he threatened to sue, John Abraham) have submitted a detailed rebuttal [Response to Monckton (PDF)] to Congress. Skeptical Science has all the details, and Leo Hickman at the Guardian covers the story here, but for connoisseurs of the potty peer, his email to Hickman responding to the rebuttal is a minor classic:

The scientists were unaware of my letter to Congress because they did not have the good sense or courtesy to contact me – or even to contact the vast majority of the scientists whose conclusions I had cited – before circulating to friendly news media their prolix, turgid, repetitive, erroneous and inadequate response to my testimony. From their calculatedly furtive approach, it is legitimate to infer that their exercise was motivated more by politics than by science. One of the lead authors is currently under criminal investigation for alleged fabrication of results: another has been caught out in repeated lies: a third admits to suffering a mental disability: and many of the scientists whom these lead authors invited to contribute are among the long-discredited clique of Climategate emailers. Accordingly, it is unlikely that Congress will pay much attention to their political rant, which displays a lamentable absence of quantitative detail and a pathetic reliance on fashionable but questionable forecasting techniques that have long been compellingly contradicted by hard data.

I’ve highlighted the best bits. Perhaps he was upset that the scientists point out that his testimony that ocean acidification could not be caused by CO2 provides “a compelling example of his lack of understanding of ocean chemistry”. I await his 400 page response with interest… In the meantime, let’s just revel in the breathtaking hypocrisy that has become the good Lord’s hallmark.

Monckton is a fraud Gareth Renowden Aug 03

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Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, pompous peer of a parish in Kent, not content with threatening legal action against US scientist John Abraham (who had the temerity to point out the huge number of errors and misrepresentations in a talk he gave: see Support John Abraham, now 1050+ comments), has now threatened action for libel against Professor Scott Mandia. Mandia wrote a blog post in support of Abraham, inviting members of the media to consider if Monckton were a fraud — which drew a spiteful little email from Tannochbrae

I also note that you have publicly accused me of ’fraud’, and have widely circulated that accusation on the internet, and have expressed the intention to invite the mass media to repeat it. Since this is a serious charge, do you have any evidence to back it up, or should I add your name to that of Professor Abraham in the libel case that will be filed shortly?

Mandia’s open letter to the media asked them to “expose Monckton for the fraud that he is”, which is somewhat different to an accusation of fraudulent behaviour. Let’s examine the evidence, and see if Monckton can reasonably be described as “a fraud”, and whether his actions and public statements are in themselves fraudulent. First we need some definitions:

The Google definition listing is here, and from that Princeton Wordnet offers:

  • intentional deception resulting in injury to another person
  • imposter: a person who makes deceitful pretenses
  • something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage

My elderly Oxford English Dictionary (complete edition, 1979) offers the following:

  • the quality or disposition of being deceitful; faithlessness, insincerity
  • criminal deception; the using of false representations to obtain an unjust an unjust advantage or to injure the rights and interest of another
  • an act or instance of deception, an artifice by which the right or interest of another is injured, a dishonest trick or stratagem
  • colloq of a person; One who is not who he appears to be; an imposter, a humbug ( = a hoax, jesting or befooling trick, an imposture, deception, fraud or sham)

Then a US legal definition (definitions differ in other jurisdictions):

Fraud is generally defined in the law as an intentional misrepresentation of material existing fact made by one person to another with knowledge of its falsity and for the purpose of inducing the other person to act, and upon which the other person relies with resulting injury or damage. Fraud may also be made by an omission or purposeful failure to state material facts, which nondisclosure makes other statements misleading.

How do Monckton’s public statements, writings and presentations stack up when considered in the light of the above definitions. Not well. Let us first note the evidence assembled by Professor Barry Bickmore of Brigham Young University in Utah on his Lord Monckton’s Rap Sheet page. One item will suffice: In a letter to the US Congress Monckton represented himself as a member of the House of Lords in the British Parliament. Monckton is not now, nor has he ever been a member of the House of Lords. Intentional misrepresentation? You be the judge…

Next, let us consider his bizarrely overwrought “Response to John Abraham” [PDF]. Once more, one item will be sufficient. From page 69:

394: Are you aware of results such as that of Pinker et al. (2005), and of several other researchers and data gathering organizations? Pinker found that in 18 years and 1 month from 1983-2001 a naturally-occurring global brightening, attributable at least in part to a reduction in cloud cover at low latitudes and altitudes, had increased the flux of solar radiation reaching the surface by 2.9 Watts per square meter, an increase sufficient to account for all of the ’global warming’ over the period?

Monckton made a similar assertion in a debate with Deltoid’s Tim Lambert in Australia earlier in this year, only to have the wind knocked from his sails by a quote from Rachel Pinker, pointing out that he was wrong. Tasked with this, Monckton assured Lambert that he would “check with Pinker and the IPCC”, and change his argument. It appears that he has failed to do this, preferring instead to continue to misrepresent Pinker’s paper. A deceitful pretence? You be the judge…

Closer to home, Monckton was caught telling lies on New Zealand television, claiming to be an expert on the calculation of climate sensitivity:

The scientists have indeed got their sums wrong, because there are only perhaps 40 or 50 scientists involved in calculating that one central quality, which is known as climate sensitivity, how much warming will you get. It’s a very narrow, very specialist field in which I have actually published work in the [slight pause] reviewed literature, and there’s not many people who have done that. Very few people people have actually done work in this field, and unfortunately what they have done is they have preferred at the UN’s climate panel to rely on computer models which are in effect a form of guesswork.

Monckton’s only contribution to this field was an article (not a peer-reviewed paper) in a newsletter (not a peer-reviewed journal) of the American Physical Society in 2008, which got the science so badly wrong that Arthur Smith was able to document 125 errors. Two years on, Monckton would prefer we didn’t remember that. Something intended to deceive; deliberate trickery intended to gain an advantage in debate? You be the judge…

Monckton has also made free with his threats of actions for libel. Aside from Abraham and Mandia, he has threatened George Monbiot and The Guardian (he got nowhere, though he has apparently attempted to claim that he was awarded £50,000 damages), and Arthur Smith’s debunking also earned him a threat of action (see Monckton’s Rap Sheet). None of the ignoble Lord’s threats amount to more than hot air. Perhaps he thinks that preaching from a bully pulpit will impress his congregation. His popularity with the American think tanks running the campaign against action on climate change depends to some extent on his being seen to be at least vaguely credible, and perhaps that demands that he be seen to posture and preen. Or perhaps that is just the nature of the man…

In Britain he carries much less clout. There he is recognised for what he is — a pretentious fabulist and self-important minor peer who is involved with a fringe far-Right political party. Nigel Lawson’s secretly-funded Global Warming Policy Foundation wouldn’t touch Monckton with a barge pole, because it would make Lawson and his backers look like idiots.

On the evidence, it is clear that Monckton is a shameless humbug, a proven liar and a hypocrite, who intentionally misrepresents the facts of climate science in order to mislead his audience. The real mystery is why this isn’t obvious to important sections of the US body politic.

Support John Abraham Gareth Renowden Jul 15

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Potty peer Christopher Monckton has stepped up his campaign to shut down John Abraham’s debunking of one of his talks last year, by asking supporters to flood Abraham’s university with emails demanding it start a disciplinary inquiry. George Monbiot points out the obvious irony in the Guardian today:

Reading these ravings, I’m struck by two thoughts. The first is how frequently climate change deniers resort to demands for censorship or threats of litigation to try to shut down criticism of their views. Martin Durkin has done it, Richard North has done it, Monckton has done it many times before. They claim to want a debate, but as soon as it turns against them they try to stifle it by intimidating their opponents. To me it suggests that these people can give it out, but they can’t take it.

Monckton has since posted at Watts Up WIth That, including this appeal for support:

May I ask your kind readers once more for their help? Would as many of you as possible do what some of you have already been good enough to do? Please contact Father Dennis J. Dease, President of St. Thomas University, and invite him — even at this eleventh hour — to take down Abraham’s talk altogether from the University’s servers, and to instigate a disciplinary inquiry into the Professor’s unprofessional conduct, particularly in the matter of his lies to third parties about what I had said in my talk at Bethel University eight months ago? That would be a real help. [My emphasis, Dease email removed]

In other words, please help me to bully Abraham and the University into caving in to my absurd demands, and take Abraham’s presentation off the web.

In my view, it’s time to stand up to the potty peer’s attempts at intimidation of Abraham and his University. Rather than flood them with email, I propose that anyone who supports the statement below leave a comment with their name, location and academic affiliation (if any). You will need to leave an email, but that will not be published. I will enforce strict moderation. If you want to support Monckton, go elsewhere. I will ensure that Abraham and the university are aware of the thread. Please leave a comment and encourage as many people as possible to join in.

We the undersigned offer unreserved support for John Abraham and St. Thomas University in the matter of complaints made to them by Christopher Monckton. Professor Abraham provided an important public service by showing in detail Monckton’s misrepresentation of the science of climate, and we applaud him for that effort, and St. Thomas University for making his presentation available to the world.

[Update 17/7: Thanks to everyone who has signed up so far -- keep them coming! And thanks to all the bloggers and tweeters who have spread the word -- Hot Topic's been seeing record traffic, and this post has been speeding up the chart of our popular posts to number two (with a bullet). John has been reading your comments, and I know appreciates the tremendous support you've given him. Dan Moutal of Mind Of Dan has started a Facebook group: Prawngate: Support John Abraham against Monckton's bullying, so if you're active on Facebook join and get the word out.]

Monckton: still digging for failure Gareth Renowden Jul 14

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Stoat alerts me to Monckton’s response (pdf — be warned, it’s an industrial grade whinge) to the epic debunking of one of his 2009 US tour talks by John Abraham . This prompts Eli the lovable lagomorph to crowd-source answers to the 500 questions the potty peer poses for Abraham by way of “reply”. I have been advised by certain sources (who might be expected to know) that the peer is indulging in a little inflation of his credentials. So, let’s have a go at #126…

Monckton objects to being described as having “no background in science”, and advances the following paragraph as evidence to the contrary:

Since I gave advice on a wide range of scientific and technical matters to the British Prime Minister for four years, and ran a successful technical consultancy in the field of public administration for two decades, and have twice very profitably exploited a previously-unsuspected wrinkle in the laws of probabilistic combinatorics, and I have published what is on any view a heavily mathematical paper on the determination of climate sensitivity in a reviewed journal, on what rational basis did you consider it appropriate publicly to disseminate — without any qualification or verification — Dr. Keigwin’s unscientific guess that I had ’no background in science’? Is this an instance of the care you take, as ’a scientist’, to verify your facts?

It’s instructive to look at Monckton’s incredibly detailed* curriculum vitae (don’t worry, the only Latin in this post), as published by the political party of which he is joint deputy leader, the somewhat-to-the-right-of-Attila the Hun UK Independence Party (UKIP). From that we can see that he obtained 7 O-Levels (English Language, English Literature, French, Latin, Greek, Elementary Mathematics, Additional Mathematics — the latter being roughly equivalent to one year towards A Level Maths (I know, because I did the same O Level a couple of years after Monckton, though not at Harrow)), and four A Levels — English, Latin, Greek, and Ancient History. Not much science in that lot… He then went to Churchill College, Cambridge and read Classics, followed by a year in Cardiff doing a post-graduate Diploma in Journalism Studies. As his CV notes, he was handy with his pen: “Shorthand (100wpm, 100% accuracy)”. At the point at which he began working for a living, I think it’s perfectly fair to point out that Monckton had “no background in science” — unless you count founding the Harrow bookbinding guild as a contribution to science.

His subsequent career mixed journalism, Catholicism and conservative politics, until he finessed a position in Margaret Thatcher’s Policy Unit at 10 Downing Street. At the time, the policy unit was controversial — widely felt to be a way of minimising the influence of the civil service on policy making. Monckton has had two recent goes at describing what he got up to under Maggie’s wing — in his UKIP resumé, and at µWatts. Bob Ward, writing in the Guardian, deals with the µWatts piece and Thatcher’s appreciation of Monckton:

Indeed, given Monckton’s purportedly crucial role, it seems to be heartless ingratitude from the Iron Lady that she does not find room to mention him anywhere in the 914-page volume on her years as prime minister.

Nor does David “Two Brains” Willetts (minister for science & technology in the current UK government, who was in the policy unit at the same time as Monckton) find room to mention him in a prize-winning essay on his time working with Thatcher.

This is what Monckton’s CV has to say:

Special Adviser to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister. Projects included tax/benefit modelling to address poverty; economic modelling to control government spending; sale of publicly-owned houses to their tenants (1,000,000 sold); mathematical development of indexed mortgages (to make them affordable to the poorest); privatisation of water authorities in England and Wales; psephological forecasting by computer; hydrodynamic analysis of warship hull-forms to expose a major Defense fraud; modelling of retrovirus transmission to plan for the HIV crisis; budget control (e.g. £20 billion overspend on housing budget prevented); speech-writing; and drafting answers to Parliamentary Questions.

Speech-writing and drafting answers? Just what you’d expect of a junior policy wonk with a journalism background. The other stuff? What you might expect if you play with the bundled spreadsheet app on an early portable computer. [Note: there is a degree of snark in the foregoing, but I wouldn't overstate it -- using spreadsheets in those sorts of applications would have been fairly novel at the time. The management accountants I worked with in Michael Heseltine's magazine company didn't get them until the late 80s. But calling it "economic modelling" or "psephological forecasting" is Monckton hyperbole at its finest.]

So what else does Monckton adduce in support of a “science background”? “Technical consultancy in the field of public administration” doesn’t count, nor does designing two puzzles and tweaking the original Sudoku puzzle to get Sudoku X, however abstruse the maths involved may have been. The next sentence is, however, his downfall. He claims his “heavily mathematical” paper on climate sensitivity was published in a “reviewed journal”. Interesting choice of words, Chris. The “paper” was published in a newsletter of the American Physical Society, not in any peer-reviewed journal, and was never subjected to the sort of review that would be routine for any scientific journal. Lucky, really, because Monckton makes so many errors his opus would never have made the grade in the mainstream literature.

The rational basis, therefore, for the assumption that Christopher Monckton, Viscount Brenchley, has no scientific background is that the evidence shows he hasn’t got one. The very best that can be said for him is that he has a facility for maths, a wonderful line in pompous prose and a bee in his bonnet.

[* Final item on CM/VB's CV: 2008-present: RESURREXI Pharmaceutical: Director responsible for invention and development of a broad-spectrum cure for infectious diseases. Patents have now been filed. Patients have been cured of various infectious diseases, including Graves’ Disease, multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes simplex VI. Our first HIV patient had his viral titre reduced by 38% in five days, with no side-effects. Tests continue. No cure for Monckhausen Syndrome? Shame...]

[PS: I am officially amused that if you Google "Monckton" in NZ, fifth item down is his adventure in Australia, Picnic at Hanging Sock...
]

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