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Richard North, 30/12/2012  


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Nicely stitched together by Booker this week are disparate themes all bound together by a common phenomenon – the belief system. And, in an optimistic mood, he tells us that they are all beginning to come unstuck.

Booker starts with the glorious headlines in April that greeted a stark warning from the Environment Agency. Fuelled by the predictions of the climate-change-obsessed Met Office (and the official policy, since 2007, of the similarly fixated EU) that we will have "hotter, drier summers" for decades to come, the agency foretold that the drought conditions of the early spring were likely to last "until Christmas and perhaps beyond".

Someone up there is seriously enjoying herself, as this prophecy was swiftly followed by the wettest late spring, the wettest summer, the wettest autumn and the wettest Christmas we have ever known – eight months of near-continuous rain and floods amounting to England's wettest year since records began (which actually wasn't that long ago).

Another of those belief systems taking a dive is the EU, just short of the 40th anniversary of the day in 1973 when Britain finally junked "1,000 years of history" – in the famous words of Labour leader Hugh Gaitskell – and threw in her lot with the attempt to create an all-powerful super-government over the nations of Europe.

It is 20 years since Booker started reporting on the damage that our membership of the European Union (as it was then about to become, under the Maastricht Treaty) was starting to inflict on our national life. In the early days, to question our membership was to be dismissed by all right-thinking people as a crank, a nutter, a xenophobe who could not be taken seriously.

And when, at the start of 1992, he first began reporting horror stories about the tidal wave of new regulations hitting so many British businesses with the approach of the Single Market, along with the destruction of our fishing industry and much of our agriculture, we were still locked into that forerunner of the single currency, the ERM (almost unanimously supported, it is salutary to recall, by every political party and right across the media).

When we were forced out of the ERM on Black Wednesday, 16 September 1992, it ushered in a period of dramatic economic growth which, six years later, would allow Gordon Brown to announce his hubristic decision to double public spending in 10 years. We are paying the price for that now: this year the Government has had to borrow up to £18 billion a month to cover its ever-widening deficit.

Forty years on from our entry into "Europe", as we see "the project" plunge deeper into the misery and chaos it has brought on itself by its even more hubristic desire to give the EU its own currency, British attitudes to our membership have changed beyond recognition. In their desperate efforts to save the euro, we see the EU's inner core driving on towards yet another treaty and "full political union", in a way that will condemn the UK to remain helplessly on the margin, with less influence over Europe's destiny than ever.

On all sides we hear plaintive cries that we must negotiate a “looser relationship” with the form of government to which we subordinated ourselves 40 years ago, as if we could defy its most basic rule: that powers once handed over to the centre in Brussels can never be given back.

Poll after poll shows that the majority of the British people would now like to see us get out altogether. One way or another – although few seem yet to have any realistic idea of how this could be achieved – we seem to be approaching a turning point in our relations with "Europe", one as fateful as that step Edward Heath led us into so blindly back in 1973.

Just as significant this year have been the signs of glimmerings of reality breaking in on the delusions that go with the long-dominant conviction that the world is in the grip of a changing climate that we somehow have the power to reverse, if only we are prepared to subordinate every aspect of national policy to doing so and to change almost every aspect of our lives.

It is 10 years since Booker first began reporting on just one of the countless threads in that story – the belief that we could somehow derive most of the electricity on which our computer-dependent economy now relies from "renewable" sources: for instance, by covering vast tracts of our countryside and sea with giant wind turbines.

Again, back in 2002, to point out that wind energy was an incredibly damaging illusion was to be dismissed as a crank, a Nimby, a Luddite. But ten years later, the penny is finally dropping that, in practical terms, this is an incredibly foolish and costly mistake. Furthermore, it is only part of a disastrous skewing of our energy policy through an obsession, shared with the EU since 1990, that we must lead the world in fighting a threat which, in the past few years, has increasingly come to be seen as a colossal scare story.

Six years ago, with global-warming hysteria still at its height, he first began to suggest that it might be based on scientific evidence that was distorted or fabricated – as in the "hockey stick" graph, or the bizarre adjustments being made to official temperature records. Again, to say this at the time was to be derided as a "climate-change denier", "anti-science", a "flat earther".

It is three years since, growing out of researches for his column, he published a book called The Real Global Warming Disaster. It ranks alongside books by Al Gore and James Lovelock as one of the three best-sellers on the subject in the past decade, because it was the first detailed attempt to reconstruct the scientific and political story of the global-warming scare – just before it became clear, at the mammoth Copenhagen conference, that efforts to get a new treaty to combat global warming (and present mankind with the biggest bill in history) had collapsed.

As the scientific case for man-made climate change fell apart, in a welter of scandals which showed how ruthlessly the evidence had been fudged and manipulated, the real global warming disaster, as Booker argued, was the political legacy it was leaving us with. No one had promoted this more zealously than the EU and the British government, whose Climate Change Act, approved almost unanimously by MPs, is by far the most costly law ever put through Parliament.

At last, in 2012, we have begun to see calls for the repeal of this utterly insane legislation, requiring us to cut "carbon emissions" by four fifths in less than 40 years, which could only be achieved by shutting down virtually the entire British economy. At the same time we have heard influential calls, going right up into the heart of Government, for an end to the insanity of covering Britain's countryside with useless and ludicrously expensive windmills.

We have also heard calls for the scrapping of the equally mad "carbon tax". From April, the steadily increasing costs of this will gradually – as this column has long pointed out – make Britain's economy the least competitive in Europe, destroying tens of thousands of jobs as energy-intensive industries are forced to relocate abroad or close altogether, and driving millions more households into "fuel poverty".

At the same time, we have the promise of a national debate as to whether Britain should remain part of the maddest political experiment in history as it staggers deeper and deeper into a relentless crisis which threatens eventually to tear it apart, and our joining of which Margaret Thatcher described in her retirement as "a political error of the first magnitude".

As 2013 dawns, with the US teetering on the edge of its own "fiscal cliff", in many ways not dissimilar to that left to us by Gordon Brown, we are certainly in for "an interesting time".

But at least as the political skies grow darker and Britain gets wetter, there are real signs that we are beginning to wake up from a whole series of collective dreams which turned out to be nightmares. The breaking in of reality on such make-believe must inevitably be painful and bewildering, but Booker uses it as a cue to wish his readers a happy New Year.

In truth, the happiness will not fully return until we are finally rid of these belief systems, and there have been many false dawns. However, the façades are cracking and, for that, we can at least be reasonably cheerful.

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