Was there ANYTHING in James Delingpole's Daily Mail piece which was true?

Yes: the Met Office really is quite good at its job.

In the Mail today, James Delingpole has an article headlined "The crazy climate change obsession that's made the Met Office a menace".

Needless to say, the Met Office wasn't going to take that lying down.

It has published a response on its blog, detailing "a series of factual inaccuracies about the Met Office and its science".

Delingpole writes that the Met Office "failed to predict" the 2010 snow, and that the floods in November were "forecast-defying".

The Met office responds:

Firstly, he claims the Met Office failed to predict snow in 2010, but our 5-day forecasts accurately forecast 12 out of 13 snowfall events… In addition the Press Complaints Commission has also already addressed this fallacy with the Daily Telegraph in February of last year. As a result the newspaper published a clarification that highlighted that “the Met Office did warn the public of last winter’s [2010/11] cold weather from early November 2010.”

Mr Delingpole also says we failed to predict flooding in November last year. Once again, our 5-day forecasts gave accurate guidance and warnings throughout the period.

The Met Office also dings Delingpole for claiming they had conceded that "there is no evidence that ‘global warming’ is happening". They confirm that they did not say that:

In fact, we explicitly say this was not the case in an article, posted on the home page of our website and widely circulated, which was written in response to articles about updates to our decadal forecast.

It goes on. Delingpole is also reprimanded for claiming that the Met said that Britain was experiencing more rain than at any time since records began (it did not say that), for claiming that the Met was saying that the past ten years have been the wettest decade ever (it did not say that either) and for quoting another a member of Lord Lawson's climate sceptic group GWPF saying that the Met "thinks weather forecasting is beneath it" (the Met points out that "the vast majority" of its contractual work for the public is weather forecasting).

The Met Office adds:

There are also a number of other accusations which cannot be substantiated.

Last month, Delingpole was censured by the Australian Press Council for writing a column which described an Australian renewable energy programme as a "Ponzi scheme", which falsely accused a law firm of gagging climate sceptics, and which quoted someone comparing the wind-farm business to a paedophile ring. Delingpole was also criticised for making claims about the health risks of wind farms which were contrary to "extensive academic research" on the subject, but the Press Council decided his claim did not meet the "very high threshold" required to call it "untenable".

So what assertions in the Mail piece are defensible? The Met found at least one:

Mr Delingpole does quote Dr Whitehouse saying “when it comes to four or five day weather forecasting, the Met Office is the best in the world.” This supports the view of the World Meterological Organization (WMO) which consistently ranks the Met Office in the top two operational forecasters in the world.

Ice burn.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Who "speaks for England" - and for that matter, what is "England"?

The Hollywood producer Sam Gold­wyn once demanded, “Let’s have some new clichés.” The Daily Mail, however, is always happiest with the old ones.

The Hollywood producer Sam Gold­wyn once demanded, “Let’s have some new clichés.” The Daily Mail, however, is always happiest with the old ones. It trotted out Leo Amery’s House of Commons call from September 1939, “Speak for England”, for the headline on a deranged leader that filled a picture-free front page on David Cameron’s “deal” to keep Britain in the EU.

Demands that somebody or other speak for England have followed thick and fast ever since Amery addressed his call to Labour’s Arthur Greenwood when Neville Chamberlain was still dithering over war with Hitler. Tory MPs shouted, “Speak for England!” when Michael Foot, the then Labour leader, rose in the Commons in 1982 after Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands. The Mail columnist Andrew Alexander called on Clare Short to “speak for England” over the Iraq War in 2003. “Can [Ed] Miliband speak for England?” Anthony Barnett asked in this very magazine in 2013. (Judging by the 2015 election result, one would say not.) “I speak for England,” claimed John Redwood last year. “Labour must speak for England,” countered Frank Field soon afterwards.

The Mail’s invocation of Amery was misconceived for two reasons. First, Amery wanted us to wage war in Europe in support of Hitler’s victims in Poland and elsewhere and in alliance with France, not to isolate ourselves from the continent. Second, “speak for England” in recent years has been used in support of “English votes for English laws”, following proposals for further devolution to Scotland. As the Mail was among the most adamant in demanding that Scots keep their noses out of English affairs, it’s a bit rich of it now to state “of course, by ‘England’. . . we mean the whole of the United Kingdom”.

 

EU immemorial

The Mail is also wrong in arguing that “we are at a crossroads in our island history”. The suggestion that the choice is between “submitting to a statist, unelected bureaucracy in Brussels” and reclaiming our ancient island liberties is pure nonsense. In the long run, withdrawing from the EU will make little difference. Levels of immigration will be determined, as they always have been, mainly by employers’ demands for labour and the difficulties of policing the borders of a country that has become a leading international transport hub. The terms on which we continue to trade with EU members will be determined largely by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels after discussions with unelected bureaucrats in London.

The British are bored by the EU and the interminable Westminster arguments. If voters support Brexit, it will probably be because they then expect to hear no more on the subject. They will be sadly mistaken. The withdrawal negotiations will take years, with the Farages and Duncan Smiths still foaming at the mouth, Cameron still claiming phoney victories and Angela Merkel, François Hollande and the dreaded Jean-Claude Juncker playing a bigger part in our lives than ever.

 

An empty cabinet

Meanwhile, one wonders what has become of Jeremy Corbyn or, indeed, the rest of the shadow cabinet. The Mail’s “speak for England” leader excoriated him for not mentioning “the Number One subject of the hour” at PM’s Questions but instead asking about a shortage of therapeutic radiographers in the NHS. In fact, the NHS’s problems – almost wholly caused by Tory “reforms” and spending cuts – would concern more people than does our future in the EU. But radiographers are hardly headline news, and Corbyn and his team seem unable to get anything into the nation’s “any other business”, never mind to the top of its agenda.

Public services deteriorate by the day, George Osborne’s fiscal plans look increasingly awry, and attempts to wring tax receipts out of big corporations appear hopelessly inadequate. Yet since Christmas I have hardly seen a shadow minister featured in the papers or spotted one on TV, except to say something about Trident, another subject that most voters don’t care about.

 

Incurable prose

According to the Guardian’s admirable but (let’s be honest) rather tedious series celeb­rating the NHS, a US health-care firm has advised investors that “privatisation of the UK marketplace . . . should create organic and de novo opportunities”. I have no idea what this means, though it sounds ominous. But I am quite certain I don’t want my local hospital or GP practice run by people who write prose like that.

 

Fashionable Foxes

My home-town football team, Leicester City, are normally so unfashionable that they’re not even fashionable in Leicester, where the smart set mostly watch the rugby union team Leicester Tigers. Even when they installed themselves near the top of the Premier League before Christmas, newspapers scarcely noticed them.

Now, with the Foxes five points clear at the top and 7-4 favourites for their first title, that mistake is corrected and the sports pages are running out of superlatives, a comparison with Barcelona being the most improbable. Even I, not a football enthusiast, have watched a few matches. If more football were played as Leicester play it – moving at speed towards their opponents’ goal rather than aimlessly weaving pretty patterns in midfield – I would watch the game more.

Nevertheless, I recall 1963, when Leicester headed the old First Division with five games to play. They picked up only one more point and finished fourth, nine points adrift of the league winners, Everton.

 

Gum unstuck

No, I don’t chew toothpaste to stop me smoking, as the last week’s column strangely suggested. I chew Nicorette gum, a reference written at some stage but somehow lost (probably by me) before it reached print.

Editor: The chief sub apologises for this mistake, which was hers

Peter Wilby was editor of the Independent on Sunday from 1995 to 1996 and of the New Statesman from 1998 to 2005. He writes the weekly First Thoughts column for the NS.

This article first appeared in the 11 February 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The legacy of Europe's worst battle