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« More from Sir Muir and his team | Main | +++Acton's Eleven - the response+++ »



Readers may be interested in this conversation, which might have been overheard recently in the Reform Club in London. The speaker appeared to be a senior civil servant..

“You know, Bernard, for one so new to the vice-chancellor’s position, Edward has shown commendable facility in the arrangements for the outcome of these inquiries. Watch and learn, Bernard; watch and learn. If you can handle yourself half as well as Edward has then you have a bright future ahead of you.

Picking the right team is the sine qua non. A panel of sound people, leavened with a handful of neutrals (purely for effect, you understand) will produce the required result every time. Edward’s appointments to the emails panel were a case in point. True believers are not going to let you down, Bernard. Of course, old hands might criticise Edward for making his choices slightly too obvious, and there was some unfortunate public criticism, but the public really shouldn’t be concerning themselves with minutiae like the membership of panels of inquiry. How could they possibly understand? And the important thing is that Edward will get the right result, and it’s the result that counts, eh Bernard?

Of course it’s important to have the right chairman too. I though Edward’s played a delightful varation on his earlier theme here. Instead of picking someone who was an obvious follower of the cause, he chose Ronnie, whose financial interests in the outcome of the inquiry all but ensured the correct result was delivered. Marvellous! Watch and learn, Bernard. Watch and learn.

It’s important not to overdo things though. You don’t want to have everyone on side, at least not obviously so. Be subtle. You can get to where you want to go simply by ensuring that the majority of one’s travelling companions are like-minded. The others simply have to be discreet. Of course, it goes without saying that the panel should not have anyone from “the other side” on board. It wouldn’t do to risk any indiscretions, would it Bernard?

Make life easier for the panel by setting terms of reference that help them reach the answer you want them to. Think of this as a map for your travelling companions, ensuring that everyone arrives at the same destination. So much more harmonious that way, don’t you think? For one so new to this kind of thing, Edward has been masterful in this area. By splitting the inquiry across two separate panels, he has made it simplicity itself for them to let important questions “slip between the gaps” and very difficult for anyone to see where this has happened until it is too late. It was a stroke of genius to avoid publishing the terms of reference for Ronnie’s scientific panel at all.

Edward potentially had a tricky issue here, with one of those awful colonials saying that parts of one of the official reports were fabricated. Do you see how wonderful Edward’s sleight of hand was? His “division of labour” trick allows the emails panel to say that they are not qualified to assess the problem. Meanwhile, the scientific panel will miss it because they are looking only at the scientific papers and not the official reports. Do you see, Bernard? Genius!

Witnesses can be a problem. It is always possible that one or two of them might have minds of their own. Some might even know what they are talking about as well. Never, ever take evidence from people like this, Bernard, and particularly make sure that nothing is heard from those who combine both of these irritating qualities (unless you are quite sure that they will do as they are told).

Edward’s two panels, on the other hand, took the “no platform” approach and refused to hear anything from “the other side”. While this was a trifle obvious, it is certainly very safe and all manner of difficulties can be carefully overlooked. It wouldn’t do to have someone point these out in public, would it Bernard?

At some point it will become necessary to examine the evidence. Or at least to appear to examine the evidence. Edward has again showed some neat footwork here. In the case of the scientific panel, telling the panel which papers to look at was a neat and tidy way to avoid any hiccups. Where the allegation is one of “cherrypicking” data series, the panel only looks at papers where no cherrypicking has taken place. Where the allegation is one of “bodging” results, cross that paper off the list too. It’s easy when you know how. You should also see why it was important for the panel not to speak to “the other side”. We wouldn’t want oversights like this to be pointed out, would we?

The emails panel has come up with another splendid wheeze in this area. Where important allegations are made, they have simply declared that these are potentially actionable in a libel court. The immediate effect is that they can refuse to publish the evidence. This of course means that when the “not guilty” verdict is reached, the actual accusations made remain unseen. But more wonderful still is that they can then simply ignore the accusation, because to find in favour of it would be actionable too. Tricky questions put where they should be, Bernard: under the carpet.

With the ground so effectively prepared, the result is a foregone conclusion and a clean bill of health can be delivered. The icing on the cake is been the setting up of a scapegoat. By reporting that the IPCC are to blame for misrepresenting the the scientists’ work Ronnie neatly diverts attention away from the civil service and onto someone else. This was a good idea, but risky nevertheless. It was probably inevitable that someone would notice that the authors who misrepresented CRU scientists’ work were those selfsame CRU scientists. It will probably turn out right in the end because these things are a little subtle for the press corps, but it was a risk all the same.

Still, it was a good day’s work by Ronnie and his team.

What’s that you say? Two days work? Ronnie is thorough isn’t he?

Another biscuit, Bernard?"

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  • Response
    Sorce: Bishops Hill OVERHEARD Readers may be interested in this conversation, which was overheard recently in the Reform Club in London. The speaker appeared to be a senior civil servant.. “You know, Bernard, for one so new to the vice-chancellor’s
  • Response
    Source: Bishop Hill OVERHEARD Readers may be interested in this conversation, which was overheard recently in the Reform Club in London. The speaker appeared to be a senior civil servant.. “You know, Bernard, for one so new to the vice-chancellor’s

Reader Comments (42)

Sadly, Sir Nigel Hawthorne has died.......but his spirit lives on.

Sir Humphrey is indeed immortal.

Apr 17, 2010 at 8:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterLatimer Alder

Ever wondered why 'AGW alarmists' activists suddenly appear - in newspaper comments sections? - ie telegraph - Booker, Delingpole blog, etc

I wonder if Bishop Hill is on their alerts list now?

Are you fed up with sceptics and pseudo-scientists dominating blogs and news articles with their denialist propaganda?
Well, fight back!

We need you to politely explain in the comments section why global warming is actually happening and why it's not a big conspiracy.

You can contribute to as little or as many articles as you like, just dive in

We are trying to create an online army of online volunteers to try and tip the balance back in the favour of scientific fact, not scientific fiction.

Not just some raggedy 'green' activist group.......

Liberal democrat, Labour, Green party MP's, MEP's and journalists are part of this group:

George Monbiot, Michael Meacher (lab MP), Norman Baker (lib dem MP), Caroline Lucas (green leader, MEP), Jean Lambert (Green MEP),

Apr 17, 2010 at 8:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

You might want to change the name of the Club someone might take it the wrong way.

Apr 17, 2010 at 8:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterjustincase

The Reform Club was the one Sir Humphrey attended.

Apr 17, 2010 at 9:03 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

.......Not just some raggedy 'green' activist group.......

Liberal democrat, Labour, Green party MP's, MEP's and journalists are part of this group:

George Monbiot, Michael Meacher (lab MP), Norman Baker (lib dem MP), Caroline Lucas (green leader, MEP), Jean Lambert (Green MEP),
April 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbarry woods

Meacher's not going to do much for their credibility - he's a raving 911 "troofer"

Apr 17, 2010 at 9:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgoose

As a Whitehall civil servant of many years standing, I can confirm most of the Bishops comments, but one stands out as obviously mistaken. That is:

"Another biscuit, Bernard?"

You are making Sir Humphery sound like a new magistrate attending a day's briefing at MoJ!
I am sure that what you really overheard was "Another truffle, Bernard?", or, if it has to be a biscuit, "Another amaretti, Bernard?"

Apr 17, 2010 at 9:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

The Warmists are always mobilising here and agit-propping over there; although Gramsci would approve, it seems to be rather exhausting for them as these efforts all seem to peter out rather quickly....

Apr 17, 2010 at 9:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Delightful. I saw quite a lot of this sort of stuff while professionally active (not in politics but in academia).

Apr 17, 2010 at 10:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterJosualdo

Another sherry, Bernard?

Apr 17, 2010 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Excellent piece, your Grace!

Apr 17, 2010 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSam the Skeptic

It is unthinkable that one would relate elsewhere what one had overheard at one's club? Sort of fella who does that is the sort that would shoot a fox.

Remember, 'A chap doesn't tell a chap what a chap ought to know.'
And above all else, 'Yes, but is he sound?'

Apr 17, 2010 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

A very nice piece!

Reflecting on all of this overnight, I thought it had the potential to make a good storyline for a CP Snow novel. Snow had the right background for this stuff both as an official and in academia. The Masters is a great story.

Here I believe Acton is not so much interested in the rights and wrongs of climate science as in the survival of the reputation of his university and the very survival as the CRU within it. Let us not forget that huge cuts in spending on universities are coming down the track like an express train. Somehow he has to get the UEA off the track. So far, as your overheard conversation suggests, he has played a blinder. Look out for the next thrilling installment - the report of the Muir Russell enquiry.

Going back to Actons 11 and the RS, it remains unclear to me (and I think the RS statement is ambiguous on the point) whether the Oxburgh panel, besides wearing oversize blinkers and not looking much beyond the end of their collective nose, were indeed willing or unwitting accomplices to being led by the nose as well. Either way it is score Acton 1 and the RS 0.

Apr 17, 2010 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered Commenteroldtimer


As soon as I saw the 'Accton's Eleven' heading I thought, 'Nice title for a book there?'

Apr 17, 2010 at 11:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

“...that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return to plague the inventor; this even-handed justice commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice to our own lips."

Apr 17, 2010 at 12:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterIanB

Just think of the plurality of the investigations! There has been two! Two investigations and the sceptics still aren't happy! Just wait until there has been three exhonerating investigations. Maybe that'll do the trick ;)

Apr 17, 2010 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterSteve2

Could have been overheard many centuries ago in Whitehall. The original Whitehall.

Nothing new here.

I do sense that many readers of this blog are beginning to realize that "science" is merely being used as a show prop in a purely political fight. This issue will be settled by political action, not whether there is a unit root in the data or not.

You folks need a Tea Party over on your side of the pond. Of course, the Yanks invented it (in 1773) but there is no reason not to have one in London.

And please remember when you challenge some MP at the Tea Party, ask if he "Want one lump or two?"

Apr 17, 2010 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

I have read your book (wonderful) and I check your blog on a daily basis. However I need to ask about this overheard conversation. Is this a joke that has gone over my head or is this serious? The record of the conversation seems very precise, was it recorded?

[BH adds: "Yes Minister"]

Apr 17, 2010 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

The voices in your head are quite eloquent/

Apr 17, 2010 at 4:41 PM | Unregistered Commenterbigcitylib

I guess that means that the joke went right over my head Bigcitylib :). Not sure that this kind of "clever " wordplay helps our cause though.

Apr 17, 2010 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

Don P

I think you are half way there Don P. I would say in the early days politics was the catalyst and was aided and abetted by science. Now science is the driver aided and abetted quite happily by politics. Control the purse and you control the science. Control the science and you control the debate from the safety of a bunker. It has to be science that settles this.

Bye the way, we’ve had a similar sort of tea party a while back. It lasted on and off for about 10 years and finished about 1651, that’s not GMT. Oh yes, and it didn’t involve tea, just a set of gallows! I think it could be cyclical though.

Apr 17, 2010 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

What concerns me is that governments are trying to change all of our lives for a lie. I have a FOI request into DECC asking what evidence the government has that proves CO2 has caused any of the warming that all scientists agree happened in the 20th century.
Their first response was a joke and now I have an internal review.
There are so many apparently knowledgeable and clever people who post here, what are you all doing to stop this global crime?

Apr 17, 2010 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung


I respectively disagree. It is politics driving the AGW "debate". Science is just a stage prop. For example, I give you Al Gore, the Genius who Invited the Internet. And yes, I did hear him make that statement in the late 1990's in Silly Con Valley.

As you may remember, "Dr" Gore, "discovered" the AGW issue and went on to get a Noble Prize for "An Inconvenient Truth"

The various scientists involved are simply along for the ride. Who gives them their grants?
No, Martyn, re-read your statement and you will see your argument says what I am saying -- It's all politics.

And as a comment on Judith Curry's comment yesterday, I agree with most of what she said but not:

However, I still think it unlikely that actual scientific malfeasance is present in any of these papers: there is no malfeasance associated with sloppy record keeping, making shaky assumptions, and using inappropriate statistical methods in a published scientific journal article.

Madam, these are what the proper Scientific Method is all about. It is why there should be proper peer review of papers by knowledgeable third parties. The fact that they conspired to to hide their data, computer codes, and have their "results" published by Peer Pal Reviews (my thanks to a member whose post I can't find at the moment) tells me that it was FRAUD. That, in my law book is malfeasance.

And the cover up, Martyn, is political.

And, as an Irishman, I am well aware of Cromwell, and it was no tea party at Drogheda and Wexford.

Apr 17, 2010 at 5:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

dung - I'm not sure how long you've been following this but go to Climate Audit and use the categories box to see (some of) the history on FOI. Same at Watts Up. FOI, EIR and due process are all being openly flouted - it is one of the reasons one resorts to satire.

Apr 17, 2010 at 5:43 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet


Weclome. Hopefully you will be for effective than Cedric, Frank, and Icarus. :)

Please try to remember that many of the members on this blog have strong scientific and engineering backgrounds. Rhetoric really does work too well, nor does cute remarks. They can come over as Snarky.

Apr 17, 2010 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Don P, You are correct, politics all the way. As such, the simplest is to arrange things as follows:
No more funds being disbursed by 'Science Councils' of any description to academics or anyone else. Any research required will be awarded by public tender following the legal tendering process as a commercial contract, under contract law.
Any academic institutions, NGOs, Quangos, Trusts, Friendly Societies and casual acquaintances are free to tender for the work should they so desire.
As it is taxpayers money being spent, all results, methods, data etc etc in any way involved with the contract will be in the public domain.

Apr 17, 2010 at 5:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterChuckles

Don P

My apologies for Cromwell, I did not realise your Irish connection. It must have been the name that threw me:-)

I agree the cover up is political, but the solution is science.

Apr 17, 2010 at 6:00 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn


The Irish connection is obviously not obvious, and so no apology is needed.

I agree that the science being abused needs to be corrected. For example Jack Hughes point of about melting floating ice does NOT change sea levels should be made clear. However, the fight is for the minds of the electorate and that is political. If they believe that the polar bears going to drown and their cities flooded, then all the scientific facts you or I have do not matter. Unfortunately, people tend to believe what they are taught to believe and not to learn how to think.

We need a political action to counter the BS from the Warmist fear mongers. That is my bottom line point.

Apr 17, 2010 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

It would be great for a political lead, but I don’t think we will get one, reference the recent reviews. The politicians want AGW because it gives them the opportunity to tax the plebs. Supporting global warming from behind the scenes also means they don’t take the flack from the sceptics the scientists have it all.
So my point is, take away the global warming hypothesis and the politicians have no reason for cap and trade etc, end of story for the politicians.

Apr 17, 2010 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

OK, so some of you believers go ahead and explain why something that quite provably is not happening is real and is happening.

This article shows very dramatically just how little regard there is for the truth in the global warming camp. It's an outright discussion of conspiracy to achieve a desired end no matter the science.

You probably don't have the nerve to post this!

Apr 17, 2010 at 7:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyH

Well, you did let it apear. Thank you!

Apr 17, 2010 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoyH

And this is what you heard my dear, well "I COULD NOT POSSIBLY COMMENT"

Apr 17, 2010 at 7:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

"...You folks need a Tea Party over on your side of the pond. Of course, the Yanks invented it (in 1773) but there is no reason not to have one in London. "
Don Pablo de la Sierra

I think that the Brits have over 100 years head start on the Yanks when it comes to rebellion against lawful authority - don't American schools cover the events of 1641-1651...?

Apr 17, 2010 at 7:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

Dodgy Geezer

I have already made the error regarding the Civil War apparently Don P is an Irishman and naturally is fully aware of Cromwell, Drogheda and Wexford.
Perhaps tread lightly.

Apr 17, 2010 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered Commentermartyn

[Snip - I've made this a full posting.]

Apr 17, 2010 at 7:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid Holland

Dodgy Geezer

I am an Irish citizen, living in California, but with a house as well in Kerry, and with an very strong attachment to a South American beauty who calls me Don Pablo. I know Irish history extremely well, and if you want to get into it we can start in 1168 when Turlain Mac Murchada, King of Leinster, was driven out by Turlain Mac Murchada, Ard-Rí na hÉireann. Turlain, the bastard, went to England and kissed Henry II's arse and became his vassal. Henry sent Raymond le Gros with an army to take Ireland in 1169. Later, in 1170, Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, Lord of Leinster, Justiciar of Ireland, AKA Strongbow, showed up and started conquering Ireland

Cromwell was modern history by comparison. For those of you who have not learned about his activities in Ireland, Cromwell decided to subdue those unruly Irish in 1649. He landed in Ireland, marched to Drogheda, and sacked the town, killing every man in it, as well as a number of women and children. Then to show that he really meant business, he repeated his butcherly in Wexford. Since then, it has been down hill between the Irish and English. We need not review it here.

Yes, Dodgey Geezer, I do know all about Cromwell, and what he did in Scotland, Wales and even to his own men in England when they refused to march out. If you want to talk about rebellion, the Irish know a great deal more about it than any Englishman, although both the Scots and Welsh are fairly good at it as well.

Now, back to the AGW crowd.


It would be great for a political lead, but I don’t think we will get one, reference the recent reviews. The politicians want AGW because it gives them the opportunity to tax the plebs. Supporting global warming from behind the scenes also means they don’t take the flack from the sceptics the scientists have it all.

I agree, which is why I say we need to go after the politicians, like the American Tea Party is. We are already seeing large numbers of senators and congress people declaring that they will not run for re-election. This November will be interesting. And you lucky Brits get to have a go at May 4th, I believe.

Apr 17, 2010 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

Oh, one more point, DG. The reference I made to 1773 I thought was obvious, but perhaps they don't teach American history in the UK. It was the Boston Tea Party.

The new American Tea Party gains its name from this shindig

Apr 17, 2010 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Pablo de la Sierra

One more official vindication of the CRU and its reputation will be entirely shot.
'One vidication looks like good fortune. Two vindications looks like carefulness.'

Apr 17, 2010 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

Pesadia: "And this is what you heard my dear, well "I COULD NOT POSSIBLY COMMENT""

IIRC, the complete quote is: "You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment." - The Right Honourable Francis Urquhart, PC.

Apr 18, 2010 at 5:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterDyspeptic Curmudgeon

Dung ... Sample

Apr 18, 2010 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Re Dung April 17, 2010

James Hacker: This is a democracy, and the people don't like it.
Sir Humphrey Appleby: The people are ignorant and misguided.
James Hacker: Humphrey, it was the people who elected me!
[Humphrey nods]

This explains how inquiries are conducted-

From 1981. The previous series also includes episodes on ID Cards, and is scarily timeless. Or just shows how patient the Civil Service can be. Or how our current government is basing it's policies on Yes Minister and 1984.

For folks in the UK, HMV also had this in their BBC bargain bin with the complete set going cheap. Next step, keep an eye on the Lavender List to see who gets rewarded for services rendered to carbon traders and the 'renewable' energy industry, and also where ex-MP's end up in their new troughs.

Last night in the pub though we did come up with a more practical use for wind turbines given the current ash crisis. Once our coastline is nicely protected by these windmills, switch them from suck to blow and blow all the ash away! Might be about as effective at protecting our airspace as they are at assuring our energy security.

Apr 18, 2010 at 11:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterAtomic Hairdryer

Your Overheard (Tut, tut! one never repeats what is heard inside the Club), reminds one of this piece sometimes attributed to Sir Winston - was it at the Reform?

Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?
Lady: My goodness, Mr. Churchill... Well, I suppose... we would have to discuss terms, of course...
Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five shillings?
Lady: Mr. Churchill! What kind of woman do you think I am?
Churchill: Madam, we have already established that principle. Now we are haggling about the price.

Apr 23, 2010 at 3:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

From "Yes, Minister"

Plot: Jim Hacker has had a terrible day in Parliament: he is accused of giving misleading figures regarding the reduction in the number of administrators to the House. To save himself he had to agree to a full independent inquiry.
On his way to the Ministry he learns from his chauffeur that there is a new St. Edward's hospital in Northern London that is staffed with 500 administrators and ancillary workers, but has no doctors, nurses or patients. Jim Hacker is aghast and decides to ask Bernard to look into this.

(A long series of events follows)

Jim Hacker: "You think it [St. Edward's hospital, still empty of patients] is functioning now?"
Mrs. Rogers: "Minister, it is one of the best run hospitals in the country. It is up for the Florence Nightingale Award."
Jim Hacker: "And what is to praise that?"
Mrs. Rogers: "It is won by the most hygienic hospital in the area."

Jun 8, 2010 at 7:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Sherrington

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