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« Science Media Centre spins the pause | Main | More slipperiness from Baroness Verma »

Neil responds to Nucc

Andrew Neil has written a comprehensive response to all the critics who got so upset with him doing his job properly. I did explain to him on Twitter that the rules of the climate game are that one should only have interviewees who espouse alarmist views and that they should only be asked softball questions.

Strangely, Neil seems to differ:

Many of the criticisms of the Davey interview seem to misunderstand the purpose of a Sunday Politics interview.

This was neatly summed up in a Guardian blog by Dana Nuccitelli, who works for a multi-billion dollar US environmental business (Tetra Tech) and writes prodigiously about global warming and related matters from a very distinct perspective.

He finished by saying: "[Andrew] Neil focussed only on the bits of evidence that seemed to support his position".

This is partly right. We did come at Mr Davey with a particular set of evidence, which was well-sourced from mainstream climate science. But it was nothing to do with advocating a "position".

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Reader Comments (41)

It might also be argued that challenging interviews on matters in which there is an overwhelming consensus in Westminster - but not necessarily among voters who pay for both the licence fee and the government's energy policies - is a particularly legitimate purpose of public-service broadcasting.

Yep, I might well argue that, even on a bad day :)

Jul 22, 2013 at 4:30 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

"We support oil and gas exploration and production, gathering pipelines, transmission pipelines, compressor/pumping stations, processing facilities, refineries, storage facilities (above ground and below ground), and rail, truck, and marine terminal import and export facilities."

This may very well revoke Dana's "green card".

Jul 22, 2013 at 4:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Watts

So Dana is funded by 'Big Oil'? Wow.

Jul 22, 2013 at 4:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

I liked this bit, "There is hardly any purpose in presenting evidence which supports the interviewee's position - that is his or her job."

But he should have added..."Or the job of the rest of the BBC."

Jul 22, 2013 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Nuccitelli is in the pay of the fossil fuel industry. He works for BIG OIL/GAS. He's just a raging hypocrite.

Jul 22, 2013 at 4:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

The link for the Dana Nutter blog does not work.

Got to laugh at the Dana is funded by big oil.

Excellent stuff from Andrew Neil.

Jul 22, 2013 at 5:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Cowper

Andrew Neil's response is superb.

Jul 22, 2013 at 5:09 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Cracking riposte from Andrew Neil.
I especially liked

...some scientists (and Mr Nuccitelli) believe that global warming is causing the depths of the oceans to heat up...
Chew on that!
The offhand dismissal of Cartoon Cook's 97% farrago was neat as well.

Jul 22, 2013 at 5:15 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

That article by Neil reestablished some faith on my part that there is still a core group of journalists who understand the importance of the role of journalists in challenging "conventional views" held by government officials, especially when those views have significant financial impact on ordinary people's lives. What a great rebuttal to yet more of Dana's spittle flecked nonsense.

If you want a nice illustration of the limit of Dana Nuccitelli's (and John Cook's and Tom Curtis's) ability to analyze data reasonably, see this nice exchange on rankexploits to an erroneous and misleading graph put together by Dana.

This is my summary of the errors in the original post.

Usually Nuccitelli just lets invectives fly about "deniers" and runs off without a fight (see his recent comment branding Richard Tol a denier for pointing out the huge gaps in Nuccitelli's paper). I guess it is harder when you have a website that isn't dedicated to a particular outcome critique your methodology. But it does expose the general weakness in his ability to reason and argue quantitatively (and that of Tom Curtis, who responded prolifically while incompetently on that thread).

Jul 22, 2013 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterCarrick

Two points:

1. Dana may not be able to understand it, but Andrew Neil has just destroyed his (Dana's) reputation for good. One could almost feel the knife being thoroughly turned inside the open wound: "works for a multi-billion dollar US environmental business" - "writes prodigiously...from a very distinct perspective" - "not clear...if Mr Nuccitelli denies there is a plateau" - "strongly partisan positions of the authors" etc etc

2. Neil's piece would have been unthinkable on the BBC as recently as a year ago. As so many bigwigs were touched by both Saville and 28Gate, perhaps there has been some change indeed.

Jul 22, 2013 at 5:22 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

I saved my post until Neil's essay was up. Here it is:

Dana's response was to block me on Twitter. LOL!

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Watts

Dana's attempt at self defence in the comment thread below his 1-star Amazon review of the Bishops HSI book (when found out for not having read it) was memorable. (Now only available on the WBM I think, but archived on this blog somewhere).

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:43 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Andrew Neil has been the lone voice crying in the wilderness at the BBC for years. The last openly non-leftist journalist (there must be others, but they are keeping their heads very firmly down).

We'll know if the BBC is repositioning itself by what happens in response to this ‘controversy’.

1. If the BBC comes down hard, or pushes Andrew Neill sideways we'll know that nothing has changed, the lunatics are still in charge of the asylum, and it's a waste of time attempting to get anything resembling investigative journalism out of them.
2. If, in response to the hysterical outbursts of the alarmists, the BBC doesn't do anything we'll know that somebody, somewhere has some journalistic integrity, OR, (with my cynical head on) they are allowing Andrew Neil to continue so that when the wheels finally come off the Great Global Warming Bandwagon, they will be able to point to someone and say, “Look! We were impartial all the time.

Ignore all of the tens of thousands of hours of programming we constructed around climate alarmism, ignore the tens of thousands of news pieces, essays, documentaries where we told you that the Earth was doomed and you are a stupid, evil denier for doubting it. Forget all that. We were really being fair handed an impartial – just look! We employed Andrew Neil!"

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-Record

Peter Sisson memoirs- When One Door Closes, reveals the BBC in all its Guardianistic glory, including chronic institutional climate bias..

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:50 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Stuck - second all that. Brillo has gone up in my estimation. Maybe I'll start watching his cosy chats with Portaloo

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered Commenterfilbert cobb

Andrew Neil has reminded me what TV journalism should be about.

Someone once said that the job of an interviewer is to as the questions that the viewer wants to ask but does not have the access.

More (sustainable) power to his elbow.

(Or did I mean "sustained"?)

Excellent job Mr Neill and the Sunday Politics team.

Jul 22, 2013 at 6:54 PM | Unregistered Commentergraphicconception

Anthony Watts: Those Twitter blocks are worth noting down in chronological order. What a story they will tell one day. But congratulations from me. :)

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:02 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Now here's a rarity: a journalist commenting on the evidence pertaining to global warming (aka climate change) who knows how to do his homework - and what his job is. He's also a damn good writer, who doesn't do spin, he just does facts; so that his viewers can make up their own minds. What a concept, eh?!

All those climate scientists and environmental correspondents (and Dana N.) who've been moaning and groaning for the past few years about "communicating the "science" should consider asking Andrew Neil for some lessons.

For example, consider the following from Nick Collins' piece in the Telegraph, today:

Scientists have long been aware that climate change would not happen at a fixed rate and could include periods where temperatures remain stable for 10 to 20 years, but admitted they had failed to explain this to the public in the past.

Prof Rowan Sutton, Director of Climate Research at the University of Reading, said: "Within the field we have taken for granted that there will be variations in the rate of warming, it is totally accepted and is no surprise ...[it] would correct to say that wasn't the message that we communicated more widely and that probably is a failing." [emphasis added -hro]

If Collins came from the Andrew Neil school of journalism, he would have written something along the lines of "Scientists now claim that they have long been aware ..." And in response to Sutton, he would have asked, "If this is the case, please explain to our readers why did you ... uh ... hide this anticipated decline?"

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:11 PM | Registered CommenterHilary Ostrov

Dana's response was to block me on Twitter.
Oh, Anthony, that must really have hurt!
What a bunch of self-opinionated adolescents these warmists are turning out to be.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:14 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

being Italian myself I can't help using the Nutticelli moniker for a guy who brings disrepute to everyting he touches

he's also remarkably similar to disgraced politician Renzo "The Trout" Bossi, not known as the brightest kid on the block and subject of a Bbc piece here:

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:23 PM | Registered Commenteromnologos

Hilary: I just did the comparison between Collins and Neil on the next thread. Different wording but same result. Sometimes there's no substitute for age and experience. As long as it's combined with courage.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:24 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Bloody hell, that was a good piece from Neil. He certainly knows his stuff. And he utterly stuffed Nutticelli.


Jul 22, 2013 at 7:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Comes to something when Andrew Neil felt the need to pen a lengthy explanation as to why he questioned a Minister. Had this been a different day and The NHS, The Economy or Unemployment were the subject then I very much doubt that he would be penning any explanation whatsoever.

Has Andrew Neil only just discovered that questioning any aspect of the fast train to Unicorn Utopia is not Sunday Politics?

Andrew, you old holocaust denier, get a grip.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:35 PM | Registered Commenterbh3x2

I think that Steve M would be hard pressed to improve on this comprenensive (nay forensic) rebuttal to the critics of Andrew Neils daily politics programme.
Excellent read. Hats off to AndrewNeil.

Jul 22, 2013 at 7:35 PM | Unregistered Commenterpesadia

Nuccitelli is just like a little boy in short trousers. He aims a puny punch, misses, and runs away. I'm glad he is hastening the end of the Guardian in fine style.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn B

Neil comes from a very right wing Paisley family. Another former Murdoch family servant, his brother Jim would love to have enforced Sharia law for anything above a parking offence.

A typical headline

Despicable, recidivist, ultra violent shoplifting pensioner escapes life sentence AGAIN. Her pathetic claim of having no money accepted by do gooder socialist scum sheriff. The Paisley Politburo in action.

Thankfully, both left Paisley to work for Rupert Murdoch.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:39 PM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

I was interested to see in Andrew Neil's article above that he 'fessed up to misquoting "3%" instead of "3 deg C".

The 2007 IPCC study reported that the likely rise in equilibrium temperatures in response to a doubling of C02 in the atmosphere was between 2C and 4.5C, with 3C "most probable" (a slip of the tongue on air said 3%, but it was clear what was meant).

For me, one of the fascinating things about the interview was that Ed Davey then carried on trading temperature "percentage" figures with Andrew - without making any attempt to correct him.

Andrew is a journalist who made a slip of the tongue with his units. Davey, however, is a Minister with responsibility for spending hundreds of millions of our taxes on the subject under discussion.

The fact that his level of knowledge of his subject was so shallow that it left him unable to correct Andrew's simple slip speaks volumes about the whole climate farce.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:54 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

Yeah, quite the strong article by Andrew Neil. Shows the alarmists would have nowhere to hide if a good journalist takes off the kid gloves.

Jul 22, 2013 at 8:56 PM | Registered Commentershub

Any links? Paisley Daily Express perhaps?

Not sure that the son of a soldier and a mill worker can be classed as anything other than a lad o' pairts whatever his political leanings. Perhaps the hard work of Andrew and his parents led to his views on those willing to live on the efforts of others?

Jul 22, 2013 at 9:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

A very good response by Mr Neil. I agree with the point made by bh3x2 (Jul 22, 2013 at 7:35 PM) that it is noteworthy that Mr Neil felt compelled to respond to justify this interview, and that had it been a similarly hard hitting ibnterview on some other subject, it is doubtful that Mr Neil would have felt so compelled.

There is a small error in his response. The paragraph reading:

"Mr Nuccitelli points out that temperatures have plateaued in the past, which is true. But since that was before, according to the IPCC, global warming became the dominant factor in temperature rises, it is not clear past plateaux are relevant to this debate; and the current hiatus is one of the longer ones."

should probably read:

"Mr Nuccitelli points out that temperatures have plateaued in the past, which is true. But since that was before, according to the IPCC, that anthropogenic CO2 emissions became the dominant factor in temperature changes, it is not clear past plateaux are relevant to this debate; and the current hiatus is one of the longer ones."

When discussing Arctic ice melt/loss, it might have been apt for Mr Neil to point out that Antarctic ice is not similarly declining, in fact it is increasing such that the total amount of polar ice (i.e, both Arctic and Antarctic ice combined) shows no decline these past 20 to 30 years. This simple point undermines the relevance of looking at Arctic ice loss alone and reading too much into that (especially as Arctic ice melt does not add to sea level rise).

Jul 22, 2013 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered Commenterrichard verney

Yes, a great job by Andrew Neil. For my money his style is far more effective than the batterings dished out by Paxman et al. He gets the politico - or whoever - comfortable by talking to his strengths and then moves smoothly on to the contentious stuff. His target then has to try and field the tricky points in the same reasonable tone or is forced to appear suddenly uncooperative and defensive. It is very effective at exposing weaknesses and ill-considered policies.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:07 PM | Registered Commentermikeh

Coupled with Shukman coming out as a sceptic over on the beeb, this is a great day for common sense and a terrible one for alarmism.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterFarleyR

I always watch Andrew Neil on his This Week programme. He's sharp as a razor, and a damn good journalistic writer to boot. As mentioned earlier, it'll be interesting to see if the BBC attempts to oust him. I'm half-hoping they will: I'm sure they would end up regretting it because I don't think he'd take it lying down, and he's a very heavy hitter. Better to keep him on board so they can claim they were impartial when the wheels eventually fall off for good. I wouldn't mind were they to do this, just so long as the boondoggle was over.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichael Larkin

I first dealt with Andrew Neil around 1980 when he was preparing a freelance TV programme on "System X", being funded by BT (effectively by the Government) to be Britain's new national computer-controlled phone system. A huge project that had already cost hundreds of millions. Trouble was - although the small local telephone exchanges being designed by Plessey looked OK, the designs for the core large exchanges by GEC would never work. The underlying GEC hardware was wholly inadequate for large throughput, and the software was years late and a total mess - a plate of spaghetti. Neil went straight for the jugular - he had really done his homework, it did not matter to him that this was such a massive prestige project. He was not worried about embarrassing BT or Ministers - as long as the case was strong.

Three years later the GEC efforts were jettisoned - Ericsson of Sweden ended up supplying and running the entire BT core system They still do. This spelt virtually the end of the UK telecoms manufacturing industry, but blind Government faith in the project had protected it until it was too late to change course.

Andrew Neil took a similarly robust view in the mid-1980s of the plans for a British TV satellite - again involving GEC. He quickly recognised that it simply would not fly - it did not have the power to deliver to small customer dishes, and the British satellite firms had never ever won a commercial satellite order, everything was just an endless stream of public funding.

So Neil has never been a respecter of big stupid Government hobby-horses. And politics is not his only metier - he can research and understand science and technology projects. His interview of the lightweight Ed Davey was IMHO just a teeing-up exercise, if Davey dares to go back in the autumn Neil will destroy him. Already Andrew Neil understands the issues better than Davey or any other Government spokesman - and far better than the eco-loons that have run the BBC's coverage of global warming so far.

Even better than a re-run with Ed Davey would be a set-to with Julia Slingo. But she would not dare face him.

Jul 22, 2013 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Anderson

Excellent John. Lots to look forward to but also so much waste in our generation. Yikes.

Jul 23, 2013 at 12:57 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake


Son of a soldier. That's your problem right there. A man with no self respect who passed on his subservience to his sons who both became Murdoch rent boys. Both closely linked with the local conservative party.

Paisley Express gets headline wrong and messes up the picture too.

For Paisley Daily Express editor Jim Neil is laid to rest

I have never seen Andrew Neil's television programme.

Jul 23, 2013 at 2:32 AM | Unregistered CommentereSmiff

A couple of years ago Andrew Neil appeared on a progamme asking why so many senior positions in all fields were filled by those from a narrow public school background. He was a grammar school boy.

I liked his argument for sticking to global temperature as the main metric: he was well used to politicians switching from a metric they had espoused in the past but tried to switch when it was no longer convenient for them.

Jul 23, 2013 at 9:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterRon


O it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away";
But it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play.

..........Yes, makin' mock o' uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an' they're starvation cheap;

Jul 23, 2013 at 1:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

I suspect that Andrew Neil was able to sneak that in while everyone else was enchanted by the glamour of the royal birth.

Jul 23, 2013 at 3:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeff Norman

Thank you, Ross. As usual Kipling said it best.

Smiffy, get that bloody chip off your shoulder.

Jul 23, 2013 at 8:01 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

good call Mike, mind you I thought name meant he had hay fever :-)

Jul 24, 2013 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterdougieh

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