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« The green blob and shale | Main | They didn't audit the model »

Joel Barnett

It's sometimes said that climate change scepticism is a right-wing thing and that everyone who opposes the global warming movement prays to Margaret Thatcher each night.

Joel Barnett, who passed away recently, was one man who gave the lie to that absurd conspiracy theory. Better known as the author of the "Barnett formula" by which public spending is apportioned between the different parts of the UK, he was a lifelong Labour supporter and latterly a trustee of the GWPF.

Lord Donoughue, a colleague in the Labour Party and at GWPF, has written an obituary here.

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Reader Comments (28)

Joel Barnett was well known to my late Dad, he was an honest politician.

Nov 5, 2014 at 9:38 AM | Registered Commenterdennisa

An excellent obituary.

Nov 5, 2014 at 9:52 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Brilliantly written by Lord Donoughue.

It took courage for a Labour loyalist to take a position so contrary to that of the then Labour Government – and its future party leader who had authored the Climate Change Act. That did not deter Joel, familiar with being in a minority, unpopular but intellectually proper position.

As a lifelong Labour supporter – born to a poor tailor in Manchester’s Jewish community, which provided Britain with so many distinguished political, commercial and cultural figures – Joel also objected to the fact that the main burden of imposing this climate alarmism on the nation, actually fell on its poor – while it’s financial benefits went to the rich landowners who littered our countryside with un-environmental wind farms. As a Labour man, he did not like that and was surprised that so many of his party colleagues supported imposing those burdens on the poor.

That seemed worth repeating.

Nov 5, 2014 at 9:55 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

It is very well said.

Nov 5, 2014 at 10:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

Immortalised by the Barnett formula, which even he described as a temporary fix. He was from a different age when politicians had been forged by a common experience of the 2 WW, and were not captives of their own propaganda and spin doctors. A sad passing in msny ways.

Nov 5, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered Commentertrefjon

"Joel also objected to the fact that the main burden of imposing this climate alarmism on the nation, actually fell on its poor – while its financial benefits went to the rich landowners who littered our countryside with un-environmental wind farms."

I have a friend who puts up mobile phone masts. They destroy a little bit of the landscape for money. They don't pretend that it's for anything except another bit of the consumer society taking another little bit of our landscape.

And then there are the supposedly left-wing chatterarti greenblob. Who wreck the landscape on an industrial scale, get the poor to pay to salve their conscience as they fly London-Scotland every week and then take masses of public money to attack the few altruistic people who with no public money and at huge cost to ourselves have spoken up against their non-science.

Joel Barnett sounds like the kind of person I would liked to have had a pint and a chat with.

Nov 5, 2014 at 10:36 AM | Registered CommenterMikeHaseler

I am pretty sure that there are now quite a few amongst the Labour great and good who are CAGW sceptics: perhaps this obituary will persuade some more to 'come out,.

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter Stroud

Richard Drake 9.55. Thanks for selecting that piece. Made it easy to forward by email to my (Labour) MP who is a paid up warmist.

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterAnthony Hanwell

I can't claim to have known Barnett but I knew someone who did and trefjon's comment about that generation of politicians (also my father's generation) and Mike Haseler's final remark are spot-on from what I know of him.
It was the next generation of Labour politicians that lost its way as the purpose for which the likes of Keir Hardie founded the Labour movement had been all but fulfilled (in theory, at least!) and the party of the working man was taken over by the anarchist Left and then by the opportunists under Blair.
In that (limited) sense, Barnett — along with such other luminaries as Healey — was a man of "the Right" rather than "the Left", labels which had ceased to have much meaning by the time Thatcher came to power. More accurate to say he was a man of the people and Lord knows there are few enough of them around.
Go in peace, Joel. You deserve it.

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:30 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Anthony: Pleasure. Once the Labour movement gets this, with a little help from UKIP, UK politics is going to get very interesting again. I can't see Ed Miliband benefiting somehow.

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:31 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Mike Haseler
At least the phone masts serve a useful purpose and when I lived in Scotland my LA was very insistent (with our community council's backing of course!) on making them as inconspicuous as possible and we finally managed to veto the "artificial tree" idea which the companies thought rather clever and "realistic" and we just laughed ourselves sick at.
Probably they'd never seen a real tree before!
Sorry. I digress.

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:35 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

The only credible climate sceptics are on the left.Roger Pielke Jr, Prof. David F. Noble (Toronto), James Heartfield.

Putting the hippies on the payroll

Green Capitalism: Manufacturing Scarcity in an Age of Abundance, by James Heartfield

"In other words, green capitalism is not a passing fad adopted by a few corporate bosses, too spineless to stand up to the hippies; it expresses an essential feature of the social system. As Heartfield reminds us, the origins of modern environmentalism lie in the 1970s when the elite industrialists of the Club of Rome commissioned The Limits to Growth report. As the long post-war boom ended, arguing that the world was running out of resources was another way of saying that there was nothing left to redistribute, and that trade unions must settle for lower wages (p27). (Needless to say, the Club of Rome’s predictions about the exhaustion of natural resources were all confounded [p13]).

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered Commenteresmiff

Whenever I saw some alarmist talk about how right wing the GWPF is, people like Anders and BBD of the undeveloped reading comprehension skills, I used to point to Joel Barnett. That task is now, sadly, more difficult.

Nov 5, 2014 at 11:58 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes


The only credible climate sceptics are on the left.

You've been a bitter and trenchant critic of the GWPF in the past. Presumably therefore you cannot include Bernard Donoughue and Joel Barnett in your list of credible climate sceptics?

(Note to other BH readers: I personally consider esmiff a "useless nym" - in other words a phony, sent here to confuse and discourage genuine contributors. But not everyone is going to share my view on that and thus his views can do damage. Hence the question.)

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

RIP Joel Barnett - a politician that people from all sides of the political divide had a great deal of respect for. It is hard to think of anyone in the current crop of politicians in any party that measure past his boot laces.

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:08 PM | Registered Commenterretireddave

Richard Drake

I should have written, the MOST credible climate sceptics are on the left.

Yes, I suspect that the GWPF has been set up to discredit real climate scepticism. The idea that Nigel Lawson, a traitor to this country who destroyed our economy with American imposed monetarism wants to help British people is ridiculous. Monetarism was implemented in only one other place, Pinochet's Chile. It destroyed their economy too.

(Even) Thatcher Denies Having Ever Subscribed to Monetarism

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

esmiff: one of the reasons I consider you a useless nym (or deep troll) is that very often when a BH thread starts to be really productive you produce something that is ridiculously diversionary as well as tendentious. It turns out that even your original comment had nothing to do with Joel Barnett and Bernard Donoughue, whom I can only assume you consider dupes at best or class traitors at worst, given their choice to join forces with the evil Lord Lawson, Jewish traitor who stabbed his country in the back through his alliance with the super-rich Jews of America, thus allowing the vermin races to win the Great War. Oh no, wrong national socialist there.

Of course you cleverly masked that repugnant opinion. Now at the very least you want us to fall out about monetarism. After the great Joel Barnett has just died. I hope in this case others are as unimpressed as I am.

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:34 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard Drake

The theme of the thread came from this

" It's sometimes said that climate change scepticism is a right-wing thing and that everyone who opposes the global warming movement prays to Margaret Thatcher each night."

It was that left / right theme I addressed. Barnett and Donoughue are establishment figures. If I was working class, I might indeed consider them class traitors.

Interesting Jewish conspiracy there. Perhaps you should bring it up at the next UKIP branch meeting you attend. I'm sure they would lap it up.

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:48 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

"(Note to other BH readers: I personally consider esmiff a "useless nym" - in other words a phony, sent here to confuse and discourage genuine contributors. But not everyone is going to share my view on that and thus his views can do damage. Hence the question.)"

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:01 PM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard, I consider esmiff to be an honest person who is politically left-of-center but who thinks that the anthopogenic-global-warming-due-to-carbon-dioxide thing is probably a load of dingo's kidneys. And I agree with him on that point.

Between you, you have high-jacked an obituary.

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:53 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

RIP Lord Barnet. He was one of the last true men (& women as appropriate) of the people.

This issue of right, far right, & left & far left has often amused me. When challenging a friend once, on his views of AGW, I was accused of being a spokesman for the far right & might as well join UKIP or BNP with all the other Nazis. I then pointed out to him that in fact the Nazi Party was the National Socialist Party, they were Socialists but Nationalistic. Anyway, it still stands that the UN IPCC's Final Solution to CAGW is to establish a Global Government run on broad Socialist lines, filled with the neo-Champagne Socialists, Elites, the Old Guard (Prince Charles), Branson, Porrit et al!

Nov 5, 2014 at 12:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan the Brit

michael hart

Apologies. I genuinely didn't see the link to the obituary. I thought we were embarking on a left/right sceptics discussion.

Nov 5, 2014 at 1:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

apologies to all but E Smiff's weirdly counter-factual history should not be allowed to stand. The British experiment with monetarism happened when Geoffrey Howe was Chancellor and Alan Walters was Thatcher's special advisor. Lawson was, at the time, at the Department of Energy. In the preceding Labour Government, when Healey had to accept the terms of the IMF, Barnett was his number and they too were forced to concede ground to monetarist ideas - eg Callaghan's speech about not being able to spend your way out of recession. And monetarism was also tried in New Zealand, and it became called Rogernomics.

Nov 5, 2014 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

In the rabid monetarist years that destroyed the UK industrial base, Lawson was a highly influential monetarist financial secretary to the treasury.

What has been called ‘British monetarism’ was embodied by 1980 in the Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS), which, as Howe gracefully conceded, owed more to Lawson than anyone else. The essence of the MTFS was already apparent in Lawson’s call for ‘a wholly new approach to economic policy’ while in opposition in 1978. Thus he tied together a commitment to monetary targets in wringing inflation out of the system with a restoration of something like ‘the old balanced Budget discipline’. It was the overarching emphasis on rules and discipline rather than the discretionary laxity of the Keynesian regime that prompted Lawson’s pithy slogan: ‘Rules rule: OK?’

In his years as chancellor, boom bust rules OK.

Lawson, in his own defence, attributes the boom largely to the effects of various measures of financial deregulation. Insofar as Lawson acknowledges policy errors, he attributes them to a failure to raise interest rates during 1986 and considers that had Margaret Thatcher not vetoed the UK joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in November 1985 it might have been possible to adjust to these beneficial changes in the arena of microeconomics with less macroeconomic turbulence. Lawson also ascribes the difficulty of conducting monetary policy to Goodhart's Law.

His tax cuts, beginning in 1986, resulted in the "Lawson Boom" of the British economy, which had halved unemployment from more than 3,000,000 by the end of 1989.[12] However, this led to a rise in inflation from 3% to more than 8% during 1988, which resulted in interest rates doubling to 15% in the space of 18 months, and remaining high in spite of the 1990–1992 recession which saw unemployment rise nearly as high as the level seen before the boom began.[13]

Nov 5, 2014 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterE. Smiff

michael hart (Nov 5, 2014 at 12:53 PM): to E Smiff and Richard Drake:
“Between you, you have high-jacked an obituary.”
Agreed. But Richard and E Smiff are two of the more opinionated and interesting commenters here. I think Joel would have forgiven them.
I'd love to see a discussion of climate change obsession and the left, but on another thread.

Nov 5, 2014 at 9:47 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

case proven E Smiff

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

E Smiff

If you want to talk about monetarism rather than merely smear generalised batshit crazy obloquy upon Nigel Lawson, then raise yoiur game. I know it will be hard for you

Nov 6, 2014 at 12:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I am glad that E Smiff agrees with me...although he will never admit

Nov 6, 2014 at 1:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterdiogenes

I was seconded into the Cabinet Secretariat in the mid-1970s - Wilson and then Callaghan years, with the IMF bailiffs coming in in 1976. I remember Joel Barnett attending the Home Affairs Committee every Friday, chaired at that time by Roy Jenkins, trying to defend the public purse against the latest crackpot idea to spend Other People's Money. Barnett was always on top of his brief for every agenda item, a pleasant and sensible man - surrounded by about 20 other Ministers mostly trying to spend us deeper into de facto bankruptcy. He was Old Labour to the core.

I heard him on the radio a few weeks ago, slamming the "Barnett Formula" He sounded as crisp as ever, but obviously very elderly. It does not surprise me that he took a dim view of Warmism, he was a non-glamorous politician but possessed common-sense judgment - compared with the likes of most of his contemporaries such as Benn and Shirley Williams.

His passing was hardly mentioned by the BBC. Compare that to all the eulogies for idiot Benn.

He was a good man, there are far too few left.

Nov 7, 2014 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Anderson

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