The Wiki Man

How to make Ukip supporters love green policies

We judge ideas more on who they annoy than on what they do

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

14 March 2015

9:00 AM

Few people know this, but hidden within the FedEx logo, between the E and the x, there is a small white arrow, pointing to the right. I feel slightly guilty sharing this with you, since from now until your death you will find it impossible not to notice this device. It is something which once glimpsed cannot be unseen.

Perception can be irreversible: when you first see that famous blue/black or white/gold dress it may be fairly arbitrary whether you see it one way or the other, but you cannot unlearn your first impression. The brain resolves the ambiguity by making a snap assumption about the light in which it was photographed; yet once your brain has made this unconscious ‘hunch’, you cannot reverse the judgment. Once you go blue/black you never go back.

An ‘ambiguity of inference’, where something can be perceived entirely differently when viewed in a slightly different context, is a hallmark of many optical illusions. The same effect seems to be present in other forms of perception. Ideas, for instance, seem to be judged as good or bad according to some knee-jerk instinct, and our enthusiasm for those ideas, or our hostility to them, deepens as we then post-rationalise our gut reaction.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than in politics. Many political ideas seem to be arbitrarily categorised as left or right, or good or bad, after which people hastily reverse-engineer rational support for their feelings.

Some of the Green party’s political proposals are completely mad. But their proposal for a guaranteed basic income, derided by almost every-one, may not be quite the left-wing idea it is assumed to be. Previous supporters of the principle include Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman and Richard Nixon. In many ways, a guaranteed basic income is the kind of welfare which should appeal most to conservatives, since it does not incentivise bad behaviour, it is impossible to ‘game’ and it does not encourage people to exaggerate their own misfortunes (something which generally drives right-wing folk crazy).

Similarly, just as people hated the taste of Patagonian toothfish until it was cannily renamed Chilean sea bass, so people reacted with horror to the idea of a mansion tax but seemed happy when George Osborne introduced such a tax in all but name when he raised the stamp duty paid on large houses. (Though stamp duty is notionally paid by the buyer, it generally reduces property values commensurately; if you live in a £3 million house, you may have woken up £60,000 poorer the day this change was enacted).

Tuition fees, on the other hand, were a branding disaster: had they been positioned as a graduate tax rather than using the language of ‘fees’ and ‘loans’, they might have been seen as gold rather than black.

It would, I think, be possible to achieve a large part of the Green party’s aims by rewriting a manifesto in terms which were perfectly acceptable to supporters of Ukip. Alternative energy, for instance, could be encouraged not as a way to save polar bears, but as a patriotic duty; an alternative to paying billions of pounds every year to horrendous foreign regimes. Banning foie gras would be encouraged as a way to annoy the French.

The problem with political obsessives is that they instinctively judge ideas not according to their effectiveness but by the extent to which they annoy their opponents. A policy is judged not by how well it works, but by the degree to which it reduces the contentment of those social groups whose status you most want to see fall in relation to one’s own.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK.

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  • grutchyngfysch

    I would imagine that most UKIP supporters would be naturally “green” in wanting to defend Britain’s natural beauty and conserve unspoiled by metropolitan numpties like Nick “Concrete the Countryside” Boles – a policy which would follow as day does night from actually getting a grip on the very same population explosion which necessitates the increasing urban encroachment.

    Spin not required, just common sense.

    • redsquirrel

      that is certainly me in a nutshell.

    • Molly NooNar

      There is a lot to potentially collaborate on, not just green spaces. But there is the threat from invasive (foreign) species that are the result of trade and are destroying our own native species and cost the authorities billions of pounds every year to control. I am sure UKIP would also support reintroducing our native species that have been displaced or eradicated. These are core Green party policy areas.

    • Muttley

      Thanks for this – it reflects my view exactly.

    • rorysutherland

      This isn’t spin. It is reframing the context of the debate. Every time I fill up my fuel tank, I give money to some people in a gulf state which they will use to fund terrorists and other rogue entities. I would pay a premium to avoid doing this. Yet the argument is never presented in these terms.

      • Yes: but let’s find a way to avoid funding tyrants in deserts while also avoiding the tyrants at home on the Left! (I keep hearing about a ‘Right’, but in all honesty it must be the smallest elephant in Britain, as I really don’t know where it roams.)

  • Mat

    I cant believe what I’m reading…”a guaranteed basic income, derided by almost every-one, may not be quite the left-wing idea it is assumed to be”

    what’s happening to the Spectator? First the text proposing minimum pricing on alcohol, now this….

    “He who does not work, neither shall he eat” – is this so difficult?

    • Are you quoting “He who does not work, neither shall he eat” to say that rich people should have to get jobs?

      I assume you’re lucky enough to live in a country with 100% employment, so everone who wants a job has oen. I live in a country where there are not enough jobs for everyone, so I prefer to remember Matthew 25:31-46.

      • rorysutherland

        Purist libertarians might ideally want no welfare at all; nevertheless they prefer a guaranteed basic income to selective welfare.

        With a GBI combined with a large tax threshold, where people perhaps pay no income tax on the first £10,000 of earned income, someone who goes out to work and earns £10,000 would be £10,000 richer than the person next door who does not work at all. So the basic incentive for working is much stronger than the conventional system, where the first person might be only £6,000 better off than his idle neighbour, since the neighbour receives welfare payments which he does not. Moreover there is no incentive for the neighbour to exaggerate his own misfortunes in order to gain benefits. The benefits are fixed.

        By the way, when you quoted “He who does not work….” were you citing St Paul or Lenin? They both said it!

        • Sleazy Boat on the Bayou

          Also, the recipient of basic income wouldn’t face the ridiculous withdrawal rates suffered under today’s means-tested tax and benefit systems, which further disincentive working.

        • jack

          Libertarians have no objection to government gving benefits directly to the people by way of redistribution. However the government must not demand a “means test” for these benefits. If such a test is demanded then the government gains the power to “punish” bad behavior, simply by withholding a benefit which everyone else is getting. For example, in our current obamacare system, the government can tax you is you refuse to buy health insurance. This is coercive. The government can deny you food stamps if you refuse to look for work. Thus this is a way of coercing you to work. It is fine if a private person requires work in return for a paycheck. But it is NOT OK to be treated thus by our government. In a republic, we citizens are supposed to be the bosses. But with our present system, the government has become the boss and we are reduced to begging for crumbs.

          • Pacificweather

            American socialism would work much better if the people just admitted America is a socialist country, maybe the most socialist in the world. Having admitted it they could then make their socialism efficient.

        • Pacificweather

          What you propose has the advantages you state but it still means that the taxpayer is subsidising employers. It would better to raise the minimum wage until in work benefits are no longer required. It would also diminish the advantage in hiring low cost offshore labour.

          • jack

            What is wrong with subsidizing employers? Especially if the subsidy goes directly to the pockets of the workers so they are helped also. It seems silly to abject to a policy just because it benefits too many people. How can it be bad to benefit an additional group? The workers lose nothing and the employers will still have to pay the workers the same as other employers do. All employers would get the same subsidy so they would be no competitive advantage of one over another and there would be no downward pressure on wages. Who is supposed to hire the workers if the employers are all broke?

          • Pacificweather

            To the extent that employers have been subsidised since WW2 when defence contractors were subsidised by cost plus contracts to build white elephants like TSR2 and Blue Streak then you could say that the government is merely holding up a long tradition. Even in those days employers had to pay wages that workers could live on or there would be no workers. Today, large corporations like Amazon, Starbucks and the firm that makes sandwiches for M&S can pay minimum wages only because the taxpayer is topping up their wages with Housing Benefit and Tax Credits. You may be happy for your taxes to subsidise companies that can easily afford to pay living wages but most of us would prefer that jobs produced taxes rather than taxes produced jobs. You may be too young to remember when Britain could support it’s population with real jobs that paid real wages. We don’t need firms that can’t pay real wages. We need firms that can an produce tax income from real jobs.

          • jack

            I don’t think you understand what americans mean by the “low income tax credit”. It is not related to the type of subsidy you very rightly decry. It is also not a full blown libertarian flat tax approach, but it is at least meant to encourage and reward work more than means tested subsidy or direct employer support, would do. Most importantly it does not have quite so many bad side effects. It is a still a half way measure that is better than what we have now but not really perfect either. It is what Miltion Freedman would have called a practical expedient

          • Pacificweather

            It sounds like socialism to me but then the USA is the most socialist country in the world (but keep that to a whisper). Unlike you, most Americans won’t admit to that reality.

          • jack

            Are you joking? This entire board is full of americans whining about creeping socialism in our land of dire reputation. Too much statist nonsense and the total insanity of trying to ration and deliver health and the balm of human charity, via a bureaucratic vote counting mechanism. But you probably are confused by the funny language we use over he to discuss things. For example one must remember that over here, we use the word “liberal” as a synonym for “socialist” or “big government” in general. It is understandable but you seem to continue with the pure meaning (i.e. as an adjective for some policy or party that advocates “reduced regulation”). To make things even more confusing, we also have a term “libertarian” which refers to the political ideology, that places highest value on the global sum of individual liberty, as against any collectivist concept of liberty.

          • Pacificweather

            Never use a word correctly when you could use it incorrectly or use a euphemism seems to be the American motto. The use of Entre to describe the main course rather than the first course is a prime example. Then there was the fashion for saying the word herb not pronouncing the h as if it was a French word. I hope that fashion has passed. I don’t think it can be disputed that Americans have the greatest capacity for self deception of any nation in the world although both Britain and Russia would be in the top ten.

          • jack

            It is all due to the liberal need to cuddle the downtrodden and maligned. The euphemisms are the worst in my humble opinion. A few years ago, someone PR consultant working for the hotel industry, discovered that if you used the term “undocumented immigrant” instead of “illegal alien”, then people would get confused, think it was a good thing, and give the desired response on polling questions. Hence, my myriad similar steps, our mother tongue has been debauched and brought to a sad state of Orwellian gibberish.

          • Pacificweather

            It’s all those Hollywood Sci-Fi films. When people think of illegal aliens they think of ET. Actually, he was rather cuddly. Perhaps one of the undocumented ones that live in your stomach and burst out when you have dinner.

      • jack

        He said “he who does not work”. He did not say; “he who does not work for pay”. Learn how to use logic when analyzing a sentence..

        • redsquirrel

          this is all tremendous stuff, but you can’t spell, so it’s hard not to worry that you don’t really know what you are talking about.

          • jack

            Don’t distress yourself out of your concern for my dyslexia.

          • Richard Baranov

            It is not relevant if his spelling is correct or not as long as he gets his meaning across. We are not writing for posterity here and non of us, I would assume, expect out scribbling on this site to be immortal or etched in stone. Essentially, what we write here is ‘throwaway’s.’

            But more succinctly, the Zen aphorism: “No work, no food.”

          • redsquirrel

            fair enough with typos or spelling tricky words incorrectly, but he doesn’t know the difference between their and there.

          • Richard Baranov

            I did not notice that because what concerns me is what someone is trying to say. Their spelling is a matter of indifference to me.

          • luci_fer

            I’m wondering on what basis you’ve decided this is not understanding the difference, rather than a typo.

            I know the difference between ‘they’re’, ‘their’ and ‘there’; what each means and how to use them correctly in a sentence. Most people do.

            That doesn’t mean I might not make a mistake and type the wrong thing when writing hurriedly on the internet, as they are phonetically the same.

          • Pacificweather

            My iPad doesn’t know the difference either. I sometimes spot it and correct it but my proof reading isn’t all it should be.

        • If you want to be logical, “does not work” only means “does not work”. That covers rich people who don’t work as well as poor people who don’t work.

          ETA: Which supports Basic Income: give it to everyone.

      • jack

        The key to the libertarian position, is that the provision of benefits should be uniform for everyone. Their should be no “means testing” or other special favors to the poor. As soon as you start to make special categories, The politicians will use the legislative process to favor their supporters and build coalitions to get reelected. Soon enough one will have a corrupt cycle; legislators, paying voters to support them in return for continued or increased pay. Then it is only a short step till the voters are coerced by the treat of losing their littles support checks unless they vote yes on certain critical bills (such as appropriations bills). In this way the legislature loses the power to say “no” to spending bills. Their are too many people who would lose their checks. In this way the power of the purse is debauched and the executive gains unchecked ability to spend and spend. The congress also loses all power to end deficit spending (borrowing). Thus the president gains access to an infinite source of funds. It is the end of all liberty. Thus are the temptations of a “free lunch” ultimately used to enslave a once proud nation.

    • Pacificweather

      He who employs shall receive subsidies is the current aphorism of the last two governments.

  • Call bird-chomping-bat-killing eco crucifixes whatever you like. You’ll never convince me they’re anything other than useless except with evidence to the contrary. Which doesn’t exist.

    • Molly NooNar

      Bird chomping, bat killing eco crucifixes are useless? Aside from the fact environmentalists are neither bird chomping or bat killing, I have to ask why you consider them useless? Because they value animals and ecology over money?

      • Richard Baranov

        ‘The Prez’, I would suggest, is referring to windmills not environmentalists, he can correct me if I’m wrong. But the article is based on a false assumption that UKIPers don’t care about the environment, which is palpable nonsense. I am a member of UKIP and have three greenhouses in which I grew rare and endangered plants. As my discus bio points out, I specialize in tissue culture precisely for the preservation of plants. It is stupid to suggest that members of UKIP are indifferent to the environment, they are not. But the Greens are ridiculous reactionaries who would take us back to famine and misery if they actually got their own way, ignorant of science they are first class luddites that have nothing to contribute to sane discourse at all. Nothing sensible they say hasn’t been suggested by others of an eminently more practical bent. I have noticed that Greens favourite word is ‘if’, as in ‘if pigs might fly’ and their constant use of that little word as a prefix to almost everything they say, suggests that they are out of touch with present reality in favour of gagaland.

        • Well said.

        • Molly NooNar

          “[the Greens are] ignorant of science they are first class luddites that have nothing to contribute to sane discourse at all.”
          But science says global warming is the worlds greatest threat, nuclear weapons the 2nd (no trident-a Green policy), says neonicotinoid pesticides are lethal to wildlife and the ecosystem (tories and UKIP opposed the EU ban), says the badger cull is a waste of time, says the country needs 127 marine conservation zones now (opposed by Tories and UKIP).

          It seems the Green’s are quite into science, unfortunately other parties not so.

          • Richard Baranov

            Science does not say that: “global warming is the worlds greatest threat….,” A certain set of ideologists claim that and manipulate information furiously to make gullable people believe that. Read this, and then do some independent research instead of believing everything you are told.

            The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’
            What is the origin of the false belief—constantly repeated—that almost all scientists agree about global warming? The link will not work but you can type the title into Google and it will appear, it’s a Wall Street Journal piece.

            But, I know that as far as Global Warming fanatics are concerned, refuting their misinformation is like water of a ducks back, that is because they are not interested in the science but ideologists and True Believers as blind as any religious fanatic. Personally I support Fracking, it is safe, in fact probably the safest way of getting energy there is, despite Green propaganda to the contrary. I would direct you to this, Fracknation: What the wretched Greens wont tell you is that over a million wells have been fracked and there is not one, not one that has leaked, despite their misleading claims. I lived in California, earthquake country and in the 60 years they have been fracking there not one leak has been caused by earthquake.

            You claim that the second greatest threat is: “… nuclear weapons the 2nd (no trident-a Green policy),…” I am now in my early sixties, for as long as I can remember the nuclear clock has always been set at 3 minutes to midnight. So, really, big deal! This clock, by the way, is a sociological exercise and has zero to do with science.

            As for pesticides, reality dictates that they be used, I am not happy about that anymore than any other rational person is. But if you want millions of people to starve to death, by all means ban pesticides. Which brings me to the real problem that no one seriously addresses. There are to damn many of us and, it is from that all the problems you cite stem from. There is a Buddhist expression “Idiot Compassion”, and it is that, the constant supporting of people in unsustainable environments, such as Somalia that our difficulties arise. Populations explode and cannot be supported by normal or rational means. The Green solution, aid, impoverish everybody!

            The Greens are not into science, what they are into is selective picking of information that bolsters their stupid ideology. Scientifically they are worse than ignorant, they are malicious in their misinformation. For problems to be solved it requires rational discourse and the Greens are no more interested in that than I am in trying to breath in a vacuum. So, I repeat. The Greens are ignorant luddites, anti science, anti human, anti the environment and anti-life. Taken to the logical consequences of their ideology they are, in fact, a death cult.

          • Isage000

            Excellent summary.

          • luci_fer

            “A certain set of ideologists claim that…”

            I think it’s more likely the opposite.
            There is a large scientific consensus on climate change.
            You can always find vested interests prepared to say otherwise, though.

            “The Myth of the Climate Change ‘97%’

            What is the origin of the false belief—constantly repeated—that almost all scientists agree about global warming?”

            That appears to be NASA:


            (who you are free to consider a credible source or not)

            Though that’s limited to the US.

            “As for pesticides, reality dictates that they be used”

            Then you’d better be damn sure they aren’t what’s killing off our bees, because then we really will be in the shit as far as food production is concerned.

            “For problems to be solved it requires rational discourse and the Greens are no more interested in that than I am in trying to breath in a vacuum.”

            Funnily enough, Green members get to debate policy. Which means if there’s something you disagree with, and you provide compelling evidence as to why, and if enough people support what you’re saying, they’ll rethink things. Which sounds like rational discourse to me.

            Of course, by pronouncing them a death cult, you don’t at all sound like an impractical knee-jerk reactionary…

          • Richard Baranov

            Science is not done by “consensus”, this is a ridiculous notion and betrays an utter lack of understanding of how science progresses. I use ‘chromosome counts’ in knowing what can hybridize with what, this is not a matter of “consensus” but fact arrived at via experimentation and observation.

            There has not been any global warming since 1998 and over 60 ideas as to why. The possibility that the climate change fanatics may be wrong is not one of the over 60 ideas, no doubt because there is no vested interest in that by the climate nuts.

            I pointed out that I am not happy about pesticides, in fact I do not use them, but use biological controls when I need to. The idea that we would be in trouble if there were no bees is another ‘myth’. If bees were to go it would be a tragedy but hardly the catastrophe that propaganda likes to portray. There are many other pollinators and also mechanical methods of pollination although I am hardly advocating such things. I’m personally very fond of bees and have actually kept them in the past so I am hardly indifferent to their fate. What I do not support is the scare mongering of people such as the greens who don’t know their mouth from their anus when it comes to these sort of topics.
            Sorry, but if you reason out the Greens policies and ideas they are indeed a ‘death cult’ because implementing their polices would kill people by the millions. That you, and people like you, who clearly know next to nothing about science fall for their nonsense hardly makes me a “knee-jerk reactionary” what it means is that I insist on scientific evidence and the scientific method. I am, simply put, a rationalist and, if I were to be stampeded by the likes of the Greens and their nonsense, then what I do in my plant work would hardly achieve anything at all because ignorance, propaganda, and anti-science hysteria is not a basis for proper action, that way ends in destruction. But then, all ‘death cults’ are opposed to rationality and lack of that, the Greens display in abundance. As that ridiculous ‘car crash’ interview on TV by their silly leader demonstrated in abundance.

          • luci_fer

            I didn’t make any commentary about the nature of consensus or it’s importance; you asked where the idea came from that there was consensus in the scientific community about climate change. I gave you a source. I pointed out you were free to not find NASA a credible source if you wished.

          • Richard Baranov

            It is not a matter of, if I wish. Scientists of unimpeachable credibility have criticised it as seriously flawed because information that did not fit the paradigm that NASA put forth was deliberately omitted. Now you may think that is perfectly OK, I find it tantamount to lying when you supress information that does not fit the argument you are trying to make, it is unscientific and smacks of Lysenkoism, and within the scientific community such behaviour is an utter disgrace.

        • James

          I don’t know where science is at this point in time or how far we are from fuel technologies, but isn’t the biggest problem China’s factories and the shipping industry? Does any green policy matter if across the pond they don’t care?

          • Molly NooNar

            This is true. However, there are considerable benefits of reducing emissions beyond simply reducing effects or preventing global warming. So, it is important not to think of efforts being in vain if we do take action and others don’t. There are major health incentives.
            Long-term exposure to air pollution contributed to more than 28,000 deaths across the UK in 2010, government figures show.

            Public Health England (PHE) said 5.3 per cent of all deaths
            in over-25s were linked to air pollution, although the figures varied considerably by region.

            Authors of the study said people whose death was hastened by pollution lost an average of 10.6 years of their lives.


          • Notice, everyone, how they subtly shift the debate when they start losing. Now all mention of co2 is dropped in favour of nebulous talk about pollution in general.

          • Richard Baranov

            In a word, No. Britain’s contribution to the problem, if there is a problem, which I’m somewhat sceptical about, is puny compared to India, China and other emerging economies. The Greens would have us cut our own throats for the sake of what amounts, in the grand scheme of things, to a futile gesture.

          • Pacificweather

            The Greens believe we can grow our economy by becoming leaders in Green technology. That would be true if we had the capability and capacity to become leaders. The fact is we don’t. Any reduction of our CO2 emissions will be done using foreign technology and foreign capital. This will damage our balance of payments but no more than importing oil or gas does. Large scale reductions in CO2 would impact China greatly but Britain very little. In fact, renewing our power stations will expand our economy.

      • I was referring, of course, to windmills. Devices that are gas-powered and generate so little electricity that in spite of the vast amount of money that’s been poured into them, their generating capacity remains less than half a percent of the UK total. And for this shockingly inefficient technology, we pay a small fortune, through our energy bills, to subsidise rich men building them on their land then selling ludicrously expensive power back to us. They are literally a means to transfer money from rich to poor and, as a final horrifying bonus ,they kill wildlife in large numbers:

        But environmentalists don’t want to hear these facts as they don’t square with the warm and cosy “sustainable energy” narrative. I would rather you were fighting on behalf of animals instead of banging on about levels of a trace gas in the atmosphere and proposing backwards, medieval solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist.

        • Molly NooNar

          I don’t agree, there is a case against wind turbines that some environmentalists are sensitive to. What environmentalists want is action, what they hear is the rhetoric of government about global warming yet it does nothing to live up to its promises to tackle emissions.

          Shouldn’t we leave it up to science to tell us what exists or not? It is currently the dominant scientific paradigm.

          • Let’s be fair, if the science of global warming was above board, the theory would have been abandoned by now. No warming since the late 1990s and even that was unremarkable in the context of the last few hundred years. Global warming exists solely in computer models that consistently don’t match reality, but there’s so much money riding on keeping the scam going that it’s become politicised. For some context, try googling “1970s global cooling scare”

            I believe that environmentalism needs prising from the hands of dogmatic leftists who’ve invented a doomsday cult which, as you observe, produces a response from governments unsatisfactory to both sides. I’d rather be we talking about habitat destruction and overcrowding than trace gasses.

          • CheshireRed

            Steady on, old chap. Giving sensible replies to greens is no way to carry on.

          • Pacificweather

            I think the dogma hasn’t been abandoned because the ice and the permafrost are still melting. When they stop melting it will all be quietly forgotten. Of course, if it doesn’t, we’ll all be quietly forgotten. You pay your money and you buy your ticket.

          • Richard Baranov

            There is plenty of action, it’s just not action that the irrational greens want because greens are tied to ridiculous “technologies” that are laughable as a practical solution to the worlds needs.

          • Pacificweather

            The problem with those that run wind turbines is that they are subsidy farmers not energy producers. A 900 MW turbine will be limited to 500 MW to receive the maximum subsidy.

  • Molly NooNar

    This is a valuable contribution to the debate because its true, the way ideas are framed can make them appealing or arouse little or no reaction whatsoever. The Green party’s ideas should not be dismissed as mad, they are justified. However, all too often they arouse this suspicion of eco-warriors or marxist, stereotypes that died out over 30 years ago but are making a comeback to every debate about any proposal that is put forward by an environmentalist. It would indeed be a distinct improvement if we could consider the merits and concerns we have about policy issues without instantly associating it with something bad. It is possible to point out flaws and useful aspects of policy for all parties and I accept that it is also a challenge for those on the left to do the same with policies proposed rightwing political parties.

    • WTF

      Problem is they don’t do themselves any favours when aligned with the climate change liars at East Anglia Uni.

    • rorysutherland

      Thank you. What is bizarre about this whole comments thread is how it illustrates my point. I only mentioned alternative energy and UKIP in one paragraph of the piece, and then only as an illustration. I don’t write the headline (which is different in the printed copy of the magazine, in any case).

      The article is *not* about alternative energy nor is it about UKIP. It is about the fact that good ideas may be rejected because to support them may be seen as giving credit to people you don’t like. But, in this weird dog-whistle way, several deranged people have assumed I had taken sides against them.

      Frankly the economic case for renewables may be poor and the science for global warming may be bogus. Fine! But I’d still rather not give money to some of the least attractive regimes on earth every time I start my car.

  • Richard Baranov

    Am I alone in thinking that this is a really inane article?

    • Malcolm Stevas


      • Richard Baranov

        Ta 🙂

  • Ali

    British jobs for British people was a policy of Gordon Brown and countless conservatives. The Australian points based system for immigration which is so racist and despicable, was Michael Howard’s idea for the Tories. There are plenty of UKIP ideas that have come from elsewhere, it is you in the media who are guilty of labeling them abhorrent because Mr Farage adopts them. That is your silly game not ours. Most Kippers are green in terms of being natural conservatives, we do not believe in Malthusian remedies for climate change based on invented statistics, nor paying Sam Cam’s dad public money for his hideous wind turbines and that sort of cronyism, but that is not the same thing at all as not being green.

  • WTF

    Right minded people including UKIP embrace green policies where they are proven to work and are cost effective but the problem is that most of the lefty green policies are unproven, very costly and in most cases cause more pollution than before.

    Two simple examples are wind power and CFL/LED light bulbs. On wind power we subsidize wind power at the expense of coal or gas fired power stations creating an uneven playing field. Its not cost effective and several windmills have been destroyed in high winds, the very thing they should excel in.

    On CFL/LED bulbs we have exported megatons of pollution to China just so we can claim we’ve reduced energy consumption only to be left with all the pollution of worn out high contaminated low energy bulbs instead of a bit of glass and tungsten from our old bulbs.

    We’re for green policies ONLY if they work but sadly most so far are very flawed.

    • Molly NooNar

      Whether or not wind power is cost effective, depends on what the goal is? If wind power has a chance of preventing a serious scenario- isn’t it worth the cost since prevention is better than dealing with the fallout of runaway global temperatures, sea level rises, extreme weather etc?

      Regarding LEDs, they are not hazardous and are highly efficient compared to the filament light bulbs that were only about 10% efficient. You are correct regarding CFLs though. However, it is debatable how much blame should be apportioned to environmentalists regarding the prominence of CFLs. It was regulatory capture of the EU lawmakers by big businesses such as Osram and Phillips that persuaded EU lawmakers to phase out of the old filament light bulbs (which they made hardly any profit on) in favour of CFLs (which were much more lucrative). There was an excellent investigative journalism piece about the dangers of CFLs, regulatory capture and the EUs massive failings on youtube, I’ll post the link if I can find it.

      • WTF

        Firstly, the climate scientists are at odds over what the future predicts and although I’m all in favour of non polluting measures as a general principal, it has to be based on sound scientific principals.

        Regarding LEDs & CFL’s, as an electronics engineer for over 50 years, I am very au fait with the technology and manufacturing costs of these new types of bulbs. I beg to differ as you haven’t considered the cost and pollution in making the electronic components that are required for an LED light bulb. Its no good just looking at the running costs of a device you have to factor in the manufacturing costs and disposal costs and that is where the equation has been skewed by the left by ignoring those costs.

        A tungsten light bulb consists of recyclable glass & recyclable metal and the manufacturing costs and pollution costs are minimal. Yes, they may consume 4 times that of a LED bulb when operating but the other costs for CFL/LED are very significant.

        Additionally there are other factors such as ‘power factor’ which resistive components like tungsten bulbs do not have but CFL’s and LED bulbs do have which affects the power required from the power station compared to the actual power they consume or are actually charged for. As an example, I have a 900 watt petrol generator that can easily run a 500 watt halogen inspection lamp because it is a resistive load. That generator although rated at 900 watts can not run a 500 VA refrigerator as it is an inductive load like CFL’s and LED lamps. Consequently the power station (or a home generator) needs around 1500 watts to run a 500 VA inductive load. Its a false economy and one that the greens conveniently forget.

        Here is a link which explains all of this in far more detail about the misconceptions of CFL’s and LED bulbs.

        • Molly NooNar

          Science works by always having people permanently at odds. People didn’t disprove that the earth was flat by all agreeing with one another. However, the scientific community still has a working paradigm which it considers best for explaining all of the observations and results currently amassed- that paradigm is global warming.

          As I understand it, an LED bulb has a life time of something like 50,000 hours, the filament, incandescent bulbs are what? Something like 1000 hours? The link posted while containing a lot of information doesn’t give a life cycle assessment of LED vs incandescent light bulbs, so there’s not alot to argue.

          • WTF

            In the interest of saving energy bills I have bought many LED bulbs from China but in all honesty, their life cycle leaves a lot to be desired and I doubt very much that the savings I have made on running costs outweigh the 10 fold price they cost in the shops.

            For instance, a 5W LED bulb can cost around €8 in Spain (€4 in China) compared with a 60W/100W tungsten you used to be able to buy for around 40p. Some of my higher powered LED bulbs with 5 CREE style LEDs have only lasted around 6 months at best, not exactly a ringing endorsement and the same was and still is true of CFL bulbs.

            Its the same old exaggeration we had over climate change, those with a vested interest make outrageous claims that aren’t borne out in practice. An LED bulb has around 12 components to drive the LED’s and any one failing can make the bulb useless. Also, contrary to claims, the higher power bulbs (the ones you need) do run hot and depending on the light fitting will fail prematurely as heat is a ‘killer’ for electronic components.

            With old fashioned tungsten bulbs by their very nature they got hot and consequently heat dissipation was designed into them. With replacement LED bulbs, the manufacturer hasn’t a clue what lamp fitting they’ll go into and consequently many over heat and fail prematurely.

          • That’s not quite how science works. Science is just a process of testing hypotheses against observations. People aren’t necessarily permanently at odds. Indeed, the flat-earth hypothesis you mention is a case in point, since the consensus as to its falsity is pretty much unanimous.

            I might add that in many ways the green lobby which you support is strikingly anti-science – in particular, its ludicrous anti-GMO stance would be comical if it wasn’t so utterly tragic in its effects.

            (In case you’re wondering, I’m not a scientist myself. My background is in analytical philosophy. However, my Philosophy PhD was supervised by really quite an eminent professor of the Philosophy of Science. So, although to my continuing shame I don’t personally know much actual science, I do have enormous respect for its principles and exponents.)

          • Molly NooNar

            But hardly anything is ever proven in science through infinite regress, theory laden seeing and so on. it surprises me that you put so much stock in science when philosophers have rejected it as a value system no better than voodooism, such as Feyerabend.

            I am open minded on genetically modified crops were the use can be justified. However, I suggest you ask the public at large whether they agree with eating GMOs or not? What do you think they would say?

          • “But hardly anything is ever proven in science through infinite regress”

            I’m afraid I don’t know what this means. Scientific hypotheses, about e.g. whether particular foods are safe, do tend not to get proven, but not because of infinite regress, which as a notion belongs more in the realm of pure and applied logic than in science.

            “it surprises me that you put so much stock in science when philosophers have rejected it as a value system no better than voodooism, such as Feyerabend.”

            I’m afraid you’ve got things rather about-face here as well. Philosophers by and large accept the existence of universal methodological rules. Paul Feyerabend just happens to have been an exception, standing outside the philosophic-scientific consensus. I dare say you could find other examples – Adorno springs to mind – but really, philosophers and scientists are by and large in agreement about the deliverances of reason, observation, and inference to the best explanation.

            “I am open minded on genetically modified crops were the use can be justified. However, I suggest you ask the public at large whether they agree with eating GMOs or not? What do you think they would say?”

            You may very well be right that the public would mostly reject GMO’s. But this is just revelatory of the grip exerted on the public imagination by lobbyists such as Greenpeace et al. And this mindset is responsible for a grotesque human tragedy in the 3rd world.

          • Molly NooNar

            By infinite regress I mean that scientific relationships can never be proven, only assumed. That is because it would take infinite measurements to prove a correlation and in all circumstances.

            I am nevertheless interested that you have now resorted to the reasoning that “philosophers and scientists are by and large in agreement.” Some of the UKIPPers above have suggested that this wasn’t a reasonable explanation for confirming the existence of global warming as a real and pressing scientifically established phenomenon.

            As for your evidence that Greenpeace are behind the public’s reservations of GMOs, where is the evidence for this? Is it not possible that they are concerned that the long term impacts of these treatments are entirely unknown and that they would rather that which is known and safe be grown instead?

          • “By infinite regress I mean that scientific relationships can never be proven, only assumed. That is because it would take infinite measurements to prove a correlation. We don’t do this, we just plot a few measurements and extrapolate a statistical pattern based on those measurements.”

            I’m afraid you are slightly misusing the terminology.

            (1) An infinite regress comes about when an attempt is made to establish the truth of a proposition – call it p1 – by recourse to a second proposition p2, which is itself in need of establishing by recourse to a third proposition p3, … pn, where n is infinite.

            (2) By “scientific relationships” you must mean something like “necessary connections”.

            (3) It doesn’t take an infinite number of measurements to prove a correlation. Mere correlation can be and often is established by a single measurement. Strong correlation is often established by testing with control samples.

            “I am nevertheless interested that you have now resorted to the reasoning that “philosophers and scientists are by and large in agreement.” Some of the UKIPPers below have suggested that this wasn’t a reasonable explanation for confirming the existence of global warming as a real and pressing scientifically established phenomenon.”

            There is a widespread consensus within the scientific community in support of the anthrogenic global warming hypothesis – according to which some of the increase in global temperature is attributable to human activity. Many Ukippers disagree with this scientific consensus. But that’s nothing to do with me. I’m a Tory, not a Ukipper.

            “As for your evidence that Greenpeace are behind the public’s reservations of GMOs, where is the evidence for this? Is it not possible that they are concerned that the long term impacts of these treatments are entirely unknown and that they would rather that which is known and safe be grown instead?”

            I was under the distinct impression that Greenpeace et al saw themselves as opinion-formers in the vanguard of the campaign against GMO’s. That’s what it seems to say quite prominently on their website. The concerns about long-term impacts of GMO’s really ought to have been allayed by now, after nearly 2000 peer-reviewed studies which have failed to establish that GMO’s are AT ALL harmful. Meanwhile, we have the continuing tragedy of people in the 3rd world suffering from malnutrition and avoidable diseases, because Greenpeace et al lobby their governments against allowing them to have access to e.g. GM Golden Rice. The behaviour of Greenpeace et al has caused terrible suffering. I think that posterity will view their behaviour as a terrible crime against humanity.

          • Molly NooNar

            You’re right on the terminology, I meant to say the “experimenter’s regress”.

            I am singularly impressed by Tory compassion for the 3rd world, except that there are people starving in this country, today, as a result of vindictive austerity. The church has warned continuously about the plight of the poor and vulnerable, and Tories have ploughed on regardless with their ideological quest for greed through growth. It is the Tories that are in a real and powerful position to do something to help starving people- and they do nothing. Forgive me, therefore, if I don’t laugh and mock your claim that apparently Greenpeace, a underfunded and largely irrelevant NGO has so much power that it can cause mass starving in the 3rd world!

          • Every time I’ve mentioned Greenpeace, I’ve used the phrase “Greenpeace et al”. So I’m not saying that Greenpeace is having this chilling effect by themselves on governmental attitudes towards crop science.

            Anyway, your defence of Greenpeace now seems to be that their lobbying against GMO’s has been ineffective. I’m sure that their donors will be delighted to hear that the money has been wasted.

            As to your claim that Greenpeace are unfunded, I find that very hard to square with the £24m they spunked on their yacht

            I wonder whether you are also aware that their Director of International Programmes was exposed as commuting 250 miles to work each day by jet.

            I wish I could afford to be as underfunded as Greenpeace.

            Lastly, I’m clearly not the only person who considers Greenpeace’s campaign against GMO’s as a crime against humanity. Apparently, their own founder has formed the same view.


      • Pacificweather

        In order to obtain maximum subsidies 900 MW turbines are limited to 500 MW. At present the owners of wind turbines are subsidy farmers not energy producers. The government could change this but it’s supporter are subsidy farmers. Energy subsidies and employer subsidies are the curse of this country.

  • Malcolm Stevas

    “..the Green party’s…. manifesto…. perfectly acceptable to supporters of Ukip. Alternative energy….as a patriotic duty..
    This is not one of the better Spectator pieces I’ve read. Tempted to dismiss it as utter tosh. It is shallow, improbable, patronising and paints not just UKIP supporters but the wider populace as dimwits.
    Does Sutherland imagine that many people might be gulled so readily? Those of us who are wary, to say the least, about “Green” policies and alternative energy sources tend to base our scepticism on the impracticality, expense, inefficiency and complete inadequacy of most such things to serve our needs, rather than mere dislike of the kind of folk who promote Greenery.
    Whatever the Ogilvy Group is, I’m looking it up now, to ensure I never use its goods or services.

    • Kennie

      You can almost guarantee that group owns lots of land with pretty (foreign made) windmills sitting on it, waiting for just the right wind to come along. Then we can all shout “up yours Saudi”

  • Mystified Man

    On the guaranteed basic income and Milton Friedman’s advocacy of such a policy; I never got the impression that he thought this was a good thing, just that it was the lesser of two evils. The greater evil being a complex welfare state.

    Friedman was a pragmatist. So I think it is intellectually dishonest to write that he supported a guaranteed basic income without providing proper context.

    I also think your whole argument is stupid. No matter how hard I tell myself that the blue/black dress is blue/black as opposed to white/gold, I still see it as white/gold. You cannot change your perception with logic or rationality in this case.

    That is not the same with political arguments that can be understood and argued rationally in order to change perception.

    You have written an article criticising irrationality and reliance on perception, however your argument, to me at least, seems largely dependent on those two things.

    • rorysutherland

      I agree with your Friedman point. His was a pragmatic preference. But given that some form of redistribution probably is going to happen anyway, it makes sense to discuss what approach is least bad. And one which cannot be easily gamed by government or by recipients clearly scores rather highly.

      But your understanding of power of reason in politics is psychologically naive – and also assumes that in complex, real-word situations there exists such a thing as a single right answer. A lot of the underlying motivation for green movements is undoubtedly old-style anti-capitalism dressed up in new clothes. Their motives might be wrong-headed, but this does not mean we should reject the idea of alternative energy sources altogether. There may be other reasons to support them – security for instance. The argument “every time you fill your tank you are indirectly funding ISIS” is not one I hear aired very often. But it’s kind of true.

    • rorysutherland

      You can change your perception of the dress by shining a slightly different light on it.

  • James

    What I don’t understand is how Greens and LIB/Lab/Con can say that they support the NHS yet they support EU and it’s policy to privatise healthcare – as well as signing the EU/US trade agreement to privatise NHS. Seems to me populist speech.

    “Few people know this, but hidden within the FedEx logo, between the E and the x, there is a small white arrow, pointing to the right.”

    The logo has won over 40 global design awards and was ranked as one of the eight best logos in the last 35 years along side Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, IBM, Starbucks, McDonald’s and Playboy. It is used to teach every graphic design student on the planet and is featured in over 1500 graphic design books and tutorials. Surely that’s many?

    • Molly NooNar

      I can’t speak for the other parties, but the Green party as a whole is very critical and suspicious of the EU and wants radical changes.

      • James

        Being indecisive is not ideal to lead a country and it’s easy to sit on the fence when you are not a main party. I like UKIP because EU is not best for the UK or europe in my opinion. I don’t like bullies either – the way they all attack Farage is a disgrace, so not representing democracy or true British values.

      • James

        PS – if Greens really wanted to win an election they could have good policies dealing with national issues and not ex-libs. The immigration problem is a problem among others.

        • Molly NooNar

          It’s all a matter of perspective, there are international and global issues that must be addressed, some of which cause the national issues. For example, the mess that is UK foreign policy for the last 15 years is what is causing a mass influx of refugees to the UK. Stopping people coming in doesn’t deal with the problem that there are 500,000 people already coming in each year.

  • Stephen Milroy

    More rural countryside and less silly pseudo windmills that don’t make electricity and catch fire when it is too windy please.

    • redsquirrel

      aww, bless. Did you read the daily mail?

  • pobinr

    UKIP supporters are already green.
    People cause pollution.
    We want less people coming here.

    • Pacificweather

      We want fewer people coming here. Smaller ones don’t make much difference.

  • Rmekins

    The Green’s policy of even more open door mass immigration will destroy the remaining countryside in England. Where will they build the millions of extra houses not to mention extra schools, hospitals ,shops electricity and water supply, sewage and waste, roads….. for a 70-80 million population?

    • redsquirrel

      all over the countryside is the obvious answer and for me this is already happened. I’ve been away for a bit and like when you see your nephew for the first time in 5 years, things have changed dramatically. Nephew is a strapping lad, country is a f#cking mess.

      • Richard Baranov

        Totally agree. Coming back after 40 years in the USA I was appalled at the mess England has become. People who have lived here all their lives are in the analogous situation to the frog in the water that is being slowly boiled, not truly aware of how much damage has been done. If the English could see England through the eyes of those who have been out of the country for a long while I’m sure they would riot in the streets. The country has been shattered, raped, trashed and violently changed beyond recognition. It is not the England I left 40 years ago and it has not been a turn for the better at all in any way that I can see.

        • rorysutherland

          You’re nostalgic for England in 1975? 1935 I could understand, or 1965….. or 1815 or 1415 even. But not 1975.

          • But Rory, wasn’t it easier or more possible to see a really dark, really starlit sky in the countryside at night in 1975? Haven’t we suffered a lot of ‘light pollution’ since then? And at least it was well past the rationing of 1955, even if 1965 was more fun!

  • tenbelly

    ‘Rory Sutherland is vice-chairman of Ogilvy Group UK.’
    Don’t give up your day job.

  • Steven Whalley

    You are saying that all the Greens have to do is to polish Natalie Bennet’s policies to get them accepted. I am afraid that even with any amount of polishing her ideas will stay exactly what they are.

    UKIP are in favour of protecting green spaces, and are explicitly supporting building all those new homes on brownfield sites to cope with the unprecedented increase in population.

    UKIP are also in favour of a rational approach to renewable energy, which does have a place, provided it meets the important criterion of actually substituting for conventional power sources. Wind and solar do not, as they need to have the equivalent conventional power in reserve in case the wind does not blow or when there is no sun. We have discussed alternatives as here:

  • Isage000

    This comment thread has some highly informed and lucid contributions from UKIP supporters explaining why they object to the politically manipulated climate/energy science pushed not only by the greens, but sadly by all main UK political parties in concert with the EU and their media sympathisers, especially the BBC.

    They will clearly not be fooled by any ‘branding’ window dressing, either.

  • luci_fer

    You’re certainly right regarding perception, and probably right regarding the importance we place on annoying our opponents. (Not because everyone is petty necessarily, but we tend to define ourselves in opposition to the things we dislike – I am not this, therefore I am this).

    Simply rephrasing and repackaging things would likely work; in the same way that marketing and advertising works. Though that wouldn’t make it right. We could do with less spin and more principles in politics; not the other way around.

    (And yes, before anyone says “that’s why I like straight talker Farage!” – he’s spin too. Anyone who can convince people that a public school educated city stock-broker is a common man of the people is spin).

    Interestingly, if people just voted on policies, without knowing which party those policies were attached to, greens would do pretty well.

  • Tom M

    As a case in point I always thought this perception thing applied very well to the bedroom tax argument.
    Why didn’t the Tories just come up with something that sounded like people were getting sufficient rent subsidy for their needs. So someone could go live in a four bedroomed property if they wanted except the state would only pay for a one bedroomed property.

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