Saturday, July 20, 2024
HomeNewsNotes from the Sticks: Johnson’s McGonagall moment

Notes from the Sticks: Johnson’s McGonagall moment


READERS sometimes comment that this column is a welcome relief from the insanity of the modern world, so I apologise in advance that today’s article is not light-hearted.

I start with a confession: I used to like Boris Johnson. I found his sense of humour and his apparent charm refreshing when so many politicians seemed to be without either. Now I feel that I have been taken for a fool by a man with no scruples or morals, and who has no other aim but self-aggrandisement. (The light dawned when the transcript of his phone conversation with conman Darius Guppy emerged. Guppy, a friend from Eton, wanted Johnson, then a Telegraph journalist, to find the address of reporter Stuart Collier, a former colleague of mine who had offended in some way, so that Guppy could arrange for Collier to be beaten up. Instead of saying ‘You must be out of your tiny mind,’ Johnson asked how badly Collier would be hurt and agreed to provide the address. The transcript of the conversation involving the future prime minister is worth seeing here.) 

I was astounded to read this extract from Johnson’s recent speech to the Conservative Party conference 11 days ago.

‘The other day I took a boat out into the Moray Firth, to see an aquatic forest of white turbines towering over the water like the redwoods of California, and you have no idea of their size until you see them up close, the deceptive speed of their wings, twice the diameter of the London Eye, their tips slicing the air at more than 100 miles an hour.’ Janice Davis correctly observed on TCW Defending Freedom that it was drivel worthy of William McGonagall. (Incidentally the tips of the blades can travel at 200mph.) Johnson’s manic drive to increase the amount of energy derived from wind will lead to a massive increase in the number of turbines.

As I wrote this time last year, after Johnson’s last conference speech extolling turbines, the truth of course is that the turbines are creating havoc in the natural world, killing millions of birds, bats and insects. Figures are unreliable: some operators of onshore turbines hire contractors to keep count to persuade the public that the risk is not great, but conveniently scavengers such as foxes often remove the corpses before counting takes place, and even more conveniently there can be no counting at all at sea. The turbine operators always tell you that more birds are killed by cats than turbines, as if that somehow makes it all right.

I would love to know how Johnson would wax lyrical about this video, which shows what happens when bird and turbine collide. Warning: this is potentially distressing.

Just as serious is the effect on insects. So many are killed by turbines that the blades have to be regularly cleaned of the remains because the build-up reduces performance. One recent paper estimates the annual loss of insects in Germany at about 40million per turbine, or a total of 1.2trillion.

It is hard to find figures about bats, but they are killed both by collision and by turbulence which causes a drop in air pressure and bursts their lungs.

I really worry that something serious is happening. In my part of the world there have been far fewer insects around this summer than last. I have seen one peacock butterfly, two red admirals, two small tortoiseshells and two speckled woods all year, plus a few cabbage whites and orange tips, and very few bees or even wasps. This in a rural area where the farming is livestock grazing, so there is no crop spraying with insecticides. The three large buddleia bushes in the village which regularly hosted a dozen or more butterflies at any one time last year have been deserted this summer. There aren’t even any flies on the cow pats. At the same time the number of small birds has dropped dramatically – could it be because there are fewer insects to eat? Plus whereas I regularly saw bats of two species at dusk last summer (I am not sure exactly which species but some were medium size and some were small) I have not seen a single one this year. And don’t tell me global warming is responsible for a change in populations between one year and the next.

How people who claim to be concerned about the planet and the environment can be enthusiastic supporters of this industrial-scale massacre of flying life defeats me. As I have remarked before, the verbal contortions of the RSPB in displaying their support for wind turbines while at the same time pretending to the little old ladies who leave them money in their wills that they really care about robins and blackbirds are wondrous to behold.

Coincidentally a documentary about turbines has just been released on YouTube. It is called Headwind 21 and involves a London banker who used to fund green energy but realised that the industry is a hypocritical money-making exercise which will contribute nothing to ‘saving the planet’ and which is showing disturbing signs of totalitarian control. It’s not a perfect film but is certainly thought-provoking. It also uses a cartoon by Josh, whose brilliant work has featured on TCW Defending Freedom. You can see the film here. 


My phone has gone on the blink and has been at the repairers for a week (I am sure I will end up needing a new one) and I haven’t been able to take any pictures while I have been out and about. So to cheer us all up I found a site with many of the immortal William Topaz McGonagall’s poems. Three of my favourite extracts are these:

A Tribute To Mr J. Graham Henderson, The World’s Fair Judge

Thrice welcome home to Hawick, Mr J. Graham Henderson,
For by your Scotch tweeds a great honour you have won;
By exhibiting your beautiful tweeds at the World’s Fair
You have been elected judge of Australian and American wools while there.

The Death Of Lord And Lady Dalhousie

Alas! Lord and Lady Dalhousie are dead, and buried at last,
Which causes many people to feel a little downcast;

Beautiful Crieff

Ye lovers of the picturesque, if ye wish to drown your grief,
Take my advice, and visit the ancient town of Crieff;
The climate is bracing, and the walks lovely to see.
Besides, ye can ramble over the district, and view the beautiful scenery.

Give yourself a treat and see much more here.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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