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HomeClimate WatchRebuffing the riff-raff: A masterclass from Dame Norma

Rebuffing the riff-raff: A masterclass from Dame Norma


EVERY MP and councillor has experienced the irritation of receiving letters from disgruntled people who refuse to accept that their representative knows what is best for them. A good many of these unwelcome communications concern climate change and the Net Zero agenda. Aspirants to public office may be wondering how to deal with such correspondence without becoming embroiled in extended to-and-fros which might reveal your ignorance in this respect. 

I recently wrote in TCW an open letter to Dame Norma Redfearn, Mayor of North Tyneside, querying the council’s membership of UK-100, a ‘network of local leaders who have pledged to lead a rapid transition to Net Zero with Clean Air in their communities ahead of the government’s legal target’. 

Dame Norma’s reply provides a masterclass in how to snub troublesome climate deniers and their dangerous Net Zero objections without having to involve oneself in any unpleasant mental exertion.

First, don’t bother to do any research: there is no need to address intelligently any of the matters raised by an uninvited correspondent. In the present case, as the writer of the nuisance letter I made a number of points which Dame Norma, were she less adept in the art of sidelining unwanted information, might mistakenly have attempted to answer directly. These points are:

1.    There is copious evidence that Net Zero policies will be severely detrimental to her constituents;

2.    The hardships involved in her commitment to Net Zero are not justified by the unproven and unprovable hypothesis of anthropogenic climate change;

3.    By failing to carry out a cost/benefit analysis, she has shown contempt for the precautionary principle;

4.    She has repeatedly refused to seek the informed consent of North Tyneside residents before implementing policies which fundamentally affect their health and their way of life.

Since Dame Norma is an old hand at dealing with upstart constituents, she wisely ignores these questions, knowing how important it is to steer clear of any superfluous debate. By simply stating and re-stating her opinion as if it were unassailable truth, she can impose her views with crystal clarity, and without fear of being wrong-footed by trivialities such as facts or evidence. 

Here is her reply: observe and admire.

‘The council joined UK:100 to share best practice with other members and to work together on our respective carbon Net Zero ambitions.

‘We will continue to lead the UK’s response to climate change, acting sooner than the government’s goal by making substantial progress within the next decade to deliver Net Zero.’ 

(See how she has immediately gone on the attack with a solid front line of unsubstantiated opinion regarding climate change and the ability of human beings to influence it. She consolidates her position by trampling over her constituent’s concerns as if they did not exist.)

‘We will use our experience and achievements,’ she declares, ‘to advocate to the UK government in order to accelerate the delivery of ambitious local climate action. With greater powers and funding we would go further.

‘We commit to do everything within our power and influence to rapidly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and work with our residents and businesses to bring our wider communities’ emissions in line with Net Zero as soon as possible.

‘We pledge to understand our impact on climate change, prioritise where action needs to be taken and monitor progress towards our goals.

‘We will reduce our emissions at source and limit the use of carbon offsets as part of the global effort to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

‘We are closer to the people who live and work in our communities, so we have a better understanding of their needs. This means we can collaborate with them to build consensus for the solutions we need to transition to a Net Zero society that delivers multiple benefits and is fair, just and works for everyone.’

Dame Norma concludes her non-reply with a majestic flourish: ‘I am proud of our Carbon Net Zero work and the achievements that we are making and we intend to maintain our membership of UK:100.’ 

In case her constituent should feel short-changed or slighted by this refusal to debate the issues, the mayor signs off with a gracious ‘Kind regards’: a nice touch to show that she bears no resentment for the valuable time she has wasted in responding to unsolicited and irrelevant correspondence.

I think you will agree that this is a top-class response to what was, quite frankly, an unprovoked impertinence by one of the lower ranks.

It may be some time before a novice like yourself can hope to emulate Dame Norma’s effortless quelling of an insubordinate constituent, but with practice you, too, may hope to achieve an equal facility in putting down those who question official policy.

When dealing with similar presumptuous climate deniers, remember: stick to the narrative; never look facts in the face; keep things simple; and pepper your green salad with key buzz words like ‘ambitious’, ‘community’, ‘consensus’, ‘deliver’, ‘fair’, ‘progress’, ‘achievement’: you know the kind of thing. A dash of ‘vibrant’, ‘diverse’ and ‘celebrate’, too, will always add a little spice. The same basic line can be successfully pursued when dispelling unrest regarding other controversial policies.

Be confident, speak with authority, and remember that you are a leader: your job is not to respond to the complaints of hoi polloi, but to take them firmly in hand and march them briskly behind you in whatever direction you have been told you must follow.

I wish you every success in muzzling your constituents, and the consequent rise which you can expect in your fortunes. Just like Dame Norma.

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Gillian Dymond
Gillian Dymond
Gillian Dymond is 78, a mother and grandmother living in the north-east of England.

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