'No Good Whining/ About a Silver Lining'

Tom Finnerty13 Apr, 2023 3 Min Read
Nigel Lawson, 1932-2023.

We would be remiss if we did not note in these (digital) pages the death of Nigel Lawson, one of Britain's great proponents of sanity in politics, and particularly in the latter years of his life, climate sanity. Lawson was one of the forces behind the success of Thatcherism, serving in several key roles in Margaret Thatcher's government, culminating in his 1983 appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer. In that position he became the driving force behind cutting the U.K.'s unsustainably high taxes and reforming the country's cumbersome financial regulations. British business was reinvigorated, leading directly to what is known as the "Lawson Boom," which saw unemployment cut in half and a budget deficit of £10.5 billion in 1983 transformed into a budget surplus of £4.1 billion by the time he resigned 1989.

Of particular interest to us at The Pipeline is Lawson's late-career turn as one of Britain's few skeptics of the received environmentalist narrative. As described by Net-Zero Watch — a publication of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which Lawson founded — he first became interested in the subject of global warming after reviewing the correspondence of senior government bureaucrats on the subject which he said demonstrated “a combination of ignorance and obfuscation that was indeed worthy of Sir Humphrey,” the manipulative civil servant on the BBC comedy Yes, Minister. According to Andrew Montford, Lawson was "Intrigued by the wrongheadedness of it all" and inspired to do something about it.

In his role as chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affair Committee, he persuaded his colleagues to launch an inquiry into the economics of climate change. Almost unique among subsequent Parliamentary inquiries, the witnesses included a number of eminent scientists who were on the sceptical side of catastrophism, as well as the usual chorus of the climate alarmist faithful. Such scrutiny was never to be repeated.

Beyond that, he wrote the surprise best-seller, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming (for which he'd initially struggled to find a publisher), and in 2009 helped found the GWPF, an organization which has the very large task of pushing back on the climate hysteria of essentially every other institution in British life.

Lawson at left, with his famous boss.

On that score, it is worth noting that most of the ostensibly conservative figures and publications memorializing Lawson in recent days have passed over his decades-long war on the environmentalist narrative entirely (Britain's current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, wrote a tribute to Lawson which contains exactly zero words on the subject, perhaps unsurprisingly given Sunak's own green proclivities), while Left-leaning sources have brought it up continually, apparently in the hopes of painting him as a kook. That said, The Guardian's obituary did a pretty good job of articulating his position: "Lawson claimed that economic growth should not be slowed down to prevent a possible eventuality, but that policy should be made pragmatically in response to what had already happened."

But for some undiluted good sense, read Lawson himself. A good place to begin would be with the final article he wrote for The Spectator, the conservative magazine he edited before his entrance into electoral politics. Entitled "Net-zero is a disastrous solution to a nonexistent problem," it hits all of Lawson's familiar notes — the benefits of atmospheric CO2; the ability of humans to adapt to the (slight) increases in temperature we've seen in recent years which may-or-may-not be attributed to carbon dioxide increases; modern environmentalism as a replacement for the religion of old; and most importantly the unimaginable cost of what the other side is proposing.

In his own eulogy of his father, son Dominic Lawson wrote:

On his 80th birthday party in 2012, which George Osborne kindly hosted at 11 Downing Street, my father astonished not just the chancellor but the other seventy or so guests when, over coffee, he got up, walked over to the piano and declared: “Lock the doors so nobody can escape.” He then announced that he would sing some songs by Noël Coward, starting with There Are Bad Times Just Around the Corner. As in: “There are bad times just around the corner/ There are dark clouds hurtling through the sky/ And it’s no good whining/ About a silver lining/ For we know from experience that they won’t roll by.”

He was the rare British politician who understood these things, and we are unlikely to see his like again anytime soon.

Tom Finnerty writes from New England and Ontario.


See All

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *