This whole story is becoming a tangled mess. But it is important to stick with it because that could be exactly what the protagonists want, in the hope that people give up, turn off and let them quietly move on without any consequences for their actions…
John O’Sullivan, writing in the Canada Free Press, reports that the BBC has served a Freedom of Information request on the government concerning the Met Office’s private forecast to the Cabinet Office. Plenty of other people have already served similar requests so this news initially resulted in a mere shrug of the shoulders.
Until that is, reading on into paragraph three forced me to do a double take. For it is there we see what, if I am correct, is a completely new and unreported allegation connected to the story:
Last week the weather service caused a sensation by making the startling claim that it was gagged by government ministers from issuing a cold winter forecast. Instead, a milder than average prediction was made that has been resoundingly ridiculed in one of the worst winters in a century.
The emphasis in the quote is mine. I stand to be corrected, and I invite readers to share with me any reports that bear out this claim, but this is the first time I have seen any suggestion that the Met Office was gagged by the government from issuing a forecast projecting a cold winter. Until this article the Met Office has said on more than one occasion that it gives seasonal forecasts to the government that it no longer makes public because people supposedly told the Met Office they did not find seasonal forecasts useful. But I can find nothing that suggests the government ordered the Met Office to withhold the forecast from the public.This represents a complete departure from the narrative to something altogether more serious.
The consequences of the gagging allegation would be extremely serious. Either John O’Sullivan has accidentally misreported the facts in his article, in which case he can retract and correct it – or he has been briefed with a previously unreported version of events. If it the result of a briefing, then the only possible explanation for it is a concerted effort to put up a smokescreen, sow confusion or shift scrutiny from the Met Office on to the government for the conflicting forecasts, that were put in the public domain and given to the government respectively. If that is the case it would mean there is a conspiracy afoot.
What sparks particular interest about this story is the continued intimate involvement of the BBC’s Roger Harrabin. Far from reporting the story impartially, there is more than a suggestion that Harrabin is actively engaged in formulating it in conjunction with the Met Office. It was Harrabin who in the Radio Times (subsequently reported by the Telegraph and Daily Mail) broke the story that a cold winter forecast had been submitted to the Cabinet Office – but interesting there was no story on the BBC’s own website about it at the time. Harrabin effectively became a spokesman for the Met Office with that piece and notably, as highlighted on this blog, his use of language was clearly an attempt to influence the story and portray the Met Office as an unfairly maligned party.
Returning to the Canada Free Press piece, John O’Sullivan explains he contacted Harrabin to:
ascertain if the Beeb had a better handle on the story
Because of the Harrabin connection to the original story and this new piece, what needs to be clarified is whether O’Sullivan believed that the government had gagged the Met Office from his own understanding, or if this element of the story was shared with him by Harrabin as background. O’Sullivan shares Harrabin’s reply to his question about the BBC having a better handle on the story thus:
Harrabin advised me, “I phoned the Met Office about this statement and the Met Office press office told me they’d given information to the Cabinet Office that we were facing an early cold winter.”
Mention of the ‘secret’ cold winter forecast appears in the Quarmby Report (Section 2.4) which states, “The Met Office gave ‘early indications of the onset of a cold spell from late November’ at the end of October.”
Giving a strong hint that a major rift appears to have opened up between Met Office chief executive, John Hirst and Climate Minister, Huhne, Harrabin further revealed, “The Beeb now has an FoI [freedom of information request] to Cabinet Office requesting verbatim info from [the] Met Office.”
We need to understand which statement Harrabin is referring to, the original or this previously unheralded accusation of being gagged by government ministers. What we do know is that the Met Office version of events reported in both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail articles which originated from Harrabin, made no mention at all of any government gag of the department in respect of the winter forecast. Indeed, they suggest the Met Office chose to withhold them fearing ridicule of the forecast was wrong.
So we are no clearer about just where has this story of the government gagging the Met Office has come from. If O’Sullivan learned about this new episode he reports as a result of communication with someone then he needs to say where it came from.
There are some other less pressing but nonetheless unanswered questions that need to be examined.
The first one concerns the Freedom of Information request the BBC has submitted. As the Met Office had told Harrabin their story of an early winter forecast delivered to the Cabinet Office, why do they not simply cut to the chase and give Harrabin a copy of the communication they sent? Is it likely such information – a weather forecast – would be restricted? Is there a deliberate attempt here to play the ‘no smoke without fire’ game and cause confusion while focusing attention on the government?
There also remains the unanswered question about why the Met Office publishes its temperature probability maps, but then renders them of absolutely no tangible use whatsoever because they all carry a disclaimer that they are not forecasts. What is the purpose of these maps and why are they not forecasts? No adequate answer has been provided.
Returning finally to the O’Sullivan piece, readers are told that:
In what may well be an orchestrated manoeuvre between the Met Office and Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC the freedom of information demand will heap huge embarrassment on David Cameron’s gaffe-prone coalition government.
At this time the only orchestrated manoeuvre seems to be is between the Met Office and certain journalists who are bought in to the climate change alarmism promoted by the Met Office, namely Roger Harrabin and Steve Connor of the Independent. The rationale for this is that the Met Office is wholly compromised. Just yesterday, as made clear in the update on this post, their blog was used to maintain their stance on global warming while contradicting statements from their own climate scientist Peter Stott.
** It seems incredible that all of this stems from an organisation’s desire to stick doggedly to their belief in the concept of man made climate change and refusal to deviate from their predictions of subsequent warmer, wetter winters. With those not materialising they are twisting themselves into unbelievable contortions and now seemingly enlisting the support of prominent journalists to help them save face and their substantial funding. With that still not having the desired effect we see the stakes being raised with the possible briefing of allegations of gagging by Ministers and dark hints of malfeasance in public office. This is not environmental concern, it is politics.