Chris Huhne tends to reach reflexively for Nazi metaphors when confronted with dissenting opinions. When the Conservatives left the EPP, he asserted that William Hague had been “touring the beer cellars of central Europe” for allies. During the AV referendum, he likened supporters of the established electoral method to Goebbels. Now he says that people who disagree with him about weather patterns are like the Munich appeasers.
The Energy Secretary doesn’t allow the possibility that there might be two honestly-held views on how to respond to climate change. As far as he’s concerned, this is a straightforward goodies-and-baddies issue. Accordingly, he has ordered an inquiry into lobbying by fossil fuel companies in advance of last month’s vote by MEPs on emissions targets.
AGW campaigners often assert that their opponents are in the pay of Big Energy. And it’s certainly true that Brussels is a honeypot for lobby groups of every kind. Yet by far the most intense lobbying in advance of the vote came not from Big Energy, but from Greenpeace, Christian Aid and the WWF.
It’s a funny thing. Internet discussion groups are often dominated by people who believe that large multi-national organizations are subverting the democratic process. Yet they rarely notice the most flagrant examples of such organizations, namely the giant NGOs.
A few weeks ago, during Christian Aid Week, I contributed a small sum through a church auction to what I imagined to be that organization’s main work, viz the alleviation of poverty. Shortly afterwards, Christian Aid started badgering me on the issue of climate change. Surprised, I looked at its website, where I found that, rather than building schools or distributing medicines, Christian Aid is mainly interested in lobbying against free trade.
It is, of course, perfectly reasonable – admirable, indeed – to campaign for causes that you deem important. I just wonder how many donors to Christian Aid are making the mistake that I made, believing that they are contributing to charitable rather than political activity.
You can see the attraction from the point of view of the NGOs. High-profile lobbying work is what gets them noticed, and brings in more donations. Building orphanages in Africa, by contrast, is hot, tiring and expensive. Nor is this phenomenon confined to NGOs: given enough time, the primary function of any bureaucracy becomes the employment of its employees.
What is perhaps most surprising is the extent to which these various mega-charities-cum-lobbyists receive money from the EU. I have touched before on Oxfam, the NSPCC and others. Now I learn that Christian Aid has been given an astonishing €27,109,352.12 by the European Commission over the past four years.
You see how it works? The EU hands €27 million to a lobby group, which in turn lobbies for the EU to be given more powers. Remember this the next time such a group asks you for a donation.