Bernard Donoughue, a Labour Peer and GWPF Trustee, writes in memory of Lord Joel Barnett.
Lord (Joel) Barnett at home near Manchester in 2014
I knew and valued Joel Barnett as a Labour colleague and friend, in government and in Parliament, for over forty years. Most impressive was seeing him regularly in Downing Street as the brave and meticulously clear Chief Secretary to the Treasury during the constant economic crises from 1974-79. Diminutive in physical stature, he was formidable in arguing for financial rationality when opposing the phalanx of more senior ministers demanding ever more public expenditure on some currently fashionable but extravagant nonsense.
I once published that Joel was ‘the small rapier supporting Denis Healey’s mighty cudgel’. He was sharp, witty and always full of informed common sense.
As such he was eminently suitable to serve as a founding Trustee on the Global Warming Policy Foundation from 2009 to 2012. He started at a time when there was an almost total (and in style totalitarian) consensus supporting the then (and still now excessively so) fashionable extravagances of the faith of climate change and global warming.
It took courage for a Labour loyalist to take a position so contrary to that of the then Labour Government – and its future party leader who had authored the Climate Change Act. That did not deter Joel, familiar with being in a minority, unpopular but intellectually proper position.
Joel was, as always, clear and firm that this expensive green ideology, like the Bennite ideology facing him in Jim Callaghan’s time, must be questioned and if necessary, opposed. He could see clearly the faults in some of its arguments; and the ruinous costs to Britain of this green messianic faith.
As a lifelong Labour supporter – born to a poor tailor in Manchester’s Jewish community, which provided Britain with so many distinguished political, commercial and cultural figures – Joel also objected to the fact that the main burden of imposing this climate alarmism on the nation, actually fell on its poor – while its financial benefits went to the rich landowners who littered our countryside with un-environmental wind farms. As a Labour man, he did not like that and was surprised that so many of his party colleagues supported imposing those burdens on the poor.
Joel’s brand of Northern, experienced common sense, as well as his humanity and humour will be sorely missed.