There was something about the spectacle of the Queen grimly, and Tony Blair cheerfully, holding hands as they sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the Millennium Dome at the end of 1999 that could have alerted us that the decade ahead would not be a good one. Who could then have imagined that the United States, so overwhelmingly successful after its almost bloodless victory over its only rival, would accelerate the pursuit of the most imprudent economic policy of any serious democracy since Britain under Old Labour? The Americans borrowed trillions of dollars from China and Japan, to buy trillions of dollars of non-essential goods from China and Japan while officially requiring trillions more to be squandered in worthless mortgages. With the exception of a couple of obscure contrarian economists, no one saw it coming. From Wall Street to the Nobel Prize-festooned economics faculty of the University of Chicago, the economic guardians of America were as mute and inert as suet puddings.
But the most astonishing development of the last decade must be Al Gore’s singular revenge for possibly being cheated out of victory in the 2000 presidential election. The same fate befell Andrew Jackson and Richard Nixon, and they fought on and won subsequent elections. How much more imaginative has the phlegmatic Mr Gore been, by building the Frankenstein monster of the anthropogenic (because feminists don’t like ‘man-made’) climate change terror, and unleashing it upon the world. This has not been his achievement alone, of course, but he is its greatest architect, and has become a centimillionaire and Nobel Prize winner for it, while hijacking international relations and reducing them to shambles.
I nominate the recent conference in Copenhagen as the greatest outburst yet of what Malcolm Muggeridge christened the ‘great liberal death wish’. The temperature of the world has not moved in ten years. Yet representatives of 193 countries sat in Copenhagen for two weeks, pretending to believe that the ecological end is nigh, and discussing the possible transfer of $100 billion annually to the corrupt despotisms of the Third World for sullying their ecosystems.
As Robert Mugabe railed at the advanced countries for bothering him with trivialities such as his brutal oppression and impoverishment of Zimbabwe, I wondered if those who promote the idea of radical decarbonisation and huge payoffs to poorer countries have any idea what a gigantic fraud they are helping to legitimise. The environment has become a catchment for all malcontents, from political gangsters and nihilists to sensible dissenters from the vulgarity of the consumer economy, to thoughtful conservationists with their binoculars and butterfly nets, to the ubiquitous ‘useful idiots’ of obstructionism, to the riff-raff of hooligans, charlatans and lunatics that now appear at all international meetings.
The Chinese were magnificent in Copenhagen, strutting the corridors as superpower presumptive while leading the G-77, as the underdeveloped countries modishly style themselves, out in protest at the stinginess of the rich countries. China wants to continue to beggar America by dumping cheap goods in it while extending the begging bowl of the wronged Third World, led by itself. With exquisite panache, China now seeks a fortune running with the fox while continuing to enrich itself riding with the hounds. The Sudanese president, representing a country awash in the blood of a million genocide victims, dismissed Europe’s offer of $11 billion as a pittance. Global warming is a canard that is unconnected to carbon emissions. It has engaged the world in endless heated discussion of transfers, which will not occur, of colossal sums to compensate the undeserving for actions that all know to be innocuous, in a process that everyone knows all will ignore.
Many readers will be aware that I am at the moment a guest of the United States. This is not a country club but life here is not uncivilised and has its entertaining moments. I am enjoying tutoring secondary school-leaving candidates in English, practicing the piano, writing, and shaping myself up physically for my next career move. I was fortunate to catch the tail end of the great era of newspaper publishers, but these recent experiences, though often distressing, have been interesting in the abstract. As many readers will have discovered for themselves, helping people who have drawn a very short straw — even in involuntary circumstances — provides its own challenges and rewards.
When these controversies began, more than six years ago, I circulated a message to all Telegraph Group employees that I had committed no illegalities, and that remains my pledge. By trial’s end we had got rid of 90 per cent of the allegations. What remains is under review by the Supreme Court of the United States. As anyone who actually knows me would know, the chances of my ever having committed a crime are less than zero. Barbara and I are very grateful for the solidarity of our British friends, and we look forward to returning to the UK. Good riddance to 2009.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated January 2, 2010