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A right-wing Conservative MP has launched a tirade against local climate activists, branding a non-profit group set up to highlight his downplaying of climate change “defamatory” and alleging they may be breaking the law.
In a letter sent to local media following the cancellation of a meeting with Wycombe group Steve Baker Watch, Conservative backbencher Steve Baker MP appeared to suggest that the grassroots group was potentially breaking data protection laws after they contacted figures in his constituency Conservative association, and alleging they may have breached Electoral Commission rules.
The local war of words comes after the campaign group put up a mock Blue Plaque in his seat of High Wycombe, saying: “Steve Baker MP 2010 – 2025 had his photo taken here. That’s all he did.” Steve Baker then hit out, branding the campaigners ‘clowns’.
Part of his tirade appears to have conflated money given to MP Watch – a coordinating group of a number of MP scrutiny campaigns including Steve Baker Watch (SBW) – with the local group’s own funds. A spokesperson for Steve Baker Watch said each of the local MP Watch campaigns is autonomous and follows all the rules.
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And after being accused by Baker of links to Extinction Rebellion, MP Watch and Steve Baker Watch say they are both “non-disruptive” and designed to appeal to a broad church.
Baker is a prominent climate change sceptic, closely linked to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a charity that has been accused of climate denial and frequently casts doubt on climate science. It does not disclose its funders. From May 2021 until September 2022, he was a Member of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s Board of Trustees.
Baker also recently received £10,000 from businessman Neil Record, a previous donor and chair of GWPF, who now chairs its campaign group Net Zero Watch.
A spokesperson for the Global Warming Policy Foundation said previously: “We do not accept donations from anyone with an interest in an energy company. We turn down many offers of funding from people with vested interests. I am not sure this is true of any group on the other side of the debate.”
Net Zero Watch says it exists to “highlight the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies.”
The group adds: “We will scrutinise policies, establish what they really cost, determine who will have to pay, and explore affordable alternatives…We all want to see a cleaner and better environment for future generations, but if climate and energy policies are rushed and their costs and implications not fully thought through, they will almost certainly do more harm than good.”
However, groups like MP Watch say that its output almost exclusively undermines renewable energy, to the benefit of fossil fuel interests.
Net Zero Watch has often praised Baker for his attacks on climate policy (all three press releases below mention Baker last year).
Letter from Steve Baker MP to Steve Baker Watch
Dear Gemma Rogers [of Steve Baker Watch]. Thank you for your letter inviting me to meet members of “Steve Baker Watch”. I was reminded of the last time you asked for a meeting, only to cancel it at short notice and instead use it as an opportunity to stage a protest outside my constituency office.
First, I would hope this request has been prompted by the new Chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Jim Skea, stating last month that “the world won’t end if it warms by more than 1.5 degrees”. When I made this argument, I was called a “denier” by your organisation.
Please confirm in writing whether you agree with Mr Skea or if you believe the head of the UN IPCC is a climate denier. I have chosen to ignore the defamatory stunts that you have pulled around town. Unfortunately, it is clear “Steve Baker Watch” has failed to engage with my actual views on this issue.
I have made no effort to conceal my opinion that we must tackle a changing climate in a proportionate and pragmatic way that people can actually afford; anyone can read my views here.
Second, we can address climate change without hysteria or inciting needless anxiety in young people – tactics that Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil enthusiastically deploy.
Leading members of your group are publicly endorsing Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion and encouraging their extreme tactics. Please clarify in writing whether “Steve Baker Watch” aligns itself with the beliefs of those groups. I hope that we never see these tactics deployed in Wycombe.
Finally, some very serious matters related to “Steve Baker Watch” have been brought to my attention. It is important to all Wycombe residents and for our local democracy that your group is in full compliance with the law and all relevant regulations.
- Set out your policy on holding data and the date on which you registered with the ICO. Anyone who holds data on individuals as part of an organisation is required to hold that data in ways directed by the ICO;
- Confirm how you accessed the names and contact details of Conservative Association members when you wrote to them on 12 August 2022, as well as how you have retained that data in line with data protection regulations
- Provide all of us in Wycombe with assurances that all Steve Baker Watch income has been declared to the tax authorities. It has been brought to my attention that “Steve Baker Watch” is not registered as a limited company; HMRC require all donations that go into a personal bank account to be declared in the official way
- Confirm how you have verified your donors’ identities to ensure that your political campaign group is not being funded by foreign states, and confirm that you have followed all steps set out by the Electoral Commission when receiving donations. I have been made aware that your group has received a number of large anonymous donations. The Electoral Commission states that groups such as yours must declare donations over a certain amount, or aggregates over this amount, and must ensure those donations came from legal sources especially if they were made anonymously.’ Not doing so would, of course, be illegal under electoral law.
As you may understand, given how serious these issues are, I cannot engage further with your group in the circumstances. Everyone in Wycombe needs to be assured that “Steve Baker Watch” is not breaking the law. No doubt you would not like to find yourself in the position of having inadvertently committed offences, offences which the public would rightly want to see redressed.
I have copied this letter to the Bucks Free Press.
Reply to Steve Baker MP from Steve Baker Watch
Dear Mr. Baker. Thank you for your letter of 18th August, refusing to meet with us. You mentioned you copied this newspaper, so we felt we should respond in kind.
First, we need to let the public know that this is the second time Steve Baker Watch has requested a meeting with you to discuss your understanding of climate change. To correct the record, we were disappointed that you cancelled the first meeting. Your cancellation email confirms this.
To address each of your concerns and reasons for refusing a meeting:
The second paragraph of your letter deliberately and selectively quotes the head of UN IPCC. When he said: “The world won’t end if it warms by more than 1.5 degrees’ ‘, you failed to quote his next sentence. He went on to say: “It will be a more dangerous world and surpassing that mark will lead to many problems and social tensions”. Without that second sentence, you are deliberately misleading the reader.
Your use of selective quotes appears to us to be just another call for delay of action. This is a well-known tactic straight from the playbook of Big Oil and others. Deniers in general are no longer able to claim that climate science is invalid.
The evidence is now too strong in favour of man-made global warming. Instead, deniers now call for delay so that Carbon Dioxide producing fossil fuels can continue to be burned as long as possible. It is just another argument for ‘profit in the pocket comes first’.
Your next point refers to “defamatory stunts”. We are puzzled by that remark. We do not have access to your publicity machine or the finance you have to support it. So, your refusal to meet with us means we must take peaceful direct action. Without it, we could not bring your voting record on environmental issues to the attention of High Wycombe constituents.
You seem to suggest we do not need to meet because your views are clearly stated. Instead, you refer to an outdated economic model, the Social Cost of Carbon. This model was replaced by government economists as it underestimated the social costs of carbon emissions in terms of costs such as mass migration. Surely your thinking has been updated since then. With that in mind, your current views are not clear to us.
We find your accusation that we have been hysterical to be ironic. There is nothing hysterical in publicising your climate denial and now delay. If you think of anything we have done that is hysterical, please let us know the specific event.
What is more akin to “hysterical” is your previous public comparison of [climate activists] to “child abusers”! May we calmly remind you that every young person has a right to be concerned about their future.
Indeed, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said: “Governments must respond to growing concerns expressed by children about the eﬀects of the climate crisis and other environmental emergencies on their lives and futures.” Furthermore, climate change is formally recognised in the National Curriculum from age eleven. So, we know climate change is an important issue for young people. That is also globally recognised.
You go on to ask us to clarify “in writing” whether “Steve Baker Watch is aligned with the beliefs of Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion”. Of course, it depends on which specific beliefs you mean.
As a loose association of High Wycombe constituents, we share those group’s concerns about the direction of your government’s climate policy. However, we can confirm something for you – our lack of publicity funding and your refusal to meet us means we need to continue peaceful, non-disruptive action on highlighting the climate crisis and your inaction.
Finally, you refer to “very serious matters” that are important to Wycombe residents and for democracy. These relate to suggestions we have broken Data Protection and Electoral
Commission rules. You then suggest we need to declare donations and prove we have taken nothing from foreign parties.
Let us be clear. We have complied with all relevant data protection regulations. Of course, if you are aware of a specific instance of breach, please let us know and we will investigate.
You suggest we threaten local democracy. For the benefit of the Wycombe voters – and to remind you – we are not a politically aligned party. We are not campaigning either for or against any political candidate. We are against climate denial and delay.
As such we do not have to declare donations that came from a crowdfunding exercise. You will know this to be the case from your role as a trustee of the climate denial group, Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) that the group consistently refuses to declare its funding.
We cannot of course respond to your suggestion that we have received “large” donations unless you define ‘large’. All we can say is we have received no larger single sum than £300. That pales to insignificance when compared to the £10,000 you reportedly received from Neil Record, [former] chair of the climate denial group, GWPF.
To conclude, we are not a political campaign group or a charity. We are simply a loosely associated group of your constituents who are very concerned about your views on climate issues. We are also worried about your aﬃliation with groups known to be climate change deniers who have been exposed as taking funding from Big Oil.
It is frankly oﬀensive that you should refuse to meet us and accuse us of potential illegality. We feel that using oﬃcial Westminster letter headed paper was intended to intimidate or bully us. Nevertheless, this will not prevent us from holding our local MP to account — whatever their party aﬃliation.
We continue to extend a warm invitation to all members of the Wycombe constituency. Anyone who wishes to keep the pressure on our local politicians to deliver sensible policies on climate change can join our cause. There are no formal membership requirements.
We can be found here.
Steve Baker Watch
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