I thought about the line in the title – from Monty Python’s Life of Brian – when I read this article today about the diabolical “summer” that we are enduring. Floods, thousands of people displaced from their homes; huge insurance payouts……yes, all the ingredients to keep us Brits moaning as only we know how. The article does make clear, in fact, that we have had terrible summers before. In 1845, one of the wettest summers on record precipitated the Great Famine in Ireland, as potatoes, on which the Irish population were dangerously reliant, were hit by blight. The disaster led to mass starvation and emigration of millions of Irish people to the US and Australia, among other places (the rancour that was caused by that calamity has never entirely disappeared, unfortunately). It also precipitated the end of the UK’s tariffs on corn, as the then Prime Minister Robert Peel pushed ahead with free trade and caused a split in the Tory Party, leading to about 30 years of Liberal Party dominance in the age of Gladstone.
I am a global warming skeptic (not the same as denying it) and I do not know whether our lousy summer is linked to the increased violence of weather conditions that some say will be caused by global warming. But this is the weirdest weather I have experienced. A friend of mine who has taken up viniculture in the hope that hotter UK weather would lead to a revived UK wine industry may be wondering whether he has chosen the wrong career path. But then next year may be a scorcher. That is the beauty of global warming – you can blame anything on it.