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Monckton Misleads California Lawmakers - Now It's Personal (Part 2)

Posted on 5 April 2012 by dana1981

Rather than responding to Peter Hadfield's devastating documentation of Christopher Monckton's constant misrepresentation of his sources, Monckton spent March 21st, 2012 giving a presentation to 5 California state legislators (of 120 who were invited) and approximately 75 predominantly climate denialist members of the public, plus me.

In Part 1 we examined Monckton's utterly absurd and alarmist claims regarding the cost of California's soon to be implemented carbon cap and trade system.  Monckton flew in from abroad to try and tell Californians how we should address the problem of climate change, misinforming our public and policymakers by relying exclusively on one heavily-debunked economic paper.

Here in Part 2 we will examine Monckton's climate science claims in this same presentation, which as usual, misrepresented his sources.  For those who wish to follow along, Monckton's slides can be downloaded here.

Setting the Tone

The main theme running throughout Monckton's presentation truthfully was not one of science, but rather of conspiracy theories.  For example, at one point he made a joke about President Obama not being born in the United States - the birther conspiracy.  Apparently it wasn't just a joke, because the next day on the Dennis Miller showMonckton expanded on his birther conspiracy theory in much more detail.

Throughout the presentation Monckton accused climate scientists of fraud, data tampering, "bastardizations of science", "scientific voodoo", "naughty technique(s)", "fiddling with data", called mainstream climate science "a sham, a scam, and a scandal", referred to "enviromarxists of the hard left", and so forth.  The rhetoric was extreme; all the while Monckton was the one consistently and constantly presenting distorted graphics and misinforming his audience.

What Monckton Got Right

To his credit, very similar to Fred Singer's recent comments, Monckton started out his presentation by establishing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and the human-caused atmospheric CO2 increase has caused some warming over the past century.  While this shouldn't need to be said, unfortunately there are still quite a few climate denialists who dispute the greenhouse effect, and given the composition of the audience at this particular talk, I would not be surprised if a number of people in the audience denied this reality.  Thus credit to Monckton for dispelling these myths up front.

Unfortunately the quality of the talk went downhill very quickly from there.

IPCC and Moncktonian Credibility

Monckton soon displayed a graphic of what he called "the IPCC credibility gap," which in fact completely undermined Monckton's own credibility (Figure 1).

Monckton slide 3

Figure 1: Slide 3 from Monckton's California presentation, showing a purported "IPCC credibility gap"

In this slide, Monckton shows a graphic with the x-axis labeled "t" (time), and yet he shows the 1950-2011 trend beginning at the same point as the plotted IPCC 2000-2100 projected trend.

Being from the United Kingdom, perhaps Monckton borrowed Dr. Who's TARDIS, but for those of us who cannot travel through time, 1950 and 2000 are actually quite far apart, and thus plotting them at the same point on the x-axis as Monckton has done is erroneous and misleading.  It is simply inappropriate to compare the observed warming thus far to the projected future warming, which is expected to accelerate in response to accelerating CO2 emissions, and claim that the difference between the two somehow reveals a "credibility gap."  The only issue with credibility here is Monckton's for misleading his audience in this fashion.  

Climate Sensitivity and Feedbacks Consensus

Monckton next claimed that the magnitude and direction of climate feedbacks is "unsettled" and that there is no consensus on the issue.  On the contrary, the many different lines of evidence are all consistent with the IPCC range of climate sensitivity, and thus net feedback estimates (Figure 2).

Various estimates of climate sensitivity

Figure 2: Distributions and ranges for climate sensitivity from different lines of evidence. The circle indicates the most likely value. The thin colored bars indicate very likely value (more than 90% probability). The thicker colored bars indicate likely values (more than 66% probability). Dashed lines indicate no robust constraint on an upper bound. The IPCC likely range (2 to 4.5°C) and most likely value (3°C) are indicated by the vertical grey bar and black line, respectively.  Adapted from Knutti and Hegerl (2008) 

Monckton also repeated his incorrect claim that climate sensitivity must be low because a positive feedback means runaway warming.  Chris Colose did a nice job debunking that particular myth with great clarity here.

Not-So-Fraudulent Statistical Technique

Monckton followed by repeating the same claim of a "fraudulent statistical technique" used by the IPCC which we previously debunked in detail here.  However, in this presentation he made his argument much clearer, and thus even easier to debunk, comparing global temperature changes to a sine wave (Figure 3).

Monckton slide 17

Figure 3: Slide 17 of Monckton's presentation showing the purported IPCC "fraudulent statistical technique"

Quite simply, while there are cyclical effects which influence the global temperature, the climate is not currently behaving as a sine wave.  Rather the temperature is being forced upward by the global energy imbalance caused by human CO2 emissions.  Monckton's accusation of fraud here assumes that like a sine wave, the global temperature has zero long-term trend and will start to cool any day now; thus the 25- to 150-year trends plotted by the IPCC are just short-term noise.  

The faulty basis of this argument is quite self-evident.  Based on this supposed "fraudulent statistical technique," Monckton asserted that we "should have no regard for the IPCC's findings."  On the contrary, if Monckton makes such a basic error and then accuses the world's foremost climate scientists of fraud on the basis of his error, it is Monckton for whose findings we should have no regard.

Monckton also claimed that it warmed just as fast in 1860-1880 and 1910-1940 as it has in recent decades - a myth we have debunked here.

Monckton Rewrites History Again and Again and Again

Monckton then repeated the myth that Ben Santer singlehandedly changed the 1995 IPCC report, which we debunked in Monckton Misrepresents Specific Situations (Part 2) and Monckton Myth #17: Debate vs. Denniss, Part 1.  We wonder how many times we must debunk this myth for Monckton before he stops repeating it.  The IPCC report is a consensus document which no single author can alter on their own.  Monckton should stop trying to re-write history and start learning from it. 

The Magical IPCC

Speaking of rewriting history, Monckton also repeated the myth that the IPCC ‘disappeared’ the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), wrongfully asserting that the schematic diagram in the 1990 IPCC First Assessment Report (which was based on the Central England Temperature record, not global temperatures, and was published in 1966) was "the understanding" of global temperatures at the time.  It was not - the figure was clearly labeled as a schematic, and was based on a single local temperature record.  The horrendous Great Global Warming Swindle made a similar argument.

However, Monckton used this opportunity to launch into a diatribe against the Mann et al. 1998/1999 'hockey stick,' making all sorts of claims of fraud about that particular study.  Rather than repeat them, I would simply recommend Michael Mann's The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, which explains the science involved far more accurately than Monckton, to say the least.

Regardless, Monckton is stuck 14 years in the past - all subsequent millennial temperature reconstructions (including by Mann and colleagues) show the MWP (and Little Ice Age), and also confirm the general 'hockey stick' shape of the temperature record, and the fact that the current rate of warming is unprecedented over the past 2,000 years.

Accurate IPCC Predictions

Monckton then claimed that the IPCC global warming projections have been inaccurate, showing a figure created by computer modeler David Evans, whose shoddy work we have previously examined (Figure 4).

Monckton slide 36

Figure 4: Slide 36 of Monckton's presentation showing purportedly inaccurate global temperature projections by the IPCC First Assessment Report (1990)

We don't know how Evans created this graphic, but we do know that plotting the University of Alabama at Huntsville (UAH) satellite atmosphere temperatures against the IPCC projected surface temperature means it is not an apples-to-apples comparison, and that when you do the apples-to-apples comparison, the graph actually looks like Figure 5.

IPCC adjusted projections since 1990

Figure 5: IPCC FAR BAU "best" global warming projection reflecting the observed GHG changes (blue) vs. observed average global surface temperature change from GISTEMP (red) since 1990. 

Details regarding how Figure 5 was created can be found here.  In reality, the IPCC 'best' projection (2.5°C climate sensitivity for doubled atmospheric CO2) has been very close to observed surface temperature changes.

Global Sea Ice Decline

Monckton then proceeded to show a number of additional misleading graphs, mainly relying on short-term cherrypicked data to misinform his audience.  The worst graph may have been his plot of global sea ice, whose extent Monckton claimed has remained "almost unchanged in 33 years" (Figure 6).

Monckton slide 41

Figure 6: Slide 41 of Monckton's presentation showing purportedly "almost unchanged" global sea ice extent and trend

Reality, as usual, is quite different from Monckton's depiction (Figure 7).

global sea ice extent

Figure 7: National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) Antarctic, Arctic, and global (sum of the two) sea ice extents with linear trends.  The data is smoothed with a 12-month running average.

Also see tamino's latest post on Arctic sea ice - how fake skeptics fool themselves (that title being a perfect descriptor of Monckton's presentation).

The Hot Spot is Not Anthropogenic

Monckton then made a very common error amongst climate denialists, claiming repeatedly that the potentially missing tropical troposphere "hot spot" is "the fingerprint of human-made global warming."  This in fact is an error we have documented Monckton making time and time again (see here and here and here for a few examples).  In fact Monckton has been making this erroenous argument for at least 4 years to this point.  It almost seems as though Monckton is not interested in getting the facts and science right.

Let's once again be clear - the 'hot spot' is an expected result of any global warming and is not at all specific to human-caused global warming or an increased greenhouse effect.  The 'hot spot' happens because any warming means more evaporation, which cools the surface. The vapour then travels up the atmosphere and condenses higher up, releasing latent heat and boosting warming there (Soden & Held, 2006).

Fossil Fuel Energy is Not Cheap

After making his absurd and alarmist economic argument based on a single fundamentally-flawed and heavily-debunked paper (as we examined in Part 1), Monckton proceeded to attack renewable energy sources, claiming that they are "hundreds of times more expensive than fossil fuels."  Likewise, this claim is utterly absurd and has no basis whatsoever in reality.  In fact, if we take all costs into consideration, many renewable energy sources are already cheaper than fossil fuels.

Concern for the Poor

Monckton also claimed that by implementing the proposed carbon cap and trade system, California will be diverting money which could be spent alleviating poverty in the Africa, and that we are thus kicking the poorest people in the teeth.

Have we used the word "absurd" too many times already?  Even if the climate legislation were to have a significant adverse impact on California's economy - which we showed in Part 1 it will not - this is a false dichotemy.  It should be self-evident that California is not taking money it would otherwise send to Africa in order to implement its climate legislation.

Ironically, the poorest nations (including many in Africa) are amongst those expected to be hardest-hit by climate change (and the least able to adapt due to their limited resources).  Thus it is Monckton who is kicking the poor in the teeth by working to undermine efforts to mitigate climate change (Figure 8).


Figure 8: Per capita emissions vs. vulnerability to climate change, from Samson et al. (2011)

Monckton the Serial Misinformer

Believe it or not, there were several other misrepresentations in Monckton's talk which we did not cover in this post.  In fact, it's hard to find a slide in his presentation that doesn't contain some sort of misrepresentation and/or outright falsehood.  

Toward the end of the event, Monckton was asked what the "skeptics" can do to prevent governments from taking action to mitigate climate change.  After making a comment about the "enviromarxist hard left," Monckton responded "get me in to meet the officials."  Monckton believes he can convince lawmakers not to take action to mitigate climate change, and he probably has succeeded to convince a few to take a do-nothing stance.

And that is a problem.  Monckton frankly has no business whatsoever speaking to policymakers about climate science.  He has no expertise on the issue, and virtually every argument he makes is based on a misrepresentation of his sources.  Monckton does not educate the public and policymakers; he misinforms them.  Frankly it's a travesty that Monckton is treated as a climate expert and given the opportunity to misinform policymakers in the manner that I observed him doing to those 5 California state assembly members. 

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Comments 1 to 23:

  1. Monckton believes he can convince
    Monckton has a degree in Classics, according to wikipedia:
    Monckton was educated at Harrow School and Churchill College, Cambridge, where he received an BA/MA(Cambs.) in classics in 1974
    Now, I have not had the benefit of an education in Classics, so perhaps I should be an obedient serf and not question my betters, but I am vaguely aware that a Classics degree may have touched upon the gentlemanly art of Rhetoric. In my twisted little mind, it would appear that Monckton has been trained to speak convincingly, in a lawyer-like manner, regardless of whether what he says exists in a factual vacuum. I can well believe that m'lud thinks he can convince uncritical people, because he plainly can. What I cannot decide is whether what he says bears any relationship to what he thinks. It is incredible to me that an apparently intelligent person, which I credit Monckton as being, could actually himself believe such a litany of misinformation. I am left to suppose that he knows better.
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  2. @Doug H I think you're dead right about Monckton's rhetoric and his lawyerly debating ability. Winning an argument, for him, is about verbal skill and tactics -- not about seeking truth. One of Monckton's favourite phrases is, "'s blindingly obvious...". I would suggest this sums up his approach. He looks at elements of climate science right up to the point where his limited understanding tells him what he wants to read and then stops. Sometimes he gets no further than the title of a paper or article, sometimes he has to dig deeper, but either way he finds a point which, superficially, appears to support his view and then he extracts and uses it. In that sense he's like a lawyer representing a client: cherry-picking the positive and avoiding reference to the negative. Science must seem very strange to him: I mean why would you consider aspects of the case -- sorry, 'subject' -- that don't support your argument? One thing I will say for him; his slides are highly coloured -- in more ways than one!
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  3. Monckton's Credibility Gap (figure 1) is absolutely laughable. The lines are described as having 3K/century and 1K/century slopes, but he has plotted them at 5:1 rather than 3:1. Get your rulers out and see for yourself! So not only can he instantaneously time travel between 1950 and 2000 at the chart's origin, but it seams that he can warp the entire 2D space as well!
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  4. he has plotted them at 5:1 rather than 3:1. Get your rulers out and see for yourself!
    Well he had to leave space for the text on the "credibility gap". That was much more important than minor matters such as having different years in different places, assuming that ceteris paribus applies and certainly the gradient in a trend. Semantic note: If something is "blinding" can it still be "obvious"? Surely if one is blinded, nothing is obvious, except perhaps that one is blinded.
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  5. Between the various deconstructions of his nonsense by the Skeptical Science team, John Abraham, and Peter Hadfield (too bad Watts closed down their online debate, allowing Monckton to play the brave Sir Robin).
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  6. ... OK, cliked "Submit" at the wrong time. Anyway, between all those, it's a shame anyone will still find his presentations at all convincing.
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  7. Excellent Post. Considering that turkey lord has been causing me heartburn for a long time: I appreciate Dana's point by point take-down. So much so that I've added it to my collection. Dana, John that "copy embed code" is a kick! Check out what I did with it: Hope you like it. cheers ~ ~ ~ Incidentally, where could learn more about that "copy embed code" thing? What it's about, what to do with?
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  8. boy that sounds like a dumb question. excuse me it's late, just that it's a new feature... I think.
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  9. Monckton appeared overnight with some impressive pseudo-science babble here; if anyone wants to take him on. As someone in the thread says: he's no time to answer Potholer but he's got time to comment there.
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  10. some impressive pseudo-science babble here; - link CORRECTED I note that Motl has joined in too which demonstrates that even very clever people can be 'not even wrong'.
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  11. cc @7 - very nice, thanks. John Russell @9 - Monckton also apparently has time to write posts defending his nonsense California claims on WUWT (see here).
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  12. The reference to Dr. Who reminded me of this old fortune quote I saved many moons ago:
    The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. Instead of altering their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit their views ... which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering. -- Doctor Who, "Face of Evil"
    I hope Monckton never gets to be powerful.
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  13. "Have we used the word "absurd" too many times already?" Not at all! But for a change, you could substitute 'ridiculous' - subject to ridicule - which seems very apt with regard to many of Monckton's fantasies!
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  14. Bob @ #12
    '...they alter the facts to fit their views ... which can be very uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.'
    But as the great Richard Feynman once remarked (my emphasis), 'For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.' What Do You Care What Other People Think, Mr Feynman Goes to Washington, Investigating the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster, Appendix F, Conclusions. Feymnan's Challenger investigation methodology is a model of facing physical reality with its exposure of wishful thinking and humbug. If Feynam were still with us, and he is greatly missed, I think he would be very agitated about the antics of a certain other Richard. Quoting Wiki is not always a good thing but there are many lessons on this page of Feynman quotes .
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  15. Thanks Dana for nice rebuttal of new and old Monckton myths. However, regarding this comment of yours: To his credit, [...] Monckton started out his presentation by establishing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and the human-caused atmospheric CO2 increase has caused some warming over the past century I respectfully disagree, as follows. Not so long ago, in the middle of 2011, while touring Australia, Monckton was describing CO2 as "colourless trace gas which is food for plants". Why did he change this goalpost of his teachings so abruptly in last few months? Because he came to accept & appreciate GH effect of CO2, as your comment would suggest? I don't think so. We learned many times how he changes his goalpost on this site. Peter Sinclair calls it "Monckton maneuvres". We learned that Monckton does not care about the truthfulness or informative value of his teachings, he just cares about spreading confusion; the ridiculous nonsense of the graphic in slide 3 of his presentation is the best example. We've seen goalpost shifts in many denialist teachings. And the reason is that old myths eventually become so thoroughly debunked that they are not effective effective anymore as disinformation campagin. Then it's time to shift to other myths. The word of appology or explanation about the "change of mind" is rarely uttered. Monckton is a typical representative of such strategy. Can we assume that Monckton is accepting the fact about CO2 at stake in good faith, so as to enter a more reasonable dialog with those remaining 5 representatives who still listen to him? I still don't think so. The best characterisation of Monckton's modus operandi was given by Tom Curtis here". Please note that Monckton's description of ABC as "fasist organisation" still stands. Therefore, based on the above, I conclude Monckton's latest acceptance of CO2 as a greenhouse gas is just a big goalpost shift designed to help his evil campaign going and does not deserve any credit.
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  16. 1 Bob Loblar @ 12 "I hope Monckton never gets to be powerful" He already is powerful, just look at who he gets to present his talks to. 2 Climate change has the potential to do more harm than a whole army of terrorists could ever hope to achieve, even in their wildest dreams. It may be that Monckton's misrepresentation of the science and scientists is not deliberate. But what other interpretation can there be for his refusal to defend himself against Hadfield, or respond to the repeated debunking received herein? If, as seems highly likely, it is deliberate, it is thus clearly intended to hinder or stop any action to combat climate change and one has then to conclude that he deliberately intends that climate change should be allowed to do whatever harm it can to all countries, including his own, the U.K. I sincerely hope that M.I.5 and M.I.6 are monitoring his unpatriotic behaviour (and that of other similarly minded and scientificly ignorant individuals, of course). I don't know what good, if any, it will do, but I have written to her majesty the queen in order to draw her attention to the behaviour of Viscount Monckton concerning the possible harm to the U.K. and all the countries of the Commonwealth over which she is monarch that could result from his actions. Perhaps others might consider doing likewise. I doubt it will result in his being stripped of his peerage, which would slow him down a bit, but one can hope. As Monckton flits from place to place he would do well to consider the fact that all the world's armed forces put together aren't capable of putting even the slightest scratch on Old Mother Nature. If we keep pumping out greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, she will just turn up the thermostat in response. She doesn't need us one bit, but we very much need her.
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  17. No offense to anyone involved in an otherwise excellent presentation, but could someone take a close look at Figure 2 and the legend beneath it and explain why they don't seem to coincide or make much sense? Among other things, saying that the extremes on the chart, shown by the thin bars, are more statistically likely than the thicker bars seems counter intuitive. Then again, it might just be my ignorance showing. P.S. I don't know where dana is getting his political information in part 1, but if he thinks there are any number of moderate Republicans in the California State Legislature, he has been misinformed. Moderate Republicans for local offices (as opposed to statewide offices, where one must be moderate to stand any chance) are not so much endangered as extinct.
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  18. chriskoz @15 - whatever his motivation, Monckton got that basic information right, so we want to give him credit for that. Denialists should be encouraged to at least get some science right! Old Mole @17 - the thin bars are larger, which is why the actual value is more likely to fall within their range than the thicker, narrower bars. To be honest, I don't pay that much attention to the state legislature. I know about my own representative, and I know the majority are Democrats, but that's about it :-)
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  19. Y'know; with the right audiences I reckon Monckton's approach to climate science could actually backfire on him. In the case of this article and this article -- both published in a student on-line newspaper -- it seems on balance his lecture raised awareness of the subject and provoked a strong negative (ie pro the consensus) reaction. Luckily I suspect his self-confidence will mean he's slow to realise that he should be careful to whom he lectures.
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  20. John Russell @19 I posted a comment over at the foot of that second Concordensis article and Monckton of Brenchley has Gish Galloped in including this odd statement:
    'The economic argument against acting on CO2 is even stronger than the political argument. Even if one were to suppose, per impossibile, that the 3 Celsius degrees of warming predicted by the IPCC for this century as a result of our emissions of greenhouse gases were actually likely to occur, only 1.5 Celsius of this warming is attributable to the CO2 we add to the atmosphere this century...'
    'the peer-reviewed literature of climate economics is near-unanimous in concluding that it is more cost-effective to do nothing now and to pay the cost of focused adaptation to any adverse consequences of global warming that may in future occur than it is to spend any money now on climate mitigation.'
    I was trying to discover how he can come to these conclusions but have been hamstrung by poor internet connectivity and sickness. I nearly have a response to some of that gallop but his attribution is always rather vague.
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  21. Lionel @20 - the reason Monckton's attribution is vague is undoubtedly because as usual he's misrepresenting his sources. Last time he claimed near unanimity regarding the cost effectiveness of his do-nothing path his reference was a paper by Tol. I looked at that paper, and it actually says the opposite - that a carbon tax is the proper response. Mockton thus far has been unable to point to a single peer-reviewed economics paper that supports his do-nothing approach, let alone a 'near unanimity'. As usual, he's full of crap.
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  22. Dana on Monckton and attribution, yes I have already nailed some of those but will be out of action for about 24hrs now before I can post my completed my response over at Concordensis.
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  23. Hopefully the 5 legislators who attended Moncktons' misinformation session have been provided with a copy of this analysis. The article states that ... "Monckton's accusation of fraud here assumes that like a sine wave, the global temperature has zero long-term trend and will start to cool any day now". This is wrong. In a 2010 ABC interview with Monckton he asserted that “there has been very, very sharp global cooling on all measures since 2001”. Utter nonsense of course - but then what else can one expect from an eccentric? Interesting that on his slide 17, Monckton displays a portcullis and chains. This is the exclusive badge of the Palace of Westminster (where the Houses of Parliament sit) to which he has neither membership or the right to use its badge. One day the Clerk of the Parliaments may get round to summonsing him and demand he desists(?)
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