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So, George Monbiot is full of apologies, is he? You may recall that Mr Monbiot is the sanctimonious Guardian columnist and professional Tory-baiter who helped stir up the ?buzzardgate? furore. Not that he?s apologising about that.

Some of you may remember that I have written one or two pieces about Mr Monbiot in the past, gently chiding him as one of the most unremitting opponents of shooting we have to face in the media. He has a large following in the tofu-munching, chip-on-the- shoulder classes, and he feeds their prejudices in a remarkably skilful manner that earns him a pretty penny. You couldn?t find a better example of a silver-spoon environmentalist who makes a handsome living out of pandering to the politics of envy.

A sorry state of affairs

And now we have to suffer the unedifying sight of Mr Monbiot grovelling. Not, mark you, because he has decided to come clean about the way he vilified a decent Government minister, Richard Benyon, over trumped-up claims that boatloads of buzzards were about to be culled to protect a cosy coterie of pheasant-slaughtering grandees.

Nor was it because he helped heap personal abuse on that minister at the behest of lobbyists lurking within the darker recesses of the RSPB, and its tame media commentators, such as Mark Avery.

No, Mr Monbiot didn?t apologise for any of the hateful, highly personalised and deeply misleading allegations he regurgitated about buzzards. He didn?t have to ? because he was never held to account for the disgraceful smears he launched during ?buzzardgate?. No mainstream newspaper or media organisation bothered to delve into the facts and expose the truth.

Yet, more recently, George Monbiot was caught out ? and badly ? by the Lord McAlpine scandal. In essence, he helped direct people to a false and deeply defamatory rumour about a prominent Tory. So what?s new, you might ask. Well, unfortunately for him, on this occasion his own paper, The Guardian, helped to unmask the McAlpine allegations as being utter rubbish. (The fact they were just about the worst sort of allegations that could ever be made about anyone, ever, was another factor.)

And now that same defamed peer, who retired from an active role in politics long ago, is threatening to pursue Mr Monbiot and others who he believes defamed him on Twitter through the courts. The BBC has already had to pay up (using our money, of course).

Monbiot has rolled out fulsome apologies to Lord McAlpine. As he does so, you have to wonder two things: first, would Monbiot be so apologetic if he wasn?t trying to mitigate the scale of any financial damages that might be inflicted on him if he is compelled to reach a settlement? Second, would it be wholly inaccurate to speculate that his eagerness to ?get? Lord McAlpine in the first place was motivated, at least in part, by naked politics?

Perhaps I am being unfair to poor old George, a simple purveyor of truth who just happened to get something wrong on this particular occasion ? an isolated, highly uncharacteristic lapse of judgement. Let?s say his current self-abasement is perfectly sincere. And let?s accept that if he was presented with the facts about, say, gameshooting or buzzards, he would write a balanced commentary on the subject. Or, maybe ? just maybe ? he is a professional mudslinger who targets people that he perceives (rightly or wrongly) to be of a certain political persuasion. Maybe he just happened to get caught out this time. Maybe he will be up to his old tricks just as soon as the current legal threat recedes.

I don?t know. You may have a view. But perhaps we shouldn?t prejudge poor old George. Let?s wait and see, shall we?

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