IOWL responds to criticism of teen activist Greta Thunberg by French and British politicians

Noel Ferguson, the executive director of IOWL has rebuked French presidential candidates and the leader of UKIP Wales for their personal attacks on Greta Thunberg, the teen climate activist. She and other children were invited to France's parliament by a cross-party group of politicians.

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly. Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg's speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: "We do not need gurus of the apocalypse." Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a "prophetess in shorts" and the "Justin Bieber of ecology". Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party's leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a "Nobel Prize for Fear". Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg's campaigning efforts to a "dictatorship of perpetual emotion".

In the UK, Neil Hamilton, the UKIP AM, tweeted a picture of Ms Thunberg which had been treated to give her demonic eyes. Mr Hamilton said in the tweet: "It's shaping up to be the hottest day of the year. "Please remember: no electric fans. DEFINITELY no air conditioning. "Greta has spoken. #ClimateHoax #ExtinctionRebellion. "Have you done anything this week that Greta might disapprove of?"

Noel Ferguson, Executive Director of the IOWL, commented: "Neil Hamilton's comments and those of his French counterparts are perfect examples of bad leadership. It is more akin to MisLeadership. Mr Hamilton stated that "it would be preposterous if Ms Thunberg was immune from criticism".

This alone indicates that his attitude is to criticise an individual, rather than the merits or otherwise of a person's argument. Politicians and any leader should focus efforts on understanding the merits and facts of an opponent's position. The issue should be critiqued, not the individual.

Efforts should not be made to create personal attacks on an individual. The same respect should be given to a political proponent as an opponent. Mr Hamilton and other politicians should not be lampooned, nor should they lampoon anyone else.

If politicians seek to be heard they should equally listen. Political discourse needs to focus on contextual facts if we are to move forward in society."

Noel Ferguson has written directly to all of the above mentioned to challenge their personal attacks on Ms Thunberg.

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