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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of Speakers' Corner

4th February 2016

Conspiracy theories: “Of, ya!”

It may be time for me to shut up about conspiracy theories.

I’ve written often on this subject, including:

James Bond, conspiracies and the Welsh Secret Service (how, on conspiracy theory logic, the lack of any evidence for the WSS existing must make it utterly all-powerful)

Wales: Welsh Secret Service HQ?
Wales: Welsh Secret Service HQ?

The perils of conspiracy theories (with bonus video of me mangling the Turkish language)

Reptiles, fairies, conspiracies and cock-ups (including the question: are politicians shape-shifting reptiles?)

Turkey 2023: why the UK welcomes Turkish success – including reference to the type of 100 year-old conspiracy theories which cause Richard Moore, our Ambassador in Ankara, to say “Of, ya!”:


The feeling that I may have written enough on this subject was fuelled when I saw this BBC article about how long it takes to prove a conspiracy theory

The authors analysed some historic events or actions which were deliberately kept secret (“conspiracies”).

They then analysed how long it actually took for those events to be revealed to the public, taking account of how many people knew about them.

Finally, they applied their theory to existing conspiracy theories.  These were the idea that the 1969 moon landings were fake; the belief that climate change was a fraud, the belief that vaccines caused autism, and the belief that pharmaceutical companies had suppressed a cure for cancer.

They concluded that the likelihood of conspiracy theories being true if they had not been proved after a number of years was vanishingly small.

It’s all logical.  It reminds me of the fact, interesting to me as a diplomat, that the mass of internal US reporting and analysis released in the 2010 Diplomatic Cables leak, while revealing some embarrassing judgements, did not reveal any conspiracies at all.

But perhaps the BBC, and I, are missing the point.

Conspiracy theories are nothing to do with facts.  They are all about what you want to believe; and what people want you to believe.

So while I’ll continue to resist daft 100 year-old conspiracy theories, this will (probably) be my last blog on the subject.  I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the “Welsh Secret Service” blog:

Next time someone advances an explanation without providing any convincing evidence to support it, ask yourself: could this be a baseless conspiracy theory?

Could whatever you want to explain actually be the work of the secret operatives of the all-powerful Welsh Secret Service?

Or should you ask for evidence and hard facts before you believe what people are telling you?

Follow Leigh Turner on Twitter  @LeighTurnerFCO

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.