Shuffling two packs

500px-French_suits.svgThe Government changes

In Defra, out go Richard Benyon and David Heath and in come George Eustice (Con, Camborne and Redruth) and Dan Rogerson (LibDem, North Cornwall).

I always feel sorry for those who are required to move on because their Prime Minister needs to adjust the left/right balance, the male/female balance, the north/south balance of their teams.  It sometimes seems rather arbitrary and no-one likes losing their job.  However, it is difficult to feel sorry for David Heath who has made no discernible impact at all as a Defra Minister.  I will miss him as much as readers of this blog have missed this extinct bird, ie you hardly knew of its existence so it is very hard to get very emotional about its absence.

Richard Benyon, however, is a different kettle of fish, and Fisheries Minister.  Mr Benyon was a very good Shadow Defra Minister for many years and then became a Minister.  He has disappointed me as a Minister.  Mr Benyon will be associated (fairly or unfairly) in the minds of birders with ‘Buzzardgate’ and his time at Defra will be associated in the minds of the public with ‘Badgergate’.  Mr Benyon looks like a land-owning toff who likes shooting gamebirds, talks like a land-owning toff who likes shooting gamebirds and did his job as a Minister like a land-owning toff who likes shooting gamebirds because he is a land-owning toff who likes shooting gamebirds.  Quite how was he qualified to grapple with the science of predator-prey relationships, pesticides and bees, marine protected areas, peat use, agri-environment schemes and so forth is beyond me.

Mr Benyon seemed happiest negotiating an agreed UK position within the EU and standing up for foreign wildlife that was being killed abroad rather than standing up for UK or English wildlife that is being killed at home. Did we hear him move us on the subject of bird of prey persecution or cormorants? Did he fight for a rapid deployment of marine protected areas?  What was his influence on agri-environment schemes? These are all difficult subjects but Mr Benyon left them as difficult as he found them – little progress was made.  He was a Minister at a difficult time – a time of cuts enforced by that ‘nice’ Francis Maude (whatever happened to him by the way – is he gagged in a cellar somewhere so that he can’t put his foot in his mouth?) but even so, his legacy is immensely difficult to detect.  We will remember him as more of a ‘My Chums’ Tory Minister than a ‘One Nation’ Tory Minister.  Lovely man all the same of course.

George Eustice dislikes the EU and Dan Rogerson probably likes it. We must give these two Cornwall MPs a fair chance. Presumably the thinking was that making them each a Parliamentary Under Secretary (removing the Minister of State post in Defra) would save money and that they could share a second-class sleeper up from Penzance to Paddington on a Sunday night and save even more money? I bet the Tory gets the top bunk.  On the journey they can shoot out of the windows as they pass through Devon and Somerset thus implementing their Government’s ‘shooting in the dark’ badger policy.

Alistair Burt leaves the government after being a Foreign Office minister.  His constituency includes the RSPB’s Headquarters at The Lodge and I found Alistair a very genuine and considerate man.  Alistair Burt, to me, embodies much of the best of the Conservative Party and I wish him well.  I have only just noticed that he is married to a Twite.

500px-French_suits.svgAnother excellent Tory going back to the backbenches is John Randall.  John Randall has been Assistant Chief Whip since the Conservatives have been in Government – not a role where one seeks to be noticed.  However, John is a keen birder (I have seen him at the Bird Fair in the past) and when he came top of the 2001 Private Members’ Ballot he led the way for a Marine Act (delivered by a Labour Government) when his Bill came very close to becoming law (but was kiboshed by Tory Lords).

 

The Shadow Defra team

Labour have chosen an Eagle, to get her talons into Owen Paterson – I’d watch out for carbofuran if I were Maria Eagle.

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56 Comments

  1. Doug Mack Dodds

    "Mr Benyon looks like a land-owning toff who likes shooting gamebirds"
    A nice bit of cheap inverse snobbery there Mark?
    Does Benyon look like a toff?
    What does a toff look like? (Don't say "like Benyon".)
    Might it be accurate to say that if you didn't know Benyon was landed gentry, you wouldn't say looked like he was.

    But on a wider note.
    I don't care what my politicians look like.
    Do you?
    What do think you look like to other people?

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    • Mark

      Doug - did Mr Benyon amaze us by acting contrary to type? That was the point of the passage of which you have quoted one part. Does Defra behave as though it is working for all of us? Or does it seem like a special interest group in power?

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      • Doug Mack Dodds

        Mark.
        DEFRA does indeed look iike a minority interest group as you've suggested.
        I don't really know (however) what Benyon "looks like."
        I met him once at a wildlife photography awards ceremony.
        He looked more like a wee schoolboy there than a "toff". (Whatever a "toff" looks like).

        But again Mark. What does a "toff" look like?

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        • Mark

          Doug - this blog doesn't do 'ID tips' but you have heard of the phrase 'if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...' I'm sure. The point, as you well know, of this blogpost is that Mr Benyon will have appeared to many to be a Minister who reflected very closely the interests of his peer group. There would be a range of people who could have been made Defra Ministers by David Cameron and his aim appeared to be, before being scuppered by the electorate, to have Nick Herbert (ex BFSS), Jim Paice (farmer) and Richard Benyon (landowning toff) as his Defra team. That sends a pretty strong signal as to what the current government sees Defra as being about. Defra would have looked very different had one of those other two Conservatives whom I went out of my way to mention, Alistair Burt and John Randall, been a Defra Ministers, I guess.

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          • Trimbush

            Here's a statistic to ponder – otherwise known as Trimbush's Law

            “100% of so-called 'conservationists' are lefties with a (genetic?) class-based inferiority complex and the noisier the individual the more obsessive is the belief.”

            Trimbush's Law may or may not apply to all folk reading this blog – but one thing for sure is that – demonstrably - it does apply to the sad individual responsible for its existence

            It is not very 'grown-up' to rely on the word 'toff' – it's like the word 'posh' – if you can't think of a different word – then don't say or use it! It's naff!

            This was an opportunity for Mark to demonstrate his profound knowledge and understanding of the key issues involved and to attract even more followers with a mature evaluation; sadly – it will no doubt have the opposite effect.

            It's a bit like the Labour Party and its banning of fox-hunting – all down to class prejudice – and of course the likes of Mark being frightened of horses.

            Mark – you do both yourself and your cause a disservice.

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          • Mark

            trimbush - I just love your comments, thank you. I particularly like the ones with internal contradictions as blatant as this current one. More on toffs very soon, just for you.

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          • Sorry fro squeezing this reply above Trim's as there was no room below it, but Trim's right, Mark you should no better being a Cambridge man you should've used to correct term TOFORAN.

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          • Mark

            Douglas - useful correction, thank you.

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          • Trimbush

            When Gordon Brown (who?) had the chance to appoint a Defra minister he chose / accepted Jim Fitzpatrick MP.. I've seen JF in action on the TV and as 'a bloke' – he's was OK …. but .!

            JF is a Scot (of course) – he was, I think, a Glaswegian Fireman's Union Rep and (still) represents the Poplar (London) constituency. His appointment was to me unbelievable - apart from the fact that he is a vegetarian – of course!

            If a Company Director whilst leaving work called the man on the gates a 'pleb' there would be all hell let loose (particularly if the the CD was regarded by some as a well-spoken well-educated 'Toff”)....

            If Mark Avery refers to Benyon as a a 'toff' it's OK - call someone a pleb and the Guardian and BBC etc go ape – insecure inferiority at its worst!

            Likewise - Miliband photographed with Labour supporter wearing T-shirt referring to 'dancing on Thatcher's grave' - that's OK - Miliband's father? - Tut! Tut!

            Mark - I look forward to reading your promised contribution on the subject of the word 'Toff” – whilst simultaneously Standing up for Nature (without a safety-net) - please make it entertaining. - try to avoid looking like a jealous class-ridden prejudiced pleb!

            theyworkforyou.com – sign-up and track statements etc made by politicians – which incidentally - shows some modest donations received (by JF above) and majority (if not all) passed on to charities.

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          • Jonathan Wallace

            It seems that in ministerial appointments, having any prior interest or experience in the subject is not that important a factor in getting the job. How many health service ministers have come from a health service background? How many Welsh Secretaries have had a prior connection with Wales (remember John Redwood miming the Welsh national anthem)?
            Perhaps in some ways it is better to have someone who is not particularly associated with the brief? There is a least a balance to be struck between having someone who is interested and well informed about the brief on the one hand and, on the other, having someone who can be perceived as neutral and not unduly partisan towards any particular interest group.

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  2. Moving on....

    Eustice (whose name means Fruitful) has made a public statement that he supports FoE's Bee Cause campaign http://www.fwi.co.uk/articles/08/10/2013/141438/questions-over-farming39s-declining-government-role.htm. His family own a fruit farm so he should know.

    It appears that he will take on Benyon's brief (at least for the moment) in which case he will have the Bee hot potato in his lap.

    Eustice has also made it very clear he wants the UK to escape from the clutches of European Regulation, so we should be doubly concerned about protecting the Birds and Habitats Directive's implementation in England from being watered down. Especially protection from the impacts of Development on N2K sites.

    Rogerson is chair of the APPG on Cheese. I'm not sure this necessarily qualifies an MP to be a Defra minister, I guess it depends on your standpoint.

    My question is: what connection do these two have to the NFU CLA or Countryside Alliance?

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    • filbert cobb

      Eustice (whose name means Fruitful)

      Unfortunately also deterministically alliterates with "Useless"

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  3. filbert cobb

    To whom was Nipper listening? In 2015 who will be in post? Gromit?

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  4. Phil Davis

    I thought I'd take a look at the latest Avery blogs and of course couldn't resist a peek at last weeks cartoon by Ralph. Curiosity and the Cat! My resolution is broken - temporarily!!

    Doug, my problem is summed up by Camilla Cavendish in last week's Sunday Times in article that sums up just about everything that is wrong with our response to the environmental threats that are slowly engulfing us. "A slowly unfurling catastrophe" is how she put it. I wrote to her to thank her for her superb contribution. At her high level she understands is is prepared to do some serious opinion forming about the situation.

    At a lower level, where the true battle lies IMHO, my problem with Mark and his flock is their response which is arrogant, complacent and utilitarian. For example Mark does not give a fig about Pandas, Red Rails and by deduction Spoon-billed Sandpipers. I think he's wrong and will say so much to the annoyance of his followers who no doubt hang his picture on their walls and worship the ground he walks on. It might help if he responded to the doubts I express.

    The WWT cares about Spoon-billed Sandpipers and that's why I continue to support them. The RSPB does not care about Turtle Doves in Morrocco (I have the emails) whereas the WWT negotiates in places like Myanmar (Burma) - not the easiest place to do business I'd have thought. I think the people who pay their (RSPB) salaries should know that.

    The RSPB won't support an ex member of staff, John Squire Armitage, with his initiative to protect Hen Harriers in England and won't explain why unless another member of the public (Melodious on BirdGuides and BirdForum) manages to extract some unofficial insights from staffers. That's my problem with the RSPB and thats why they won't listen to me!

    Mark, the ex Director of Conservation at the RSPB, got hammered at Bird Fair 2012 by an ex collegue over a development on the Breckland that the man from Hope Farm didn't think was fought over sufficiently. I had gone along to that pitch fully expectant of some passionate speaking on the subject of "Standing up for Nature" but what I got was a brief "please buy my book" followed by a Q&A session that went disasterously wrong for him.

    We're all on the same side actually, and Mark does do a great job of exposing wrong doing, but its how we reach the goal of a sustainable, just, peaceful future for all is the matter at hand. All I know is the strategies of the past have failed and we need some fire in our COLLECTIVE bellies not just more science and more paralysis by analysis.

    I fully accept I'm not the bloke (in the street) to deliver that and so will now shut up for good!! Yippeeeeeeeeee!!!!

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    • Phil,
      Firstly I can't comment on the sunday times article as I never read it, however there are some points you've made errors on
      Spoon Billed Sandpiper, have a look at the WWT own webiste about the spoon billed sandpiper here at http://www.wwt.org.uk/conservation/saving-wildlife/science-and-action/globally-threatened-species/spoon-billed-sandpiper and scroll down to the bottom of the article you're notice a lot of agencies helping out with the project from Birdlife international to the BTO, oh and the RSPB, as for Turtle Doves" on the drop down list, titled "heroes of the turtle dove, well operation turtle dove seem to list the RSPB as "heroes of Turtle Doves", the rspb logo even appears on their homepage so judging from some of the posts on their website I'm going to come to the conclusion the rspb are dong their bit for turtle doves. So perhaps the rspb are doing more then you realise or have been told. I'm not a big fan of the rspb, I'm sure you've already trawled through this blog to see my opinion on the rspb, however given the current political situation in countries such as Morroco, I have to wonder how much any organisation with the the words "royal" in the title, would be able to have an impact in such countries, "royals" and "west" is kind of like waving a red rag to a bull would you not agree?

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      • Phil Davis

        Doug, so now you want to chat! For a dyslexic you do very well (and you may notice I struggle also with some pretty obvious errors in spelling, punctuation and phraseology despite the help of Bill Gates).

        However, I did not say the rspb does not care about Spoon-billed Sandpipers, I said they do not care about Turtle Doves in Morocco! I have written evidence to support that assertion. I did say Mark, by deduction, does not care about Spoon-billed Sandpipers. He does not appear to have thought through the logical consequence of successive loss of species. At what point do we start to worry about critical endangered species that we haven't personally seen or have awareness of? I cared about the Owl discovered in the middle east last week even before the discoverer knew about it.

        Re Turtle Dove, what annoyed me was they (rspb) would not assist me in my negotiation with a UK company that was advertising shooting trips to Morocco to blast Turtle Doves out of the sky. I wanted to know if there was a legal angle to be used as leverage. It was my attempt to get involved as the rspb are always asking me to do!! A month to two later they launched a campaign to raise funds to help Turtle Doves !!!

        I did get a very nice conciliatory email from Paul Morling, Head of Economics, who gave a reasoned reply but this came as a result of my withdrawing my funding which if anything fanned the flames. They were intested in my money but not my personal initiatives!!

        If you write to Camilla Cavendish I'm sure she'll give you sight of her article. It reflects all of my thoughts on the environmental response. You'll have to do the research however!!

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        • Mark

          Phil - you don't know if you are staying or leaving and you don't know it you are coming or going.

          A few words of advice if you are going to seek to post comments on this blog.

          1. try, at least a little, to stick to the subject of the blog. If you want somewhere to rant and rave about the world in general set up your own blog.

          2. I don't mind (too much) being criticised on my own blog (I have had worse in my life of Standing up for Nature) but if every time you comment here you have a go at me then I'm not completely sure why I should accept your comments.

          3. If you are going to criticise me, or anyone else for that matter, try to get your facts straight. For example, you have deduced that I don't care about Spoon-billed Sandpipers. If, instead, you had put 'Spoon-billed Sandpiper' into the search engine provided on this blog then you would have found blogs mentioning, favourably, WWT's work on this species on 6 Nov 2011, 15 Nov 2011, 27 Nov 2011, 20 Dec 2011, 6 Jan 2012, 8 July 2012, 24 Aug 2012, 30 Dec 2012 and 21 Apr 2013. That's quite a record of non-caring. And my blog about Pandas, and why we should care about them, was about just that - why we should care about them. Do you actually read the posts or comments before you decide you are going to have a go?

          4. Don't hassle other readers/commenters on this blog. You are free to comment and they are free to comment - but nobody is under any obligation to reply to your or anyone else's comments.

          5. Not everyone is sitting at a computer all day waiting to see your comment. If someone arrives at this blog in the evening, say, and sees five comments from you, they are hardly likely to bother commenting on all of them since it will seem to them that you are spraying your comments around pretty liberally and another one may be along in a minute. fewer may be more in this case.

          6. You are welcome to comment here. Many of your comments have been stimulating, passionate and interesting. Give it a bit more thought please.

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          • Phil Davis

            Mark, you now remind me of the bloke from Hope Farm.

            One of your great strengths is that you believe in free speech and will publish disenting view points (unlike NCOS). Its your failure to engage with the points I and others raise that creates the tension. I notice how sarcastic you are with Trimbush, but his are valid view points that are deserving of reasoned responses.

            Re Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Pandas and Red Rails and Passenger Pigeons. You have previous stated that we can afford to lose a great many more species before "we feel the pinch" or did I dream that? I'm suggesting we need to act now rather than later. Proactivity vs Reactivity. If I've misunderstood maybe you should use simpler less intellectual and thus ambiguous language. I am only a pleb after all, you won't win over the great masses of public opinion that you'll need to effect change if you carry on like that!

            I've only come back because Douglas shows signs of wanting to talk sensibly about very serious issues rather than the "Delingpolesque" approach of "dissing" somebody who doesn't go along with the flock. Sadly you have now taken up the attack.

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          • Mark

            Phil - let's start by seeing whether you would like to say that you were wrong about my views on Spoon-billed Sandpipers, shall we? Well?

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          • Firstly Phil,
            I don't give two s***s if you wish to have a pop about my dyslexia, I have *****s doing it for ages from school teachers labelling me "thick" and "lazy" to *****s like yourself who think it's something to "attack" and have a laugh about. What's your excuse for the crap you write?
            My spoon billed sandpiper remark, well you did mention in it relation to the rspb, the little bit about "Burma" " whereas the WWT negotiates in places like Myanmar (Burma) - not the easiest place to do business I'd have thought. I think the people who pay their (RSPB) salaries should know that. "...well people do know what the rspb are doing in Burma, they're working with partners in the area, partners who know more then the WWT and the RSPB on things like language,customs,beliefs and political situation etc
            As for the Turtle Dove, Operation Turtle Dove got a mention on this blog when OTD tweeted and facebooked the fact an english company were organising hunting trips to Morroco by guess who, yep me, also the rspb got involoved by using the pr/media machine and placed stories the very week the story broke in The Guardian, The Times and even a short piece in the Daily Mirror. Would you not concede some organisations are better at doing some things better then others, but want exactly do expect the rspb/government etc do to do in Morroco? In Morroco, Turtle Doves are hunted by locals (and other birds) for the pot, not commercial gain, but because in some parts of the country like the refugee camps, in between wainting for food parcels from other NGO's it's all some Morrocan's have to eat-FACT, the fact a British person decided to take advantage of a countries political instability and organise a hunting trip, well I'm sorry but apart from sending emails/letters/phone calls to the actual company involved...which people did do, there's not much any organisation here in the UK can do about it. Exactly what are your ideas on stopping people from hunting? Did you know during the Egyptian uprising, two maltese hunters were arrested with six large bin bags full of illegally shot birds including pied Kingfishers?
            Also hunting in Morroco isn't the Turtle Dove's only problem, it faces an ever increaisng problem of it's migartion route getting bigger thanks to the Sahara getting ever bigger and expanding in all directions, the bird also gets hunted all the way along it's migartion route from Malta, Italy,Spain and France, these are the countries (being part of the EU) where the rspb and the government can have an impact on, but what's the point? Sounds harsh? NO, birds are failing to breed thanks to loss of habitat both breeding areas and feeding areas but also the last three summers in the UK have been appaling for the Turtle Dove, so the rspb have focussed all their effort and the problems faced by the Turtle Dove in the UK, I think the phrase "cleaning up your own back yard" applies here, this includes with the help of the BTO, radio tagging of Turtle Doves, as there is evidence to suggest birds in Britain and France don't end up in Morroco but no-one knows for sure about that, again if you check your facts the money the rspb are raising/trying to raise (£140,000) is for the projects based in the UK and nothing to do with stopping hunting

            Note from Mark Avery - a few asterisks added to replace letters but otherwise unedited.

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          • Phil Davis

            Mark, you have made reference to the work of others in trying to save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper - that much is true.

            Your personal views on whether the Spoon-billed Sandpiper should be saved is clouded in ambiguity however. Your remarks about David Heath for example, you seem to be saying your not emotional about his demise and likening it to the demise of the Red Rail albeit pointing the finger at readers of your blog suggests your not alltogether bothered about that either?

            By contrast, I think it is vital that the Spoon-billed Sandpiper be saved because symbolically it shows we care about all fellow occupants of this planet.

            I noted others not quite sure what you were saying about Pandas and Passenger Pigeons. You asked me if I'd missed them and I replied I had missed the potential to witness what must have been a phenonmenal sight. You declined to take it any further.

            It could be, as I suggested before, your language is just to darn complex and if you want to win over simple folk like me you'll have to come down to my level.

            Now a question for you!

            You want to be shot of Pheasants. Bang! Bang!! Thereby, one presumes you're not too concerned about seeing good law abiding game keepers turfed out of their career of choice and possibly ending up in some brain numbing alternative job or worst?

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          • Mark

            Phil - no, not nearly good enough. Come back after Christmas and try again. You are the first person, and I hope the last, to be excluded from commenting here.

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          • Phil Davis

            Douglas, I must not hassle you. I was not poking fun however and apologises if you took it that way, if you take what I said literally it was complimenary!!

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    • Jack Milton

      Well said. WWT is the best Ngo in my opinion

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  5. Roderick leslie

    I can't say I'm inspired. Defra seems to be turning every further in on itself and morphing back to the MAFF that was always at its core, and its Achilles heel.

    I was, however, amazed (and suspicious) that Defra have been so open about the failure of the initial Badger cull - neither many Badgers nor many protestors appear to have been shot. For most people who know anything about shooting that you get one and the rest scatter isn't exactly news - nor is the ensuing risk that if setts are deserted and the occupants scatter across the countryside you may actually accelerate the spread of disease - its all laid out quite clearly in the Krebs report.

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    • Trimbush

      Don't Count Your Chickens

      Badger Numbers

      At no time - during the Badger Trials which ran from 1998 until 2005 – did anybody publish the number of badgers that were actually originally 'on the ground'!

      Only after the fist cull could scientist's 'estimate' the numbers - DEFRA then estimated numbers of badgers culled at between 30 – 50% or so (Hansard) - much lower than was necessary to be truly effective

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      • Doug Mack D

        A fist cull doesn't arf sound painful.
        Fnar fnar.

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        • Trimbush

          Just testing !!

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  6. filbert cobb

    Curious that two Defra ministers represent a county with a strong devolution movement - and that one of them was formerly a UKIP MEP candidate and t'other presented a Cornish "breakaway" Bill to Parliament.

    If I had money to invest I'd put it into pilchard and cauliflower futures

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    • The same county that has a strong fishing legacy too, wonder how MCZ will fair.

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  7. MK

    Mark - one of my favourite of your blogs, thank you - also I now know your software is cheat proof as it wouldn't let me 'like' it twice.
    Re. Alistair Burt, who has replied very courteously (if not always entirely convincingly) to quite a few irate letters from me re. buzzards etc. - the other weekend I discovered two mature wych elms in the car park of Biggleswade Conservative club which for some reason I had completely overlooked even though I've lived there for over a year. I don't know if they're specially protected, especially lucky or both, but they're in glorious health... who says the Tories never do anything for wildlife?! Presumably now Mr Burt will have a bit more time to spare to stand outside his constituency office giving them fungicide injections or swotting furiously at elm bark beetles on warm days during the summer recess.
    I thought I detected a shift in Richard Benyon's position over the eighteen months of following this blog, from "birds of prey are sometimes in conflict with sporting interests" (Env Audit Committee evidence - and a disgraceful statement from a govt minister supposed to be in charge of protecting protected wildlife) to "I am outgraded at the deaths of golden eagles/Bowland Betty and am determined to stop wildlife crime" (see posts on Defra's website and Martin Harper's blog). Then again I think a lot of things, and most of them are probably wrong. If on the offchance I'm right then small credit to the boy perhaps? The Common Fisheries deal seems like a significant achievement (again I'm taking my cue from Martin H's blog here).

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    • Mark

      MK - thank you.

      Alistair Burt has always seemed to me to be a very nice man and I have been impressed by how he has handled things in his Foreign office role. i wish him well.

      Yes, Martin H was characteristically kind in his blog although even Martin was struggling just a little I thought.

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    • Keith Cowieson

      Have to agree with MK, Trimbush, Doug et al, all a bit mean-spirited and lacking in the balance of Martin Harper's more even-handed approach. Was hoping for a better, more constructive analysis.

      And good luck to the new Defra team - it will be interesting to see what a Cornish perspective brings to the department. Long way from Whitehall and Brussels both physically and spiritually, down in the south-west.....

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      • Mark

        Keith - thank you, but you have contradicted yourself in the first sentence.

        When are you going to state your own views, or those of Songbird Survival, here in a Guest Blog?

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        • Keith Cowieson

          Post here in personal capacity. Guest blog in due course perhaps, bit busy just now.

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    • MK

      Sorry for typo - 'outgraded' should have been 'outraged'. Outrageous!

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  8. miles

    I also think you've been too harsh on Richard "Boy" Benyon Mark.

    Yes of course he's a patrician Tory - he would be the first to agree. And as such he has a much more sympathetic attitude towards nature than the hard line neoliberals or neoconservatives. These, of which there were plenty to choose to be a junior Defra minister, either see nature as a commodity to be traded, or as an inconvenient nuisance to be ignored at best or exploited ruthlessly at worst.

    That he likes to blast birds out of the air for fun does not in itself make him a toff. Look to Malta and Cyprus and see whether shooting birds is a class issue.

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    • Mark

      miles - more on toffs later. And I didn't say that liking to blast birds out of the air made him a toff, did I? I said he was a toff who likes shooting gamebirds - which at least raises the possibility that some toffs do not...

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      • miles

        Hi Mark - you did staple "toff" and "shooting game-birds" together fairly tight in your blog.

        I honestly thought you had implied that toffs either a) like shooting game-birds because they are toffs or b) we should disapprove of game-bird shooting toffs more than game-bird shooting non-toffs.

        I stand corrected.

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        • Mark

          miles - you do. ;-)

          Likes(2)Dislikes(11)
  9. Here's my blog on the subject of Benyon and those who follow http://campaignerkate.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/benyon-been-there-done-that/

    Likes(6)Dislikes(6)
  10. Jack Milton

    It doesn't matter how many times you shuffle your still drawing from the same pack.
    Its time for everyone who has an interest in the future of our wildlife to put their cards on the table.

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
    • Mark

      Jack - boom! boom!

      Likes(0)Dislikes(1)
    • filbert cobb

      "still drawing from the same pack"

      deckchairs Titanic re-arrange

      Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
      • Doug Mack D

        "deckchairs Titanic re-arrange"

        The best I can do Filbert is :
        "Archaic Dickens Tit"
        (Actually I can do better, but Mark wouldn't print it!)

        What?
        Oh sorry.
        Thought it was a cryptic crossword...

        Likes(4)Dislikes(1)
        • filbert cobb

          well sort of ...

          same gorgeous cheeks the three of arse George said

          Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
  11. Interesting observations of the DEFRA 'dream team' that gave many people sleepless nights.

    I hope the new bunch will be better.

    I would be particularly interested in your views on some of the changes in other departments that significantly affect environmental matters - DECC for example, and Pickle's team. Surely there is someone to counter Patterson's "Climate change will give us some good news, and we are already half way to the predicted change" perspective?

    Likes(0)Dislikes(4)
  12. Dennis Ames

    I fail to recognise Mark from some of the comments that in my opinion are too abusive.Those responsible ought to show some respect for our blogger who does not think in class terms and must be one of the most wildlife friendly persons around at the present time.

    Likes(7)Dislikes(9)
  13. filbert cobb

    "I hope the new bunch will be better"

    In fairness we shouldn't pre-judge I spose

    http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2013/10/09/shifty-looking-workmen-lay-perfect-tarmac-driveway-for-pensioner/

    Likes(0)Dislikes(0)
  14. filbert cobb

    @ Jonathan Wallace
    October 9, 2013 – 5:50 pm
    "in ministerial appointments, having any prior interest or experience in the subject is not that important a factor in getting the job"

    And there is our contemporary problem - a mewling, puking, incontinent infant can progress from the changing mat to the HoC Dispatch Box without ever having a real job growing food or making stuff or providing a service to real people and then has the temerity to make us pay for the consequences of some tired ideology they read about in a book.

    In polite society there are no adequate words to describe my contempt for them.

    Likes(10)Dislikes(0)
    • Doug Mack D

      "And there is our contemporary problem - a mewling, puking, incontinent infant can progress from the changing mat to the HoC Dispatch Box without ever having a real job growing food or making stuff or providing a service to real people and then has the temerity to make us pay for the consequences of some tired ideology they read about in a book."

      The best comment on this (or any other) blog I've read for a long, long time.

      Likes(6)Dislikes(0)
  15. Jack Milton

    Mark- how did the badgers move the goalposts?

    Likes(3)Dislikes(0)
  16. Steve

    Labour / Tory

    no difference

    more of the same

    forget the names Mark, whoever it is will carry on carrying on.

    very little action on climate change etc

    time for something different?

    Likes(2)Dislikes(3)
  17. Elizabeth Gammell

    Alistair Burt is a decent, hard-working constituency MP. The Foreign Office's loss. I wish him well.

    Likes(2)Dislikes(1)
  18. Richard Ebbs

    A couple of days ago I went to a fascinating talk by Baz Hughes from the WWT about saving spoon-billed sandpipers. In his acknowledgements he showed the logos of many contributing NGOs in many countries including Russia and Myanmar. His biggest thanks however went to the RSPB. Without their support and a major underwriting of the costs Baz said the project would never have got off the ground!

    Likes(2)Dislikes(0)

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