Four tories

By Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs  via Wikimedia Commons

By Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs via Wikimedia Commons

I was quite shocked by Owen Paterson’s performance on the Today programme on Tuesday in response to the Nature Check report (click here to listen, at 01:34 and 17 seconds).  That is, shocked in the sense of outraged rather than surprised.

The gist of Paterson’s comments was that the views of the 41 organisations signing up to the report, who are supported by millions of people, do not matter to him, to Defra nor to the coalition government – they are just a bunch of badger-lovers.    Defra said that the criticisms were ‘unjustified and based on opinions, not facts’.  Oh well, we get our say at the ballot box on 7 May 2015 but since we are just expressing our opinions that probably won’t matter either.

The government’s own opinion of its progress doesn’t look too rosy actually according to their own assessment of the England Biodiversity Strategy although, even if you know it exists, you will find it difficult to track down this information as it receives no prominence on the government nor Natural England websites.

It was an insensitive performance.  If only the Today Programme would have him on every morning more voters could get his measure.

 

 

 

 

 

By Copyright by World Economic Forum, swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger. [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Copyright by World Economic Forum, swiss-image.ch/Photo by Remy Steinegger. [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Not to be outdone in affronting anyone with an environmental bone in their body, the Prime Minister appears to have told Ministers to ‘get rid of all this green c**p’ although one has to trust the Daily Mail on that point (which rather goes against the grain).

It’s a long time since anyone held out any remaining hope for the Prime Minister and his party to be champions of a green agenda.

It is the switch from ‘greenest government ever’ a few days after winning the General Election to ‘all this green c**p’ that destroys many people’s ability to take politics and politicians seriously.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

s216_LordDeMauley-1aOn Tuesday’s launch of Nature Check the relatively new Defra Minister Lord de Mauley was on the platform to respond on behalf of Defra.  He, in the relative private of a House of Commons meeting room, did what his boss should have done in the relative public of the Today Programme, and responded with urbane charm, a self-deprecating smile and a firm restatement of Defra’s wish to work with the members of Wildlife and Countryside Link in the future.

The Minister described himself as a ‘country boy’ and stated what Owen Paterson had also, earlier, said, that improving the environment and growing the economy were not incompatible – George Osborne please take note.  Although he had a few crumbs of comfort for the survivors in Natural England, their role is ‘more important than ever’, NE will soon have to consider the impacts of its work on economic growth.

Maybe the government’s pollinator strategy will emerge before the end of the year and, on Tuesday, the government was about to announce its next round of Marine Conservation Zones.

As a new-ish Minister Lord de Mauley can get away with spreading the charm for a while but time is running out for this government to achieve on environmental issues.

 

 

By derivative work: Busillis (talk)  via Wikimedia Commons

By derivative work: Busillis (talk) via Wikimedia Commons

 

The host of the Nature Check event was another Tory MP, and the third old Etonian in this list (not that the Tory party is stuffed full of old Etonians, of course, perish the thought) – Zac Goldsmith.

I had a quick chat with Zac and thanked him for all the good work he does on the Environmental Audit Committee (where he is a star). In his introduction Zac sounded quite like a polite wildlife NGO Chief Exec – he pointed out that the government had done quite a good job on some things, singling out Richard Benyon’s role in CFP negotiations (as did the Nature Check report) and then went on to say that government could do much better.

Examples of areas where he specifically said that government could do better were Marine Conservation Zones around the English coasts and Marine Protected Areas in the seas around UK Overseas Territories.  Hear hear! on both counts.

Zac Goldsmith is, probably, never going to become a Defra Minister because he would probably find it difficult to toe the line.  His independent presence on the back benches enriches the House of Commons and the more people listen to him then the greater the chance that wildlife will be enriched too.

 

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34 Comments

  1. Linda Mayhew

    I try not to hate, but the feeling towards Owen Patterson is intense hate. He makes me understand revolutions and uprisings. I don't like feeling like that, roll on 2015, can't come soon enough, hopefully tho' doubtfully it will make a difference.

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  2. Is OP the first Neocon environment minister we have had in the UK? Or could Nick Ridley have been the first (Paterson's uncle in law).

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  3. Goldsmith also welcomed the EU Neonics ban and called for the UK to stop supporting Neonics.

    In response to Buglife question De Mauley agreed to meet us to discuss the fact that funding cuts mean that all work to rescue populations of White-clawed crayfish and put them in ark sites is grinding to a sudden halt. Thus leaving some of the last populations of this iconic animal to be driven to extinction by the invasive Signal crayfish.

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  4. Wez

    I feel sometimes like OP has become a parody of himself, a joke beyond belief.

    The other announcement which would have sat well in this blog is the that he has found enough of our tax money to support monsanto in the EU courts. They want to lift the ban on GM soy import for animal feed. Again they are using the 'its safe to eat' line, and not mentioning the huge environmental and social welfare destruction that it will add to in South America............ this of course has nothing to do with his family ties to the company and every thing to do with the fact he grew up in the countryside :/

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    • Mark

      Wez - does he have family ties to Monsanto?

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      • Jack Milton

        What do we know about Owen Paterson? Married to Rose Ridley, sister of Matt Ridley (son of Viscount Ridley) who is a genetic scientist - and also sits in the House of Lords. He's visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory where they study plant genetics.
        Cold Spring Lab are the main protagonists in the iPlant collaborative.http://environmentalideas.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/so-why-did-uk-minister-owen-paterson.html

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        • filbert cobb

          So it says on Fr Peter's Environmental Notes - and who knows how many times these things get re-blogged? But none of the links there show any specific connection between The Patersons and Monsanto. So mebbe Wez could enlighten us?

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      • Ernest Moss

        Sir Les's brother in law is Matt Ridley, the plant geneticist. After presiding over the collapse of Northern Rock, Matt Ridley has focused his attentions on his career as a pro-GM blogger. Some have alledged that he has ties to Monsanto but so far nobody appears to have produced any firm evidence of this. He does appear to have links to other corporations who have vested interests in GM technology such as Dupont.

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    • filbert cobb

      The GM issue is a red herring in the case of soy imports. All the GM aspect does is allow the GM varieties to be grown while using particular broad-spectrum pesticides. There is nothing to stop non-GM varieties being used - apart from the hegemony of Big Agri.

      What is wrong is that so much soybean meal is included in cattle, pig and poultry diets, which when complemented with cereals supports very intensive meat production. We would be better off growing much more grass, home-grown protein crops and agroforestry to support livestock than continue the present fashion for stuffing them full of soybeans, wheat and barley.

      We also need a critical overhaul of policies which allow our taxes to be used to subsidise production of food which is then exported, and how we justify, in terms of our own population growth, withdrawal of land from agricultural use to housing, recreation and conservation, the indirect land use changes caused in other countries.

      Don't hold your breath, though but

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  5. Matt Ridley is far more than a genetic scientist Jack.

    He is a leading global warming denier, and revels in anti-environmental rhetoric. He is pro fracking and anti wind-farms; He is pro-GM (perhaps he came up with the "if you oppose golden rice you are complicit in blinding 7 million children" line for his bro-in-law Opatz?).

    He is also ardently anti-regulation.

    He recently argued that global warming would create economic benefits until at least 2080 (presumably that's net benefits.)

    He was also chairman of Northern Rock when it collapsed.

    In short he is certainly one of the UK's and arguably the world's leading neo-liberal anti-environmental thinkers and is extremely influential.

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  6. Oh and Policy Exchange has just appointed Ridley a Visiting Scholar.

    http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases/category/item/policy-exchange-appoints-matt-ridley-as-visiting-scholar

    Case closed.

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  7. roderick leslie

    Just in case you think this is serious Conservative party politics consider this:

    'One of the major reasons why the climate change debate has never been as partisan in the UK as the US, was Thatcher's early embrace of the science in the late 1980s which convinced her of the case for action. the speeches she made in 1988 to the Royal Society and in 1989 to the UN General Assembly on the emerging science and the need for action have stood the test of time very well.' (Jill Rutter, Institute of Government).

    As well as being our only woman Prime Minister Margaret thatcher is also our only Pm with a science degree.

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    • filbert cobb

      "... only Pm with a science degree."

      And as a scientist later rejected what she had said in the 1980s in the light of emerging data. As a politician this was breathtakingly honest.

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  8. Wez

    Fair point - the Monsanto link is murky ...and I see some myth links now ...Matt Ridley has enough income from his coal not to be money led. Working with/in the 'Sense About Science' group leads to some interesting funders and the wonderful world of subsidiaries.

    The Rational Optimist is an interesting read - although 'Blind Optimism' would have been my choice of title.

    I guess it my reluctance to believe that the succession of decisions against public will and social good are not based on a self interest that leads me to the conclusion that: They are all in it together

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  9. Trimbush

    Oh dear – time for the 'greens' to grow up methinks!

    All politicians want the electorate to like them and vote for them next time

    As we saw with 13 years of the despised regime that was New Labour – if you 'rule' by focus group – you have 13 years to reduce the state of the Nation worth to something a lot below zero.

    Then AGAIN comes the Tories (in Coalition) to sort things out

    What sort of real world do you all live in? How do you get paid? Look at the anti-frackers on the TV today – who pays their way – I suspect we taxpayers do!

    Time to get real – we can't (currently) afford your high green ambitions – we could when the outgoing Tories in 1997 were running the nation's budget

    Look at Labour now – they can't even run the Labour party's finances properly

    Get real – think about it ! Hard!

    As for not culling badgers with TB – do you ALL believe in fairies as well?

    You are supposed to be intelligent clear thinking folk – WOW ! And as for 'hating OP' ?

    Dislike ticks at the ready !! Go !

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    • Jack Milton

      Trolling. maybe?

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    • Ian Peters

      Trim, you can expect a lot of dislike ticks if you start off a post with - time for the 'greens' to grow up methinks! - because it smacks of a view where you think you are the only one with an opinion that matters. One of the major things about politics is is that we all have an input, an opinion and a right to express it. It stands to reason that in a country with dense (for Europe) population that every piece of policy has someone's interest attached to it. What is indisputably clear is that some policy does follow the scientific backing that should be steering it. If the RSPB went against that kind of evidence (and I am talking broadly here), it would quickly be discredited and ceased to exist. Are political parties truly immune? Think about it!

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    • Luci

      It's interesting how many people genuinely believe we can't afford to be green; as if being environmentally friendly and economically sound are at odds. While I do balk at putting a pricetag of nature (it is of intrinsic value outside of financial worth) the concept of ecosystem services is useful here.

      From wiki "A peer-reviewed study published in 1997 estimated the value of the world's ecosystem services and natural capital to be between US$16–54 trillion per year, with an average of US$33 trillion per year."

      from DEFRA:
      "Business is often unaware of its true reliance on nature. Natural systems provide us with food, shelter, water, energy, health and air and protect us from costly floods. In many cases, nature's resources and services can provide all these dividends indefinitely, provided we look after them. [...] The CBI's 2012 report on green business highlighted that the idea that 'going green' might further dent economic recovery was in fact a false debate."

      http://www.defra.gov.uk/ecosystem-markets/files/Ecosystem-Markets-Task-Force-Final-Report-.pdf

      As for the badgers - there's a lot of problems with that. Such as not listening to the scientific evidence regarding the perturbation affect - that shooting may actually spread the disease rather than containing. Everyone, *everyone* wants a solution to the spread of TB. But the approach hasn't worked, which is unsurprising, given it utterly ignored the recommendations.

      Also many people think it's diseased badgers infecting cattle. Remove the badgers, remove the problem! It's not a one-way transfer from what I've gathered; infected cattle also spread it amongst the wildlife (of which badgers are not the only carriers, deer also I believe). Vaccination of any wildlife and livestock that could be infected and increased regulation of cattle seem like sensible steps to me. The cull of a protected species should be absolutely last case, and when carried out, done properly and in accord with scientific advice.

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      • Mark

        Luci - thank you for a very interesting comment.

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  10. OP was really struggling, you'd have thought he would have tried to have something solid and recent with which to counter the report, but it was pathetic. Good for John Humphrys - I hope OP won't still be there in a year's time to be questioned again.

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  11. filbert cobb

    There is no "Nature Check" before 2011. Odd, that.

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    • Mark

      filbert - not really. There was something similar assessing government (lack of) progress which was published each year - it must have had a different name and certain,ly ran up to the global 2010 targets.

      You'll recall that 'we' 'all' made a big mistake and let the Tories in in 2010 (with some LibDems holding onto their coat tails) and that's when Nature check started as an assessment of what this government has done in relation to what it said it would do.

      And, you may recall, that the last Labour government published a list of sustainability indicators, including the fate of farmland birds, which were an index of sustainable living. these were then published, all of them, each year with a government assessment of how they were doing. i remember the fun involved in commenting on them each year in the past. This government abolished those measures or down-graded their importance.

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      • filbert cobb

        "that's when Nature check started as an assessment of what this government has done"

        So it's politically motivated

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        • Mark

          filbert - political yes, party political no. Of course - politics determines whether we get enough nature in our lives.

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          • Filbert Cobb

            It doesn't. I do.

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      • David McGrath

        Was it not National Indicator 188 that reported on matters natural and had targets to reach. Was scrapped along with the Defra sustainability reports.

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  12. Stella

    Well said Linda - OP makes me feel the same. And well blogged Mark - OP's comments on Today were outrageous and JH did his best in the seconds he had. I may have missed it all but where was the general media outcry highlighting how foolish were OP's remarks... do the professional conservationists feel so down trodden that they are scared to challenge this load of c..p. OP needs knocking off his perch and soon.

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  13. Paul V Irving

    I'm hardly surprised that these four are not to our taste the tories have always been poor on environmental matters if it interfered with making money or killing wildlife. As always Trimbush a tiny bit of sense with a lot of guff, I'll not be voting for them but then I never have, I can remember years ago when my sister's kids were in a pram ( one of them had her own baby this week) that pram had a sticker on it and its still true--- "the only good tory is a lavatory", Zac Goldsmith and one or two others excepted or as a labour MP said to me many many years ago most tories cannot see beyond the £10 note on the end of their nose.

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  14. Mud Lark

    Sadly Stella, there are none 'professional' conservationists who might be minded to view t'others as having been gagged, then there are others who might feel sorry for them as being overworked, underpaid &c.

    As has been written and inferred on this blog many times, the backbone appears to have gone out of conservation campaigning, or is it that there is so much political manoeuvring that they get distracted from the principle role (variously described)?

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  15. Julian Swift

    Its a funding grab by the NGO's. They know pillar II is up for grabs so guess what........the PR machine goes into action. Let's face it they have salaries to pay as well, employees with mortgages. The only NGO that I can recall which actually acknowledged they'd solved the issues and disbanded was "Free Nelson Mandela" and let's face it they didn't have much choice ! The rest of them are in the same funding game as everyone else.........work it out why everything is always so dire. Or am I just a cynic ?

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    • filbert cobb

      A cynic is someone who knows what is going on.

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  16. Julian

    cynic
    ˈsɪnɪk/
    noun
    1.
    a person who believes that people are motivated purely by self-interest rather than acting for honourable or unselfish reasons.
    "some cynics thought that the controversy was all a publicity stunt"
    antonyms: idealist, optimist
    2.
    a member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers founded by Antisthenes, marked by an ostentatious contempt for ease and pleasure. The movement flourished in the 3rd century BC and revived in the 1st century AD.

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    • Mark

      Julian - yep, you're very old and Greek! Congratulations!

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  17. Julian

    I know ! Just an old geeky cynic.

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