Checking out

It’s better to be wildlife abroad than at home if you are relying on the English government for help; that appears to be the message from the report card issued by 29 environmental groups on the government’s progress.

Defra gets green lights for whales and elephants but seven ambers and seven reds for everything else.

Martin Harper came up with a great line on the government’s crazy plans for planning, on the Today programme yesterday morning.  Did you hear it?  Listen again here.

I have found myself saying several times over the last couple of weeks (and some of it may appear in print at some stage) that the current crop of Ministers in Defra are not a bad bunch – they have the environment at heart and might, under other circumstances, be making a real success of their jobs.  What other circumstances?  If they had the money to do a proper job and if they had clout within government.   Remember it was slighly less than a year ago that the coalition government made greater cuts in Defra’s budget than in those of most other government departments.  And there is precious little evidence that Messrs Pickles, Osborne, Maude and Cameron give the natural environment much thought.

The shuffling around of shadow ministers does not generate many headlines at this stage in the electoral cycle but I notice that Huw Irranca-Davies returns to a shadow Defra role having been a good Defra Minister and that Hilary Benn has the role of getting us out of a Pickles as shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

I wonder what would have happened if the Tories had got a real majority and Nick Herbert had been made Defra Secretary of State and Caroline Spelman had kept the CLG role which she had shdowed for quite a while.  Difficult to tell really.

And when will David (greenest government ever) Cameron reshuffle his pack?  And to what effect?  Surely there will have to be at least one LibDem Minister in Defra?  Won’t there?  Surely?

But Cabinet reshuffles are strange things – there is no interview, there is no job or person specification, there are no applications and there is sometimes no sense.  We will see.

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4 Replies to “Checking out”

  1. Mark - I think there's an over obsession with Defra money and far too little understanding of cross-Government impacts. A carbon measure - the renwable heat incentive - from DECC gives far better propsects of reversing the decline in woodland birds than woodland grants ever have. Old ODPM achieved a huge amount for wildlife wit its peri-urban initiatives, whilst Pickel's DCLG ius gunning to do the opposite - all with far more money & a far larger scale than tiny, powerless Defra.

    1. Rod - you are probably right in terms of influence but if you are looking for money to keep your wildlife NGO afloat then it's still likely to be defra that is the most obvious and probably the best bet. though nowwhere near as good a bet as it used to be?

  2. Mark - if Nick Herbert had made it through as Environment SoS, wouldn't Natural England have bit the dust straight away? Ministers seem to be appointed now to serve a time-limited specific purpose, rather than a long term suite of sustainable and right measures in the name of real progress, but that is politics I guess. Those who've done the latter can be counted on one hand. Martin Harper did a grand job on the Today Programme, but he let Caroline Spelman get away with far too much (Local Nature Partnerships are not the planet savers she suggests, but are a re-hash of 10 years of inneffective local bureaucracy, but this time without the targets to show so), and its a shame that conservationists were pitched against Defra because you're right, they are trying to do a good job in a tough playing field. The target was Cameron, and the report slipped straight off his shiny back. Who would you have leading Defra's Ministers?


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