To all green blobs out there

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

It’s two and a half weeks since Owen Paterson went out with a rant about the Green Blob.

It was a fairly remarkable outburst at the time and re-reading it hardly lessens the impact.

Paterson’s hatred, for so it seems, for those who devote their lives to the environment is quite shocking.  It’s also shocking that a man with such poor judgement of how to comport himself was given any Cabinet post, let alone one which dealt with environmental issues.

With the mindset revealed in his ill-judged outburst it was an amazing choice by David Cameron to make Paterson Environment Secretary.  Amazing and wrong.  Amazing and demonstrating that the Environment portfolio is a minor one which might well get the sweepings off the floor of any re-shuffle as it is not seen to matter very much.

Most Environment Secretaries come into the job not knowing much about it, and grow into the role as they learn, and also learn to care more and more for it as they build up their knowledge. Paterson came into the job thinking that he knew it all from the start and shrank into the role as his inadequacies were demonstrated time after time.

But the environmental NGOs should learn something from this episode too.  It was fairly obvious that they weren’t going to get very far with Paterson even before his exit note demonstrated his loathing for them. He was anti-EU (whereas practically every environmental NGO has quite a lot of time for Europe), he knew all about badgers and bovine tb, he was an expert climate change sceptic and he knew about the countryside because he owned a bit of it.

This was not a man with whom to reason and yet the major NGOs treated him with the same sort of respect that they had treated much better men and women in this and similar roles.  They did not call him out.

Our NGOs have got so used to dealing with reasonable people, and so accustomed to believing that reason will always win (even though there is plenty of evidence against this view) that they didn’t really know what to do with Paterson.  If he had stayed they would have kept talking politely and being disappointed when he did something daft.

When are the environmental NGOs going to show some teeth?

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21 Replies to “To all green blobs out there”

  1. Lets just console ourselves with the thought that the NGOs are still there, and Paterson Ian't!

  2. Paterson was arrogant and narrow minded, a person for whom the environment was nothing more than a playground or something to make money from. He was nothing more than a spokesperson for the NFU and Countryside Alliance, high power minority groups hugely out of touch with the reality of sustainable ecosystems and compassion for for wildlife. These shortfalls finally managed to bite him on the arse when his position became untenable in the eyes of the voting public and his outburst showed his bitterness.

    It would seem however Liz Truss will probably be no better judging by her initial comments and she's just window dressing to make the Tories more electable. I dream of a day when the Government will genuinely have environmental issues at the heart of their policies, do away with hunting once and for all and remove the subsidies for the estates where the financial elite get their kicks by killing animals for fun. We're on a downward spiral and it needs to be stopped before we have no natural heritage left for future generations.

  3. Paterson represented the very worst of modern Conservatism. Anti nature, anti public service and for that matter anti public. It tells you all you need to know about Cameron's judgement that he was put in the position he was.

    The NGOs have long looked to fight their battles through influencing public agencies. In this long 'terror' public agencies have been silenced and neutered, and NGOs have been reluctant to directly criticise a hand that bluntly, one way or another, still feeds.

  4. Paterson hasn't really gone away.. he's been put into his box until after the next election. His way of thinking is endemic in the conservative party and should the worst happen, and they win the next election, it will all come crawling back out again.

    When will the NGOs start showing some teeth.. when we start cancelling our direct debits perhaps?

  5. A braying bigot blunders about in the introverted bunker of a pained landed class searching for identity and relevance in post-imperial Britain and vents his spleen about the "antis" (or "green blobs"). Nothing that has never been heard before at certain types of dinner party, party meeting, shooting party, or game fair gathering. County-set mediocrity barely worth a brief mention in the gossip column of 'Horse & Hound'. As long as there are individuals in society who don't respect the views and actions of the voluntary sector, they will become members of political parties, Members of Parliament and even Ministers - unless, that is, someone invents a foolproof filter for use in such cases.

    Much more interesting than Paterson's outburst is what NGOs like the RSPB should do when such individuals reach power, both in terms of immediate action and longer-term strategy. From Ridley and Redwood to Paterson and Pickles, what to do when the government representative rejects the NGOs' 'reasoned, principled argument' as 'ideology' and a Minister presents 'reasoned, principled argument' in absolutely ideological terms (or worse!)? Refuse to meet the Minister or their team? Sharpen the criticism and direct it clearly at the person and the party, rather than just the policy? Play a long game and try to change the basis of the debate in the political party so that it is less likely that such individuals rise to the top? Like it or not, environmentalism (and other causes associated with the voluntary sector) is being increasingly depicted as dangerous, anticapitalist, leftist dogma, and hence made easier to attack for becoming 'ideological' or 'too political'. Which makes senior managers, Boards and Trustees understandably nervous.

    There is a big debate to be had about the role of the voluntary sector in current circumstances, and a good starting point would be talking openly to those serious politicians across the party divide (and there are many, fortunately) who truly care about the future of their democracy and society beyond the next soundbite, election, or party gathering.

  6. The one thing you can say for Paterson is that he did more to undermine the Conservatives environmental credentials than the NGOs and Labour out together. I suspect Osborne lost patience when Paterson succeeded in trashing biodiversity offsetting in a way no NGO came close to.

  7. I sincerely appreciate your observations. I didn't (and don't) know Paterson, but I have known many like him. Why NGOs cater to his kind is beyond me. When the agencies are quieted, only the NGOs retain their voices. I have been stunned over the past decade or so as to the complete abrogation of the role of advocacy by many of our environmental and conservation groups here in the U.S. As a result, we are faced with public officials with little or no respect for us or our positions. If we can't deliver on our threats or our promises, we are effectively removed from the debate. Thanks for your willingness to take this on.

    1. Sadly NGO's need funding beyond the members subscription. They need to apply for government grants... this buys the government a degree of influence over the NGO's.

      When you sup with the devil.....

      I really think the NGO's... should consider backing off from the government in order that they can re-establish a clarity of purpose that has been lost in recent years.

      1. Perhaps so, but not for too long, only 273 days to go ....

        But then they might get wrapped knuckles for daring to campaign or lobby and hasn't that element of free speech been banned now?

  8. Paterson can rant all he likes but the fact is he just wasn't any good and got found out. He can be proud of one thing I'd suggest - being considered too toxic for even this govt. is quite an achievement. He will live long in the memory as the man who thought ancient woodland could be 'offset' by planting a few saplings an hour's drive away. Nick Nick Ridley looks almost saintly by comparison!

    I hope for her sake Liz Truss has had a private chat with Caroline Spelman so she knows just how supportive her new boss will be right up until the point where things start to get a bit difficult.

  9. Almost makes you wonder if Cameron put Patterson in to emphasise that a previous occupant of the post was a non entity too. Talking of our opposition leader is there a realistic chance he would appoint a heavyweight if he gets in?

    If he really wanted to show his teeth he could do no better than appoint you Mark, how does Lord of Sandy sound?

    By the way way I'm looking forward to reading Message from Martha on holiday in Norfolk next week.

  10. This man is clearly an unsung hero and genius who has been deposed by a PM obviously afraid of his colossal talents. Any self respecting conservationist escaping a scurrilous slur in this bitter piece of self justification must feel quite left out.
    I'm sure the Flat Earth Society could use him in some capacity or other.

  11. The Conservative's Lobbying Act will severely curtail what NGOs can and can't say or do in the run-up to the next election. Campaigning activities will be regulated for a time period of just over 7 months prior to polling day on 7 May. Some Tories would prefer NGOs to keep quiet rather than make life difficult for them - remember Conor Burns MP complaint to the Charities Commission over Oxfam's Perfect Storm advert? So if wildlife NGOs are quieter than you would like them to be in the run up to election, this might be part of the reason. Labour have promised to repeal this piece of repugnant legislation if they are elected.

  12. "the Environment portfolio is a minor one which might well get the sweepings off the floor"

    This has and no doubt always will be the case and as we know whichever gang of morons wins the Gubmint is always elected but whomsoever is the unlucky piece of floorsweeping that gets this poisoned chalice the NGOs will jammed in the security doors of Nobel House hoping to play footsy under the big oak tables with them before the ink on the new pix is is even dry

  13. His article has to be one of the funniest things I have read in a long time. Perhaps written after his farewell party - what he seems to have done is write about himself. Well I can understand that, he had just been dumped in the recycling [green] bin. I think we can happily conclude that the environment and those of us who promote its care have made an impression here. I wonder if OP might live to regret his rant [I'm quite a good ranter but I usually put the finished article in my recycle bin!]. As I thought, he is a deeply frustrated dictator - really not the sort of person a democracy should be approving as a candidate for parliament.

  14. "Amazing choice by David Cameron to make Paterson Environment Secretary..............Amazing and demonstrating that the Environment portfolio is a minor one which might well get the sweepings off the floor of any re-shuffle as it is not seen to matter very much". I feel, rather, that such things are very important for Cameron (fox-hunter that he is) and a large section of the Conservative Party, and that he knew precisely what he was doing in appointing the extreme and ignorant OP. He has lead a deliberate assault on the environment and environmentalists in order to retain the countryside as a private playground for his ilk and to cling on to their perceived right to do whatever they want in it, wherever they want.

  15. It shows the lies from the current government

    And then

    But then again NGOs don't talk to their members about politics or how to vote. Perhaps they should. UKIP being Green - no chance. Conservatives being green - no of them????


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