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?