The Response for Nature report by 26 wildlife organisations in England is unexceptionable and unexceptional.
There is nothing wrong with it and nothing very new or exciting either. It is the semolina of wildlife reports – you couldn’t really dislike it but I’d be surprised if it’s your favourite. In fact it’s a bit gruel-like too – rather thin but just maybe good for you.
Such weak fare may be because there is little intellectual leadership in the wildlife NGOs, combined with the fact that when 26 organisations get together the best they can agree on is some feeble lowest common denominator so even the good ideas get watered down.
It’s difficult dealing with a government that is already planning for delivering nature by 2040 rather than meeting the 2020 targets it agreed – but this report gives too much ground away. If the situation is urgent and dire, which these NGOs say it is, then what is the plan for the next 12 months? And what happens if government doesn’t implement it? The correct reaction to the government 25-year plan is ‘ You didn’t make the 2010 targets. You aren’t going to meet the 2020 targets. We have no interest in your fiction for 2040 – we aren’t that gullible. We will slag you off to your electorate every day from now until the next general election unless you come up with a proper plan to attempt to address the urgency of the wildlife crisis.’
When ministers say that they have been ‘challenged’ it almost always means that they are relieved that it wasn’t worse – only when they get stroppy might they be feeling challenged.
What is the toughest thing that wildlife NGOs have done to this government in the past five and a half years? Can you remember any line in the sand? And all the time nature suffers.
With the six million people that support the organisations behind this report the NGOs have considerable power if they mobilise it and use it. But they don’t.
Defra is arguably the weakest department in Whitehall, with the most uninterested and weakest Secretary of State. Defra is not the friend of the wildlife NGOs, nor of nature itself – the NGOs should mobilise their membership to go over the heads of the Dire, Egregious, Failing, Risible and Adrift Defra and go straight to MPs and leading politicians. Nature deserves better than this.