There are lots of people telling me that I shouldn’t expect too much from Michael Gove because he is a politician. I had noticed that Mr Gove is a politician! And it is because he is an ambitious politician who needs to impress the electorate and his colleagues to advance his political career that I do trust him a bit. I trust him to want to make a good impression and to be bright enough, active enough, and indeed brave enough, to realise that means he actually has to do some good in the world to help create that impression.
So, I will continue to praise him when he says or does the right things, and look forward to being able to slag him off roundly when he does bad things.
But the fact that in today’s Times, the not-so-talented Viscount Ridley (see here, here, here) is having a go at Michael Gove tells me that I am right to be cheered, a bit, by what Gove is saying and doing.
Whereas I wrote yesterday that Gove’s idea for an independent body to hold government to account is just what we need, and we could dispense with NE as a result and absorb its functions back into Defra, Matt Ridley says that NE is a fine and wonderful body which is doing all it need do. Matt loves NE because it is toothless and hopeless and he is scared of Gove’s independent body because it would find it difficult to be as hopeless. I would be happy for NE to be wound up because it is toothless and hopeless and would support a new start and a body which might hold government to account. Matt and I see the world in the same way but want different things – that’s what’s going on here.
The n-s-t Viscount Ridley (bro-in-law of Owen Paterson, remember) castigates Mr Gove, who has already achieved more for the environment than Paterson did in his Defra tenure, for embracing the ‘green blob’ but it is clear that listening to environmental experts, and ones who have charitable status rather than vested landed interests, is what Mr Gove has decided to do. That is quite wise of him, and rather than this being client-capture as Ridley claims, it is the exact opposite – it is Gove eschewing the vested interests of farmers and landowners like…well, like the n-s-t Viscount Ridley, and instead going for real advice.
And then, as I did yesterday, the n-s-t Viscount Ridley gets on to grouse shooting – just as an example of course! He’s a bit worried that the EU is going to give the UK a kicking over Walshaw Moor (is it possible that his bro-in-law might just possibly find that he gets some of the flak for this?) whereas I am rubbing my hands for when the day comes.
We will lose those bodies that will hold the UK to account over its environmental actions when Brexit happens (iih – if it happens) and that is exactly what some Brexiteers wanted all along – it was a part of why some people bought the Brexit idea. Natural England has never been and certainly now isn’t that body and it is completely fanciful to suggest that it is. Gove is right to propose a fully independent body to replace European institutions and to fill the governance gap.
Matt Ridley, Owen Paterson and others are irritated at the thought. Go Gove! I say.
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