I was surprised to notice the other day that the Secretary of State for the Environment (and some other stuff), Michael Gove, follows me on Twitter. I’m not foolish enough to think that Mr Gove is reading every word that I write, nor perhaps any of them, but just in case, I thought I’d pen these few paragraphs of advice to Mr Gove, or to whoever is operating his Twitter account.
I’ll keep this short, as I know you are busy (but so am I by the way):
- Your ‘Unfrozen Moment‘ speech was brilliant – quite brilliant. Are you going to live up to it? Unless you retain the same level of protection for sites and species (but especially sites – those SPAs and SACs) you will have been lying in that brilliant speech. It’s as simple as that.
- A green agricultural policy could be your major legacy from your time at Defra. It’s difficult to do but you have the brains and perhaps the will to do it. Treat the NFU as a dodgy, highly vested interest and trust people like the IEEP and FoE to give you good advice. The land-owning conservation organisations are good on detail but you won’t find them suggesting you should cap payments to landowners (but you should). My own view is that the £3bn of CAP payments should end up as follows – £1bn goes back to The Treasury as a Brexit bonus, £1bn remains as income support (aka subsidy) payments to landowners (that’s an overall reduction, payments should be capped, and more should go to the uplands) and £1bn is used to expand public payments for public goods (more to the uplands for woodland regeneration, peatbog restoration and protection).
- Trust your instincts that nature has an economic value but that it lacks much of a market value, and anyway, there is more to environmental Conservatism than totting up the piles of money – isn’t there?
- Wildlife crime is not the biggest issue in the world for you but it’s important to me, and unless you do a lot more than the rather unimpressive Therese Coffey has done, there may be trouble ahead in parliament and in the next general election. Grouse shooting could be the next general election’s ivory sales and fox hunting – it’s your risk. You know that you will soon have to bite the bullet and admit that the coalition government allowed moorland owners to go bonkers in the uplands, so, as well as introducing burning restrictions, which you will probably have to do, you ought to bite the bullet (pun intended) and pledge to bring in licensing of shooting in three years time unless there are 30 pairs of Hen Harriers in the English uplands.
- It’s very nice that I am in the 1300 or so people whom you follow on Twitter (even if, as I guess, you never look at anything I write) but in amongst the hundreds of MPs and further hundreds of journalists you follow it might look better if you also followed the RSPB, Buglife, Butterfly Conservation and Plantlife for starters (although well done for following the Wildlife Trusts and Wildlife Link). For a thoughtful read you should follow @milesking10 as well, of course, as @georgemonbiot.
- Come to the Bird Fair at Rutland Water next summer – 17-19 August (17th would be best) – and make a speech. I’ll buy you a beer if you turn up!