Dear @MichaelGove

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!



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12 Replies to “Dear @MichaelGove”

  1. Thanks Mark,

    So succinctly put. I wish I had the issues so clear, and the means of expressing them so well.

  2. Politicians get invited to the Game Fair every year. I am staggered that they have not been invited to a Bird Fair; surely 2018 is the year for Michael Gove to show all those doubters that this lot are interested in the environment; we should be writing to MP'S and BF organisers to try to make this happen; let them see we are passionate about the environment, let Mr Gove see some birds in the hand, go on an Osprey cruise; hey Simon King, maybe you can invite him?

  3. Very well done Mark.
    I think MG will follow your advice. He likes to take on vested interests.
    The NFU and Moorland (mis)-managers deserve such an adversary

  4. Gove rattled Tim Bonner when he talked about something like 'alternative land use' which Bonner took to mean rewilding, so if Gove's rattling Bonner, he's doing OK in my book.

  5. There's a (faint) chance that Michael Gove - supported by some landowning interests - could actually leapfrog the conservation/environmental lobby. There's the assumption that there is a fixed budget, you spend more or less, but from the same fixed amount.

    The reality is that behind the CAP facade there is the opportunity to save much of the money currently spent - and to avert environmental risks of political significance way beyond the environmental sector debates, and of real voter impact. The most obvious is water - supply, quality and flooding, and its easy to see how this overlaps conservation concerns in the uplands at least. Breaking with 70 years of management exacerbating the issues could actually save a very large chunk of the CAP budget.

    Gove has the potential to win votes, save the environment, save money and keep Tory landowners on side - but it'll take a leap way beyond the current currency of political debate - including from the environment sector - to achieve, and is he expecting to be there any longer than David Milliband who foreshadowed the current debate in his CPRE speech almost exactly 10 years ago.

  6. I think you should have allocated some of that money to defra for execution. I heard Guy Smith VP of NFU last night. He wasn’t against any of Michael Goves grand designs just worried about their execution by defra. (OK he was talking to a FWAG audience) Inept timing of issuance of schemes at harvest with loads of bumf to assimilate followed by slow processing of applications, which affects farm planning, is losing us lots of potential conservation projects. I cannot remember the figures but it sounded like less than a quarter the number cf previous schemes are going ahead (with hitches to come).

    I wonder if some of your followers would benefit from joining FWAG, Yes RSPB will gives farmers advice but FWAG helps demystify the regulations and more importantly fill out the forms. They would also find it interesting to go on the farm walks on the farms that have won FWAG conservation awards.

    Anyway I would add to the congratulations on your succinct summary. Which is true of your blog in general. I can read it at breakfast.


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