What a laugh!

It must be difficult going in front of a Parliamentary Committee to justify why you should get a job, but that is what the Chair-designate of Natural England has to do. And that’s what birder, fisherman, environmentalist and wildlife enthusiast Tony Juniper did very well yesterday. It’s difficult because you are talking to a small number of MPs and to the world at large, and to your potential staff and colleagues and stakeholders all at once.

And what a shambling event it was – as far as the MPs were concerned.

They didn’t look very smart – whereas Tony did. I just hope that he doesn’t believe everything he said in front of the committee!

Neil Parish clearly sees himself as the Jeremy Paxman of parliamentary committees – but he quite simply asks the wrong questions.

Tony J may or may not have contributed £50 to Caroline Lucas’s campaign to keep the Brighton Pavilion seat but thank heaven for Zac Goldsmith who pointed out (at 15:58) that Andrew Sells had donated £111,000 to the Conservative Party – to which Paxman Parish said ‘At least he remembered he had’.

There was some utterly ridiculous discussion about whether having a vegan breakfast was a party political act – when was the last time that a candidate was asked whether having their steak rare was the act of a fascist?

And Julian Sturdy asked some weak, rather than sturdy, questions about the uplands which were batted away to the boundary.

Mary Creagh is a bright, environmentally-savvy MP, Angela Smith almost made a joke, and Zac Goldsmith did make a joke. Apart from that the process was a joke really. But it’s good to know that Tony won’t shout out ‘Vote Green!’ or ‘Eat your greens!’ in the middle of any interview about net gain or how NE will save the Hen Harrier. I look forward to the day when members of the Efra Committee are quizzed by experts to assess whether they are fit to serve on it, and even more so when Defra ministers have to sit a written test to see whether they know either end of a badger from the other before getting their jobs.

Most politicians sincerely do their best – it’s just that many are given roles for which they are quite badly suited. That’s why they need people around them like Tony Juniper.


18 Replies to “What a laugh!”

    1. Dave – difficult to think of many. They will ask something along the lines of ‘Are you biased?’ and the candidate will always say ‘no’. They will ask ‘What changes are you going to bring in?’ and the candidate will aways say ‘Well I’m only the Chair, not the Chief Executive and in any case, I haven’t started the job yet so I don’t really know’.

      Maybe some questions along the lines of ‘What is your favourite bird? What was the last fish that you caught? What is your favourite film, book, piece of music?’. But some of those questions were asked in an excellent interview of Tony in Behind more Binoculars https://pelagicpublishing.com/products/behind-more-binoculars

  1. Yes, quite agree, the ignorance of the average MP towards many issues is often amazing, especially as far as wildlife conservation and the environment is concerned.
    Why is it in respect of politicians that so often the wrong ones are in the wrong job? I suppose part of the reason is because so often politics tends to attract the wrong type of person.

  2. I watched Tony Juniper’s interview. He was impressive and far more knowledgeable than his questioners. If I was being grilled by this panel my first thought would be; is this an organisation I want to work for! If I was an employee of that organisation I would think; what a breath of fresh air, please take the job. Do we know the outcome?

    Great comments, Mark. Thank you.

  3. I wondered who the female MP was sitting next to Julian Sturdy MP and whether it was Sheryll Murray MP. She seemed to be singing from the standard CA hymn sheet; I half-expected her to ask whether Mr Juniper ate meat. She seemed only interested in the uplands and blanket bogs and didn’t seem to feel the need to ask any questions about marine conservation despite her constituency being SE Cornwall with a large interest in fishing and the marine environment.

  4. I watched some of his interview. The panel came across as sceptical as to why he was even there.

    I will be amazed, though pleased, if he is appointed.

  5. Agree. A bit of a farce. Felt it should have been the other way round; TJ asking the questions & the panel responding with how things are going to change to deal with the ever growing issues. TJ talking plain sense that some of the panel clearly incapable of understanding or wanted to ignore.

  6. Don’t understand at all the process for selection in this; so, are there other candidates, and if so, do we get to see their ‘interviews’?! I suppose folk in his walk of life are used to sitting entirely on their own, facing an ‘inquisition’, and watched by loads more! Scares me to death just watching it!

    1. Mairi – Tony J is the Secretary of State’s, Michael Gove’s, nominee. Not entirely sure what happens if Committee says ‘Nah, we don’t like him much’! The process has some value in Tony (in this case) getting a feel for what the select committees that will scrutinise NE’s work are thinking about. And when he leaves he will get an exit interview with the Efra Committee too.

  7. I’m not surprised Tony sailed through this with grace and composure – he’ll be used to a lot worse. There is always an assumption that people offered jobs are supplicants but Richard is right in suggesting that Tony might have wondered why he wanted the job. The simple answer is that in an era where unenlightened self interest is the given Tony will be doing it for all of us, not for himself . And he’ll definitely get the job if he wants it – Michael Gove wouldn’t have put him forward if he didn’t mean to go through with it.

    Must go – got to check all my donations to RSPB, Remain etc.

  8. The questions and non questions asked exposed the depth of both ignorance and prejudice of those on the committee. One beggars belief that these are some of the people who govern us, no wonder we are in such a bloody mess!
    A late friend used to say that those who wish to be elected to positions of power should automatically be disbarred on the grounds of graft or insanity. Perhaps we should add ignorance and incompetence to that.

  9. This was appalling from the point of view of the MPs many who appeared clearly hostile to Tony Juniper, but who could only find childish negative points e.g. £50 donation, vegan breakfast, member of the Green Party.

    He accounted for himself very well (didn’t expect anything else), and I sincerely hope he is appointed.

  10. Well done Zac Goldsmith for putting TJ’s financial support for the Green Party into perspective! His committee colleague (didn’t note her name) that tried to make an issue of this and the ‘vegan breakfast’ should be ashamed of herself. The idea that someone should come into this role without any views on anything relevant to the job or without having previously supported any political party is preposterously stupid. Tony’s previous positions (both in terms of appointments held and views espoused) are all out in the open and present no logical reason why he should be unsuitable for the role (rather the contrary I would have thought).
    I thought Tony was very impressive in how he responded to the committee’s questions and I hope that his appointment will be confirmed.

    1. Steve – if you click the highlighted link in the first sentence it will take you there.

Comments are closed.