Lord Zac

So Zac Goldsmith, after losing his seat to Sarah Olney, keeps his job in DEFRA by way of the House of Lords.

How do we feel about that? I feel a bit torn because this method of filling posts looks rather open to croneyism of the worst kind – and what is Nicky Morgan doing back at DCMS?

But I’m glad that Zac still has a role to play in government on the environment. I think it says something about the lack of knowledge and understanding on the environment in the Conservative party that this is seen as a necessary move. I notice that according to the Defra website Zac is unpaid – so, a bargain!

My pragmatism and enthusiasm for environmental progress makes me relaxed about this and actually rather relieved that Zac is still around. I hope he doesn’t now disappoint me. But the environment needs all the allies it can get.

The necessary move to make this a more regular situation would be for Lord Gardiner to be moved on to other duties, or perhaps no other duties, so that Zac is doing the DEFRA role in the Upper House too.


14 Replies to “Lord Zac”

  1. I am undecided how I feel about this.
    It leaves me uncomfortable.
    I understand and agree with your most of your comments Mark, but it does feel a boys’ club. How much influence will he have? Maybe he will have more, or maybe Johnson sees him as someone who can be a soft buffer to uncomfortable decisions, someone who can apply a good coat of greenwash.
    How many people rising in politics or wanting to enter politics with green credentials have been restricted or unable to climb the career ladder?
    I hope Zac continues to fight for the wild and lives up to his promises, acknowledges his inherent and received privileges, puts climate change/ biodiversity etc before political shenanigans and is a man of integrity, brave enough and clear sighted enough to stand up those who will seek to use him as a political tool.

    1. Gill – I’ve been thinkibng about it for a while. I’m not sure which boys’ club Nicky Morgan is in? I actually think her peerage was even odder. At least Zac’s is portrayed as being because of the need to have an expert doing the job but nobody has said anything like tht about the Culture Secretary.

      1. I think Johnson is seeking to position people who he thinks he can manipulate. Whether boys’ club or other.
        He has shown himself to be self serving.
        Maybe we will see what Zac is made of.

  2. He may not be receiving a salary from Defra but as a peer he won’t be too badly off. “Members of the House of Lords are not salaried. They can opt to receive a £305 per day attendance allowance, plus travel expenses and subsidised restaurant facilities. Peers may also choose to receive a reduced attendance allowance of £150 per day instead.” I don’t know how much tax he was able to avoid while claiming non-dom status but he doesn’t look like a bargain to me.

  3. I’m afraid I’ve become so cynical now about people who at first appear to be ‘on the side’ of environmental issues and ‘friends’ for wildlife, then turn out to be like Michael Gove. I think the only ones I might trust would be people who had volunteered with wildlife groups for years and helped at ground level, whilst obtaining degrees in some branch of environmental science! But do they exist in politics?
    Season’s Greetings, Mark, and to all working so hard for our wildlife.

  4. the ‘People’s Government’ filled with unelected chums! Ha!

    I’m not undecided…it stinks!

  5. I’m sure a Labour Government would never do anything like this. Tony Blair elevating his old flat mate Charlie Falconer (who as far as I am aware never even sat in the House of Commons) so he could be a cabinet minister is obviously completely different.

  6. One of key issues is to my mind is how competent is the guy is, how well does he understand the environmental and wildlife issues and is he willing to do what is right rather than religious upholding Tory vested interests eg driven grouse shooting as did Coffey. Those Tories that can do this are are almost non existent. Being a Tory and being competent on wildlife and the environment are essentially mutually exclusive.
    Anyway we will just have to wait a bit to see how his Lordship performs.

    1. David – I completely agree with your disapproval of Goldsmith’s mayoral campaign (and have said so on this blog several times). But it is clearly wrong to say that one cannot have environmental justice without social justice either in detail or simply generally. Life is much more complicated than that. Margaret Thatcher did more for the environment than many PMs but I suspect taht you and i wouldn’t approve of other aspects of her tenure at Downing Street.

      We should not turn a blind eye to people’s faults but nor should we turn a blind eye to their strengths. A commonly used example is how to regard the cultural works of Nazi sympathisers, eg Wagner.

      1. Two issues for me.

        1. I’m not as convinced of Zac’s Goldsmith’s credentials as you seem to be and certainly do not have a positive opinion of him as a politician.

        2. A Minister in the Lords is next to useless, as they are not present in the Commons where they need to be able to contribute to debate and respond to questions. Or is it this the Tory idea, avoid having their environmental credentials scrutinised to closely? I’m cynical on this as I really don’t have any faith that this government will move things forward other than where they are forced to.

        Not sure what expertise and knowledge of the subject has to do with a politicians or Ministers role anyway! On that basis virtually none would be in their jobs! The real expertise is with those who shape, compile and actually implement policies.

        So for me this is a retrograde step and signals that environment and conservation issues are not anywhere near the top of this governments priorities, no change there then.

        1. Matthew – fair enough, but I see things differently. I am somewhat affronted by the sidestepping of the electorate but I can live with that whilst disapproving of it.

          Well, maybe I’ve seen Zac in action more than you, or maybe I’m just easily impressed (not a criticism that is often aimed at me amongst the many that are) but I have no doubt at all that he is a committed environmentalist with stacks of knowledge and that makes him incredibly rare, not just in this parliament but in any parliament in my experience.

          The question of expertise and knowledge is often brought up about senior roles in any organisation. Some of the best managers and leaders I have known started with little expertise of the subject but pretty soon developed both and were all the stronger for it. I’m sometimes told that you don’t need to know anything about the subject in hand to be a great manager – well, I don’t agree.

          Ministers are responsible for policies – not civil servants. A minister who knows her or his subject will get much more out of civil servants than one who doesn’t. Asking the right questions is important.

          It is difficult to see how your last sentence can possibly be true – i would read Zac’s appointment as a very clear signal that this government wants to do some good things for the environment. I’m sure they will be pretty poor overall but my expectation is they will be better with Zac than without hom – but we’ll have to see.

          I suspect that Zac’s independence of view (it helps to be a millionnaire) and passion for the environment have delayed his elevation to a minister. As did resigning as an MP over the third Heathrow third runway which was an environmental issue as well as a constituency one remembver (cf Boris’s promise to lie in front of the bulldozers (he should just have promised to lie)). Previous PMs may have been nervous that he might go a bit native ie be more on the side of the environment than the government and that is something strongly to recommend him.

      2. “nazi sympathisers – eg wagner”

        Are you referring to Richard Wagner?

        Say what you like about the Ring Cycle but Wagner was not a Nazi sympathiser. Wrong century for a start.

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