Well, well, well. Off goes the Chancellor saying that no self-respecting minister would allow the PM to dictate who his aids should be, which must make Rishi Sunak lacking in self respect. It is very broad-minded of Johnson to replace an alumnus of Downend Comprehensive with a Wykhamist though.
Rishi Sunak, as MP for Richmond, Yorks, has a lot of grouse moors in his constituency and he spoke in favour of grouse shooting in the debate on banning it in 2016. Few Tories who did that are rising stars but he certainly is, for a while at least, although lacking in self-respect he has a large salary and large job as compensation.
I was in DEFRA this afternoon when the news was breaking of the new Secretary of State there: George Eustice. I had just left the building but I didn’t hear any cheers ring out although if they had then I would have assumed it was because they weren’t getting Stephen Barclay.
Over recent weeks I’ve been told that it was certainly going to be Zac Goldsmith (despite the slight snag that he’s in the House of Lords), that it would probably be Tracey Crouch (even though she is against the Badger cull which is a bit of a drawback with this government), and I read that Stephen Barclay was being considered, but in fact it is George Eustice. I don’t think that Mr Eustice is a terrible choice and I have always thought that he was quite a good Agriculture Minister. He has shown little sign of being the least bit interested in biodiversity with the notable exception of it being his job to front up the policy on Badger killing for years. He is a farmer and he knows about farming and agriculture policy. His appointment was a rare example of someone who knows quite a lot about quite a lot of the job actually getting the job although this light-hearted blog post now looks somewhat on the mark.
Eustice was principled over Brexit (even though I disagree with his position) and knowledgable on farming and so, given that we can’t have Caroline Lucas in the job, he’s not the worst possible choice.
But the most interesting thing that Eustice has said from my point of view was at the Oxford Farming Conference of 2017 where he suggested an end to the system of subsidies for ‘slipper farmers receiving money for running grouse shoots and other activities without actually farming‘ (Ben Webster, The Times 5 January 2017). That’ll be an interesting chat between the new DEFRA SoS and the new Chancellor.