Reports of a tiff are greatly exaggerated

Mark Twain, in the title there. Not sure it worked, but it’s made me feel a bit cultured.

Poor old Andrew George though, eh? And I’m not just pitying him for this terrible photo we keep wheeling out on FWi:

Andrew George
Having spent years helping the NFU thrash out arguments advocating a supermarket ombudsman to protect farmers from dodgy retailers, he probably thought he was a shoe-in for a DEFRA role once the coalition agreement was signed.

To the surprise of many (myself included), the department’s top job was handed to Conservative Caroline Spelman while the other posts were given to other Tory ministers, making DEFRA one of three government departments without a Lib Dem representative.

Perhaps keen to show they really do have an interest in farming , the Lib Dem’s decided to hand Andy the role of the party’s agricultural spokesman. A token role? I s’pose we’ll have to wait and see.

Speak to anyone at DEFRA, and they’d have you believe it’s a situation everyone’s happy about. Farm minister Jim Paice has scoffed at the idea that he would be making decisions without consulting his Liberal chums, or that they weren’t all in complete agreement over farm policy.

That’s not quite the idea Andy is putting across though. ¬†At the Lib Dem conference¬†he made a series of statements which certainly didn’t give the idea all was well at the ranch.

Abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board is is a huge mistake, he reckoned, while he’s yet to be convinced behind the science of a badger cull to tackle bovine TB.

And the fact there are no Lib Dems in DEFRA? Well apparently that’s a disappointing situation that “you have to ask questions about”.

He didn’t just say these things once either. I caught up with him later and he repeated those lines again while I scribbled away in my notebook.

Andy is an experienced politician – he’d know that saying those things to a journalist meant they were going to get published. That’s why I cringed when I read the statement he put out at the end of last week.

Apparently, reports of any policy rifts were rubbish. Everything’s just fine and dandy, he reckoned, it’s just “misleading reports in the press” that made suggestions to the contrary.

DEFRA big cheeses have also been swift to come out and insist everything’s okay between the two parties. That’s all smashing on the surface, but you get the sneaking suspicion Jim and Andy will be having a few meetings this week to try and iron things out.

A cyncic might suggest that was what Andy was after in the first place and reports of him having a bit of a whinge have won him the ear of the ministers. If that’s the case, I’m happy to have done him a bit of a favour. Maybe I ought to be misleading a bit more often, eh?

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1 Response to “Reports of a tiff are greatly exaggerated”

  1. Organic duck

    I’m one farmer that is pleased that Defra has no liberals in it, we need action now not negotiation, especially about badgers.