And so the rumours have finally been confirmed, Owen Paterson has been asked to stow away his wellies for the last time and return to the back benches.
It may seem incredible that Paterson only became Secretary of State against the Environment in September 2012. How much damage can be done by one man in so little time.
What will he be remembered for?
- The Farcical Badger Cull – against his own and independent Scientist’s advice.
- Emasculating Natural England and the Environment Agency such that they became Defra’s poodles.
- Appointing Andrew Sells, housebuilder and treasurer of the Policy Exchange as Chair of Natural England.
- The ridiculous attack on “Red Tape”, and moves to deregulate anything that could possibly be deregulated, regardless of the function it played. This led inexorably to the Horse meat scandal.
- The hollowing out of Defra, which started under his predecessor but hastened under Paterson.
- Blaming the Badgers for not being there to be culled “The Badgers moved the Goalposts”
- A front man for Global Biotech Industry pushing GMOs. Calling opponents of GM “wicked” and accusing them of causing children to be blinded. “It’s just disgusting that little children are allowed to go blind and die because of a hang-up by a small number of people about this technology.” This was later found to be totally untrue.
- Standing up for the right for farmers to use Neonicotinoids, as evidence piled on evidence of their widespread toxic effects on wildlife.
- Being a placeman for the NFU, pushing their facile “UK farmers must grow as much food as possible to feed the world” lunacy.
- Being a gung ho supporter of Biodiversity Offsetting, regardless of whether it works or not,or has precisly the opposite effect ie “a licence to trash’. Infamously claiming that you can replace an ancient woodland by planting thousands of trees.
- Ignoring Government scientists, preferring instead to peddle the shall we say idiosyncratic views of Viscount Matt Ridley, the Rational Optimist.
- Denying the existence of human-induced Climate Change.
- I’m sure to have missed some – please let me know.
Are there any redeeming features?
Well – there was a moment during the CAP reform process when Paterson, from a neoliberal perspective, was arguing that farmers should only receive subsidies in return for public goods such as flood prevention, carbon storage and wildlife conservation. Still, the moment past, and instead we got a the worst case of greenwashing in decades of CAP reform, greening.
Paterson also hinted that intensive agriculture might be making a contribution to flooding in places like the Somerset Levels, before setting the EA to dredge every river.
I for one will miss him – if only because he provided such good topics to write about.
Who will replace him at Defra? It doesn’t really matter. After the summer break, it will be conference time before the troops are called to muster in preparation for the Election. There won’t be any new legislation and it will be just be a case of tying up loose ends.
Is it a coincidence that Paterson’s partner in crime, Matt Ridley, is the nephew of the late Nick Ridley, the last most damaging Environment Secretary?