What Fresh Trickery is This?

Nothing that interesting has been happening at work this fortnight, which means I’m forced to mine the ‘current political climate’ for material. And no one wants that.

But needs must, and if I have to stick my head back down the rabbit hole in order to provide content, then don’t be surprised if I come out a little bit grubby and depressed.

We got a first look at the Great Repeal Bill in the last week and of course it is an absolute boon for the environmental sector and all of our job prospects, just as we knew this whole Brexit shebang would be…

A joke. I know. But I had to try something to lighten the tone before things take a turn.

Actually, I haven’t read it (shocker, I know). And what I have read about it, I don’t understand. I mean, I know the individual words, but when they are put together in sentences, it all looks Greek to me (which, obviously, is probably the EU’s fault).

PobIt does seem, for now, as though many of the EU environmental regs and policies are coming over, as is, but without a great deal of protection. In fact, it seems that there are a few medieval legal loopholes that can be used to render pretty much any part redundant (and they complain about EU bureaucracy!). Something to do with Henry VIII. Again, I don’t really understand. One of the big blind spots appears to be the lack of any public body to actually enforce/govern/monitor.

Anyway, so far, so bland. Nothing much to get worked up about. But it’s still very early days.

The suspicion (mine at least) is that farmers (traditionally a strong Tory base), who voted on mass for Brexit despite the NFU’s position, will basically be handed a blank slate post-Brexit. All those lovely EU subsidies that supply above 50% of some farm incomes will be shorn of the those tricksy environmental provisos, Higher Level Stewardship and the like will be neutered, watered down or replaced, etc. etc. etc.

Basically, I’ve been pretty certain for a year now that Brexit was going to jigger my career prospects (particularly any aspirations to eventually move out of London). Coupled with falling revenue for the charity sector in response to lower real-terms income and a local council budget cut of nearly 30% (and Parks, as ‘non-urgent’, suffering), it ain’t looking great for me and other fellow environmentalists in most of our ‘traditional’ areas of employment.

And then…and then Gove goes and spoils my whole theory by being nice about the environment in a speech to the WWF.

What fresh trickery is this?

Among other things Gove mentioned was the need for farmers to earn their subsidies

leatherface

Gove, slashing red tape, maybe. Look, I’m struggling for suitable images, OK.

through responsible practises and lamenting Trump’s imbecilic withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Now, colour me sceptical, but this is the same chap who has been making clarion calls to the Brexiteers about slashing red tape to free up production and who also tried to remove the teaching of climate change from the curriculum.

Gove also spoke out against the potential conditions brought in as part of any UK/US trade deal (and as we know, according to Donald, this will be ‘very big, very powerful’ and happen ‘very, very quickly’. And when has that guy ever failed to keep his word?). If you want to know more about the hellish food production standards we may be forced to accept, pg 121 onwards here is a sneak preview. Again, all well and good, but as Trump’s main cheerleader in the UK (sorry Nige, I’m talking about ones with actual power, you know, the kind who don’t lose seven consecutive elections for a seat) I’m not sure I believe a word he says.

Could it perhaps be that Gove just says what he thinks will make his current audience happy? Do we suspect that he may be saying something completely different (along the lines of ‘what do you want to keep you onside?’) to the NFU? Could it be that Gove doesn’t think he will be in post long enough to have to act on his words (keep dreaming big, Mikey).

I would say Gove appears slippery than a bucket of greased eels, but that suggests some kind of innate Machiavellian cunning that I just don’t believe he possesses. From his ham-fisted attempts at moving against May in the last month (Theresa, a clue, if you want to stop the leaks, stick a plug in Gove), it’s obvious the man has all the subtlety of half-a-brick in a sock.

Still, as long as he keeps his mind on lining up various knives with the centre of colleagues backs, he isn’t actually getting involved in trying to do anything to the environment.

We can hope, I suppose. Maybe Gove really has turned over a sparklingly green new leaf, but personally, I think the guy just says and does whatever is expedient for his own furtherment.

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Gove? Urgh. How Bad Can it Get?

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Pob

So we get Gove. I don’t quite know what to make of this just yet. The man is clearly a venal little weasel, but then that doesn’t necessarily put him top (or bottom if you prefer) in my arbitrary list of awful choices for Secretary for (the environment), Food, and Rural Affairs. But then he has some pretty stiff competition.

The last seven years have seen some absolute corkers thrown up to plug the role of NFU yes-man (or woman). Although more recently the position appears to have become some form of purgatory for those who dare challenge the Maybot.

So here, in descending order, is my own personal league table of those who for the course of the now slowly dying Tory government have sullied the position by wilfully ignoring the whole ‘environment’ part of their job description.

Leadsom:

Ah, bless her. She didn’t really have a chance to demonstrate her skills. For the past year she has been about as visible as Hen Harriers on a grouse moor, probably discerning that it might be for the best to keep her head down and her face out of May’s eyeline. As a mother, and therefore with a vested interest in the future, you could have been mistaken for thinking that she would actually care about things like climate change and biodiversity. Instead her only contribution appears to have been washing up at the NFU conference and telling them they could have the moon on a stick after Brexit.

Spelman:

I must confess that Spelman is a bit of a blank spot in my mind, from which I deduce that she was a bit of a non-entity. However, from reading her wiki-bio it appears that in a rare example of someone actually being appointed to a government post they have real-life experience for, she worked for the NFU for 3 years. Admittedly that might have made her ever-so-slightly biased in her outlook. Apparently she also owns a lobbying firm for the food industry, so…swings and roundabouts, eh? Although, it’s clearly mainly swings, isn’t it?

Truss:

Comedy gold, if nothing else. And honestly, she wasn’t a lot else. Appears to be going from strength to strength post-post, which I can only assume is another example of May attempting to surround herself with people who can in no way show her up with their competence. During her tenure, Defra attempted to close the wildlife crime unit, funding was withdrawn from local environmental records centres and Pre-Referendum, Natural England tried to row back on some of the EPS license outlines. Used to work for Shell. But does at least acknowledge climate change.

Which brings us nicely on to…

Patterson:

The absolute nadir. A nincompoop of the highest order. A self-serving, self-aggrandising, smug, narrow-minded, punchable little shit. He of the badger relocated goalposts.

A Climate Change denier. Let me just repeat that…a climate change denier. As Secretary for the Environment. Refuses to listen to reason and science because he’s just got a gut feeling, y’know?

If you’re house has flooded in the last five years – blame Patterson.

If you’re a badger with a murdered family member – blame Patterson.

If parts of Essex are underwater in fifty years – blame Patterson

Famously referred to the environmental movement as ‘The Green Blob’. Again, let me repeat that, the Secretary for the Environment openly disparaged the environmental movement.

He’s since gone on to talk nonsense about Ecomodernism (how the environment can be saved be even more intensive farming) and, perhaps not surprisingly, to support the Leave campaign.

A jackass.

So go ahead, Gove. Do your worst. I suspect you’re not going to have very long to do it in anyway.

It’s Started……..We’re Doooooomed

Well, probably. Certainly feels like that today. There seems to be a growing realisation amongst Brexiters about the magnitude of what they’ve just done. Bit late in the day, mind. But let’s not get into all that, there are plenty of other people writing more informed things about what happens next. It all feels alarmingly regressive, though. Down is down.

It’s already started to bite at work. 3 hours, that’s all it took. 3 hours to find out that a funder (a big funder, the big funder, you know the one) suggested – confidentially of course – that we might want to shelve any applications we were considering for the next 12 months at least. Until things have sorted themselves out. If they sort themselves out. That was day one, so I look forward to finding out what awaits me at my EU-nation-owned organisation next week. I’m sure it’ll all be fine. Probably.

The EU is responsible for huge swathes of environmental and species legislation. It’s also the source for a whole phalanx of funding (not just Stewardship etc).A lot of my future career choices and options would be influenced by these. It’s fair to say I’m not relaxed about the whole thing.

But it’s OK, I’ve been told. Because we can create our own species protection legislation can’t we? And the funding will get sorted out, it absolutely wont be entirely agriculturally focused as a sop to all those Brexit-voting farmers. Anyone who says this might not have been paying attention to exactly what this Tory government have been trying to sneak past us in the last six months.

So am I confident that I’m working in a sector that will thrive under an insular, regressive government? Am I confident that people like BoJo and Farage (dubious views on climate change, little interest in biodiversity beyond an idyllic ‘Green and Pleasant Land’ free of Poles) have the best interests of the environmental sector at heart? No. No, I am not. Am I keeping an eye on conservation jobs abroad? You bet.