Farm Diary

November 23

Another good day. It started bright and clear but turned very overcast. The straw was finally delivered. It is astronomically expensive, double what it was last year. The Government bought up thousands of tons at inflated prices for their infamous bonfires. It was a good day for the straw to come, as Pat was here, with his brother to help him, to fix the new gatepost. Malcolm had arranged to come and help with the straw too.

It was a tight squeeze for it to get in, particularly just past the house. With five men unloading it didn't take long - and I didn't need to help!

Malcolm stayed on to do the evening round, and Gabriel and I went into Plymouth to watch "Harry Potter" which we enjoyed a lot. The special effects are amazing. We got fish and chips on the way home, so a very lazy evening.

James emailed me some letters to post, including this one to Elliott Morley, who wrote a long letter in the Western Morning News last week, ending "The question for the WMN is whether it wants to use that process to inform its reader through informed reporting, or just carry on with politically-motivated rants. "

Dear Mr Morley

I have often thought, over the past few months, what a good thing it would be if those who run our country were to read the Western Morning News regularly. They would then get a real feeling for the enormous difficulties being faced by the rural community, and the farming community in particular. I now discover that, though you may in fact have been reading the WMN, you did so with a totally closed mind. I can assure you that every word written by the WMN about rural matters (both FMD and wider issues) has been absolutely spot on. It has done no more than reflect accurately the concerns and, all too often, the sheer anger of the rural community at the indifference and incompetence of the present government. To dismiss the WMN as motivated by some political agenda is cheap and, more importantly, plain wrong. (I say this, incidentally, both as someone who rejoiced at your party's victory in May 1997 and as one who, having been farming for only six years, can see both sides of the urban/rural debate.)

I do not intend to debate the handling of FMD here, but there are two broader points that you and your colleagues would do well to take on board: first, by your incompetence and concern with spin, you have totally forfeited the trust of the rural community; second, the only member of the government to have ever attempted to understand the plight of the farming community is the Prime Minister, and yet the new "partnership" which he promised has produced nothing more than the supermarket code, a document that merely legitimises some of the worst abuses of those organisations.

The WMN, rooted as it is in rural England, sees and understands all this only too well, and its columns reflect that reality. I would suggest that you would be unwise to ignore that fact.

Yours sincerely

Here is a copy of an email I have just written to the WMN

Dear Mr Williams,

I have just come across a report of the DEFRA select committee of 14 November. I was horrified to read that Dr Anderson's independent enquiry is so independent that he is doing it on his own!

"(Mr Curry) If any of those inquiries were to decide they wished to take evidence in private rather than public would that cause you any disquiet?
(Margaret Beckett) It is slightly, as ever, delicate territory because these are independent inquiries and they are not being run by us, so it is obviously up to the person chairing each inquiry what procedures they adopt. And I believe - and obviously it is for him to say - that it may be that Dr Anderson may make public some thoughts about how he proposes to conduct his own part of the inquiry perhaps in the not-too-distant future if things go on as they are. Then it will be possible for people to explore with him what he intends to do and why

(Mr Curry)We know the members of the other two inquiries' sitting panels of members as it were, but we do not have any panel members for Dr Anderson's inquiry that I am aware of.
(Margaret Beckett) Dr Anderson is conducting it and he will have a secretariat but it is not fully in place.

(Mr Curry)He intends to conduct the inquiry solo, as it were, and take evidence without the assistance of other panel members?
(Margaret Beckett) Yes."

Am I alone in thinking that such an enquiry is entirely lacking in credibility?


Jo Rider

PS for full text see . Another interesting quote from Margaret Becket is "(Margaret Beckett) First of all, none of us really knows for sure how the outbreak started,"

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