Conservative conference leaves farmers fuming
“I want cheaper food. I want hormone injected beef from Australia. I’ve eaten beef in Australia, it’s delicious. There’s nothing wrong with it,” gushed Jacob Rees-Mogg at the Conservative Party conference, only to start an almighty row with the NFU.
Minette Batters, the departing NFU president, tweeted her contempt quickly and emphatically, calling Rees-Mogg ‘morally bankrupt’. Then she went onto Times radio to elaborate.
“I just don’t know what Jacob gets off on,” she said. “Why would you want something to come here that was made illegal nearly 30 years ago? We banned hormone growth promoters, and rightly so. No farmer wants to bring them back. Why would he want to undermine our production? As a price point it might be slightly cheaper, but why would you want to do that?”
She went on to say the British people “want to have imports that are produced to the same standards we have here, and I was delighted that Rishi Sunak said, in writing, ‘not now, not ever’ with hormone treated beef and chlorine washed chicken. It’s great to have the Conservatives in that position. Why Jacob has to go and have soundbites that just want to attract attention, presumably to him, I really don’t know.”
Rees-Mogg, who would no doubt demurely admit to the occasional affectation, was in a frostier mood later, telling the BBC that Batters is a “complete protectionist, and she doesn’t represent farmers well. I was with farmers in my constituency last week, and the successful farmers in North East Somerset can compete globally because they are producing effectively, cheaply, economically, and they are investing.
“What Minette Batters and the NFU want to do is hold agriculture back in a protectionist fortress that means you allow inefficient farming to carry on. Protectionism hurts farmers and consumers, it puts prices up, and it encourages inefficiency. What she is doing is a disservice to farming. The NFU is a pure protectionist organisation.”
Keir Starmer was probably watching the whole affair take place from afar, licking his lips at the agri-vote. And possibly Iceland boss Richard Walker, who left the Conservative party blaming what he perceives as Rishi Sunak’s anti-eco-policies just before the conference began.
He continues to pursue the beginnings of a political career on the double shuffle of Good Morning Britain and Question Time. And he may also drift towards the opposition, which has its conference next week. It will be interesting to see what’s promised by a Labour Party sensing power for the first time since 2010. Given the run up to the next election is about to begin it will sound more palatable for food and drink, that’s a given. Whether it can sound more credible remains to be seen.