Jam Tomorrow

Feeling rather sorry for myself for having succumbed to, what for me is a nasty cold (verging on man flu), I was restricted yesterday to watching the Tory Party Conference.

What gems and treasures lay strewn across its shiny (though not rhubarb-rubbed) floors.

Our near neo-Leaderene Andrea Leadsom spoke – her first speech since taking on the Defra mantle.


“there is this much air in my speech”










She spoke of the brave new world of FREE TRADE, following Brexit.

Apparently we already export coffee to Brazil, fizzy wine to France, and Naan Bread to India. Did you know? nor did I – nor did anyone. Even more imaginatively, she praised one particular entrepreneur who is “bottling” Dorset air and selling it to the Chinese for £80 a bottle. No-one can find any evidence that we actually do export coffee to Brazil, and even if we did send Naan to India, is this a good thing?

There were other bizarre moments, when she attempted to get down with the Yoof, talking about the difficulty of accessing her Pokemon Go account, due to poor mobile reception in her leafy constituency of South Northants.

What about the meat? where were the big policy announcements?  There weren’t any.

Farmers desperately worried that they will be driven out of business by FREE TRADE, because the EU tariffs and quotas that had kept cheap meat from Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere, are at risk of being abandoned, will probably be more worried today than before Leadsom let out the air from her personal policy jar.

Everything will be alright though shh, go back to sleep.

Because there’s going to be a 25 year food and farming plan, and a 25 year nature plan (why split the two apart – does food not come from nature?). And these plans will tell us all how it will all be sorted out. There’s only one problem. Article 50 will be invoked in about 4 months time, after which Ms Leadsom and her civil servants have two years (24 months for the hard of counting) to work out exactly what sort of tariff and quota regime will be put in place. – and then put it in place, with a (transitional) system of farm support to replace the Common Agricultural Policy. So 2 years into the 25 year plan, it will all need to be re-written.

As a way of preparing the shell-shocked British public for her speech, the previous day she had suggested that British people should pick fruit, instead of the 45,000 people, mostly from Eastern Europe, who currently pick our fruit and veg. It’s not clear whether our children know that the consequences of not doing well in their GCSE’s is now a life of fruit picking, but perhaps now is the time to introduce fruit picking into the National Curriculum, to prepare them for their future careers. After all, the Government is on the hunt for producers of Innovative Jams, to export to France. Presumably this is because the French have already rumbled our secret plan to sell them tins of fresh air.

I have an innovative jam idea. Leadsom promised that 11 million trees would be planted – many of them in school grounds, by 2020. Now we all know the problems that large trees close to buildings can cause, so why not plant 11 million fruit trees in school grounds? Then the children could learn to pick fruit, while being at school. And if Jam making was also part of the National Curriculum, then Innovative Jam could be literally oozing out of every school in the country, on its way to France. We could build a Jam Interconnector, from Poole to Cherbourg, to facilitate the flow.


Innovative Jam



On a more serious note, Leadsom managed to get at least two mentions of her mantra into the speech:

the claim is that the Tory Government is committed to being “the first generation to leave it in a better state than we found it.”

the claim raises far more questions than it answers.

Was the environment lost, in order for it to be found? Where did the Tories find the Environment – down the back of the sofa? Where are they going to leave it, once they’ve done whatever it is they’re going to do with it. I can see a series of written questions evolving.

As an indication of just how much Leadsom has grasped her brief, she made a powerful statement about how many children have not visited a Greenspace in the last 12 months (one in 9 since you ask), but then utterly flunked it by suggesting that it was easy to plug these nature-deprived children into nature because

“Two thirds of people live within 30 minutes of a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.”

Yes Leadsom clearly believes that the vast acreages of Maize for example, in the Dorset AONB, qualify as green space where children can recharge their nature batteries. They do not.

On the 25 year nature plan, Leadsom gave us another indication of the depth of her reading over the Summer.

“I’m truly excited that our departure from the EU means we can develop policies that are tailored to our most precious habitats and wildlife – not a one size fits all approach for 28 Member States.

It’s this opportunity we’ll be seizing as we work on our ambitious 25 Year Plan for the environment, using nature’s own building blocks of water catchments and landscapes to benefit our plants and animals.”

Leaving aside the pros and cons of leaving the EU Directives, I was intrigued, or just confused by her language on the 25 year nature plan. Now working on a catchment basis makes sense and I am sure we will be hearing much more about that in the coming months. But Landscapes? Using nature’s own building blocks of landscapes? What does this even mean? The only thing I can think of is that the Government is going to use the existing AONB/ National Park designation system as a framework for the 25 year plan. Hardly a new idea, given that these things were created in 1949. Also, don’t catchments extend into protected landscapes?

I had worried that with the demise of Owen Paterson, we would no longer get any comedy gold from Tory Environment Secretaries. It seems I was mistaken. Happy Days.



About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in Andrea Leadsom, Common Agricultural Policy, Conservative Party Conference and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Jam Tomorrow

  1. Accidental Activist says:

    Leadsome is nothing more than a saggy faced Paterson in a frock.

    • Miles King says:

      I imagine she can’t help what her face is doing… it’s what comes out of her brain that matters.

      • Accidental Activist says:

        Strictly speaking it comes out of her mouth, I’m not sure it and her brain are connected in any way. I reckon she could be a robot that the CA have the remote for.

      • Miles King says:

        yes that is plausible, though she did not mention any plans to repeal the hunting Act. Perhaps the batteries in the remote were flat.

  2. David Dunlop says:

    I’ll hazard a guess – no more than that – that the term “landscapes” is maybe being used partly because catchments here in the “desolate” north of England 😉 tend to originate in the uplands leading to unhelpful divisions (e.g. see Roses, Wars of) in the landscape-scale – see what I did there? – management of these areas if a catchment approach were to be the only one used. Especially as not all of those uplands are even in National Parks and AONB (e.g. South Pennines, West Pennine Moors).

  3. Al L says:

    I note that she praised the shooting sector for the contribution it makes to rural communities, income, jobs and wildlife. Had a look at the BASC paper on “the value of shooting” which I assume she was referring to. The headline figures are very impressive; the ones that stood out for me were-
    Shooting is worth £2 billion to the UK economy (GVA)
    Shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area
    Shoot providers spend nearly £250 million a year on conservation
    Shooters spend 3.9 million work days on conservation – that’s the equivalent of 16,000 full-time jobs
    Two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting
    I then had a wee look inside the report, and the authors need to be congratulated for squeezing every imaginable drop of benefit from the sector. I might question the robustness of some (maybe a lot) of the figures etc but when do we allow facts to get in the way of a good story. It certainly seems that dear old Andrea certainly doesn’t.
    One wonders how many at the Tory conference will come come across these figures and see this as one more way of monetising the environment, while protecting and enhancing it at the same time.

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