General Election Reshuffle sends Gove to Defra.


I was away in Germany last week looking at how they are restoring Floodplain Meadows in the Region of Hessen. More on that anon.

First though, a few thoughts on the election and in particular the rehabilitation of Michael Gove, who has become our new Secretary of State for the Environment and Farming.

I defy anyone to claim they predicted the election would turn out as it has. True, amongst the noise of the election polls, some put the two parties very close together – but they weren’t predictions. It seems (it’s early days with much poring over the results to be done) that a high turnout among young voters worked in Labour’s favour, though the remarkable numbers that voted Labour were not represented in much larger numbers of Labour MPs because of our voting system. Equally, the other parties were squeezed (LibDems and Greens) or the electorate rightly concluded were now irrelevant (UKIP) and these votes were split between Labour and the Tories, pushing both Labour and Tory vote up as well. We really are in a two party system again.

That the Tories are now reliant on the late Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 10 MPs shows the desperate state they are in. The Party and especially Theresa May, are trying to cling on to power by any means and it’s an unedifying prospect.

Labour, on the other hand, are representing themselves as the winners in this election, even though they didn’t actually win. Jeremy Corbyn is now talking about putting forward an alternative Queen’s Speech next week which will lay out his demands – and it looks like he believes he can get quite a bit of the Lexit Agenda, which we know he supported all along.

Lexit is the left wing version of Brexit, which seeks to reduce the power of Corporate Lobbying which infects so much of what the EU does. The Lexit idea is to take back control of things like workers rights and environmental protections from the EU and make them stronger domestically than they were before. I don’t get a strong feeling that Labour have worked out exactly where they stand on things like the single market and customs union though.

With her majority destroyed in an act of political self-harm that is on a par with Cameron’s decision to have the EU Referendum in the hope of cauterising the festering wound in the body of the Conservative Party that is the EU membership, May was left with no options to push through the reshuffle she wanted. And now she has lost her two eminences grises, Fiona Hill and Nick Timothy, she is, as George Osborne said yesterday, a “dead woman walking”.  How he relished those words.

At least she was able to placate the judiciary by sacking the useless Liz Truss. And while she will no doubt have wanted to also rid herself of Andrea Leadsom, her opponent in the leadership contest (doesn’t that seem aeons ago?) last year, she knew she didn’t have the power, nor did she want Leadsom sitting on the back benches plotting a coup.

So Leadsom was moved sideways to Leader of the Commons – actually this, like Defra is a bit of a poisoned chalice, as it will be a key role in trying to keep the Real Coalition of Chaos (RCC) from falling apart. The RCC comprises not only the swivel-eyed homophobes, misogynists and climate change deniers at the DUP, but the various factions within the Conservative Party which already exist, and no doubt new ones which will appear. There are the new Scottish Tories, led by Ruth Davidson – who has already made clear she is unhappy about the DUP’s Jurassic views on LGBT rights. There are the Remoaners who are keeping quiet but are quite a sizeable group who want Soft Brexit at most. There are the hardline Brextremists, led by people like Steve Baker. It will be interested to see what views on Brexit exist within the new intake of Tory MPs as well.

And then we have Michael Gove.

Gove, who did so much damage while at the Department for Education, with his Greemer Wormtongue side-kick Dominic Cummings, who went on to play a key role in the Vote Leave Brexit campaign.

Gove who famously said

“I think people in this country, have had enough of experts.” 

Gove, who believes that we should open our markets to buy cheap meat produced with GMO feed, from South America.



Michael Gove, who ridiculed the EU Nature Directives:

“I am very, very keen – I may be odd in this respect as Conservative MP – on having more homes built in my constituency. It’s a social and economic good. But homes built in my constituency are governed by the Habitats Directive,” he said.

“The Habitats Directive holds that if you build a home within five kilometres of a particular type of terrain, heathland, then you have to allocate, at the same time, something called suitable alternative natural green space to offset the environmental impact.”

He derided the rationale for such rules and said that the directive “massively increases the cost and the regulatory burden for housing development”.

“As a result my constituents, and perhaps your children find homes more expensive and mobility in this country impeded,” he added.

As I said last February (2016) Gove thinks these rules are absurd.



Andrea Leadsom had already stated that about a third of EU environmental laws would be modified or repealed, though she didnt indicate which ones were for the chop. Gove has already shown his hand as far as the Nature Directives are concerned. If you live near a heathland, expect many more houses to be built if this Government remains in power for any length of time.

One other thought – in Gove’s Register of Interests, I see he was supported in his abortive attempt to win the Tory Leadership Contest by none other than Theo Agnew, the brother of Chicken Farmer, UKIP Agriculture Spokesman and Climate Change denier Stuart Agnew.  Yes, the one who claimed that action on climate change would suck Carbon Dioxide out of the air, preventing plants from growing.

Let’s hope Gove doesn’t seek “expert” advice from the Agnew family.



Photo by Policy Exchange via Wikimedia Commons –, CC BY 2.0,

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 Defra, Stuart Agnew, Tory Party and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to General Election Reshuffle sends Gove to Defra.

  1. Dave Blake says:

    Gove … hmmm … I’ve been trying to think of someone worse, but apart from some of the people in the DUP (Edwin Poots – he thinks that Planet Earth is 6,000 years old) I’ve drawn a blank. As with Leadsom, PM May is using Environment as the ‘Naughty Step’ where if you behave yourself, you’ll be given a proper job. It tells us everything we need to know about our government’s attitude to the natural capital of our nation. I can remember other times when we have said “now is the time for all people with an environmental interest to band together and speak with a united voice”, or words to that effect. This is not the time for a united voice. That time is now in the past. If we all carry on trying to fight our own little corners, in the same old way that we have done so before, then we can expect the same result.

  2. I find the appointment of Gove as absolutely terrifying. I have no more words than these. It will only get worse the longer the desperate Tories hold onto power.

  3. “That the Tories are now reliant on the late Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) 10 MPs shows the desperate state they are in.”
    Would that be the same as the desperation demonstrated by Gordon Brown in 2010, and Ed Miliband in 2015, when they both tried a similar alliance with the DUP?

  4. Pingback: Michael Gove and the American Neoconservatives | a new nature blog

  5. Pingback: Who is the UK's new Ag Minister? Say Hello to Michael Gove | ARC2020

  6. Pingback: This new disease could devastate our wildlife. Watch the Tories do nothing – The Guardian | Fishing excellent store

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