Well the long awaited Cabinet shuffle day finally arrived and, as ever, and in the widest context, changes directly associated with the Environment Ministry ( DeFRA ) were writ large within announcements and one or two changes too with potentially large environmental implications, notably Transport with the current debate on airport expansion running wild.
I actually thought the dismissal of Caroline Spelman, previous Secretary of State for the Environment, was done with undue haste for some undisclosed reason. The media, on several occasions, simply announced that she had lost her job with no accompanying debate on whether a "move" was in progress. One wonders whether pressing matters away from Parliament have possibly induced a personal choice to step down. Her abortive proposals to sell the Nation's forests will long be remembered as an issue that inflamed many, ( but so did the advice issued by the Party's "petrolhead", Francis Maude), but she had some successes too. She initiated the research associated with the national capital and ecosystem services , which has been praised, she similarly progressed the carbon reporting rules, which will become applicable next April, and she personally brokered an agreement at the United Nation's Nagoya Summit on Biodiversity that was widely acclaimed by many. Apparently she was also prone to confront Cabinet colleagues on matters to do with planning reforms and Habitat Regulations.......one wonders the extent to which George Osborne has had a Machiavellian influence on the changes!! She always seemed to me to be very earnest and sincere, to be getting on with the business in hand, as opposed to acting out some pre-determined role.
She'll be replaced by Owen Patterson about which very little is known, although one report I happened on stated there was a fear he'd pursue an "anti-green " agenda. A strange qualification for THE Department concerned with England's green and pleasant land, but possibly more in keeping with Party intentions. One of his major challenges will be to oversee the production of a climate adaptation strategy and, possibly, newly framed wildlife regulations arising out of the recent review completed by the Law Commission, which is out for consultation until November. Elsewhere in the Department, David Heath has replaced Jim Paice. Heath was the LibDem spokesperson on Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in the late 90's and also worked as a parliamentary consultant for WWF in the early 90's., so one hopes such experience will assist.
Changes, one presumes, aimed at both achieving Tory policies, but making the Party acceptable prior to the next election. I tend to think that they're their own worst enemies and it's simply a matter of patience on our collective part before change is secured!!
As an aside I couldn't resist putting in the following!! One of the last tasks Caroline Spelman completed on the 30th August was to confirm the Chairman's position for Natural England ( that "front end", cutting edge body carrying out the whims of DeFRA when it comes to wildlife policy!! ). The gentleman concerned is a dairy farmer in Oxfordshire, Southern England, who has had an involvement in an "Acting" capacity for some time and who will receive a salary of £72,740 for a three day week ( equivalent to a full time salary of £121,333 ). But this seemed to be the best bit!! On the 4th September the new industry-backed guide to funding and support for dairy farmers was launched by ( yes, you've guessed it !! ) Natural England. It just made me smile...... whilst the gentleman concerned looks admirably qualified for the job based on past accomplishments, I suggest he might have a word with Natural England's Press Officer relating to the timing of appearance of such "guides" in order to avoid scrutiny by the cynics!!