In an uncharacteristically pro-CAP intervention for a British politician, Liberal Democrat economics spokesman Chris Huhne has attacked his Tory opposite number George Osborne’s recent description of the CAP as ‘unreformed’. Huhne says:
“The CAP has been reformed beyond all recognition with a final break between subsidies and production so that farmers increasingly decide on what to produce according to the market, not government diktat. The CAP reforms ensure that farms no longer get more subsidy for more production, but instead get money based on their historic payments and environmental stewardship. As a result they decide on what to produce according to the market price.”
“Moreover the farm budget has fallen from more than three quarters of the EU budget in the seventies to less than half now. If this is ‘unreformed’ Mr Osborne is living in a dream world of Europhobic nonsense detached from the realities of rural Britain.”
Huhn is right. The CAP has changed beyond recognition since the bad old days of butter mountains and wine lakes, and it is misleading to claim otherwise. What Huhne did not mention is that George Osborne, now an MP and right hand man to the new Conservative Party leader David Cameron, ought to know better. Osborne once served in the UK Government as special adviser to Douglas Hogg, the hapless Tory agriculture minister who presided over the latter stages of the BSE or ‘mad cow’ disease epidemic. Hogg was often to be seen losing his temper in TV studios or stomping from the Ministry of Agriculture over to the Houses of Parliament sporting a frankly rather bizarre dark brown fedora.
While he avoided making the mistakes of his predecessor John Gummer who sought to demonstrate the safety of British beef by force-feeding his young daughter with a hamburger, Hogg did little to win the confidence of British farmers and shoppers and was ineffective in his dealings with his European counterparts at the Agriculture Council. With George Osborne as a policy adviser, is it any wonder that Hogg made such a pig’s ear of the job?