Blair’s land

Jeremy Paxman has produced a superb piece on the countryside during the Blair era (henceforth known as the Blera), eliciting a monstrous attitude, for example during the foot and mouth crisis. It’s also illuminating how times have changed: the drystone waller who experiences monied newcomers to take a greater interest in the condition of walls than farmers; and the former miners who now enjoy being fruit pickers. Some insights:

  • “A company like [the market research company operating out of a farmhouse] – the urban bureaucrats say – is the future of the land; it has, though, nothing to do with the land”.
  • Food production has been “outsourced” to other countries.
  • The paltry sum British farmers are now paid for a litre of milk.
  • In the wake of foot and mouth, the Ministry of Agriculture was abolished to be replaced by the “Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, its name ample testimony to the confusion of its ambitions”.
  • The biggest beneficiaries of the new regime are those with the most land.
  • “We’re less self-sufficient in food now than we were when Blair came to power.”
  • The government has turned farmers into park keepers, and the countryside into a post-agricultural society.

To be critical, el Paxo focused more on the politico-economic aspects of the countryside than on wider ecological and sustainability issues. Although he touched on the latter, the dairy farmer interviewed was the more explicit, and I think Paxo could have been more courageous in broaching the subject. What have been significant ecological impacts during the Blera? How has biodiversity fared? What role will the countryside’s ‘guardians’ (landowners) play when oil prices rise and global warming constricts food production in other parts of the world? A noticeable omission for me was his not mentioning the incredible public response, in the early days of the Blera, to GMOs, genetically modified organisms. There was also the significant implication, left unexplored, that Blair’s government has done little to break the power of the supermarkets (probably because for Blair et al it’s a non issue). All of this said, I think one reason why the piece is so good is because Pax and team just used footage of practitioners, rather than armchair commentators and talking heads. Excellent stuff.

One Response to “Blair’s land”

  1. Make a wish, have a dream… « Sumptuous World Says:

    […] sculpture trail has been one of many initiatives in the village. Despite being a post-agricultural rural community – and being a small village of 400 inhabitants, separated and spread out by over […]

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