Long-serving Farming Minister George Eustice has been promoted to Defra Secretary after his former boss, Theresa Villiers, was given the sack.
Mr Eustice’s appointment will provide some continuity for the department as it seeks to implement the radical changes proposed in the Agriculture Bill over the coming years.
He has already served as a Defra Minister for over six years and the decision to promote him will likely mean planning for the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) can continue with little delay.
But Mr Eustice will undoubtedly be keen to leave his own stamp on the brief in other ways.
He is known to favour reform of tenancy law, and in an exclusive interview with Farmers Guardian in July last year, he said he wanted to put a stop to non-stun religious slaughter - something his predecessor Ms Villiers had ruled out.
Some farmers on social media welcomed the news that he was in the running for the job earlier today, describing him as ‘competent’ and saying his experience is required at the top of Defra at this time.
I don’t always agree with what George has to say but there is no doubt that at a time of monumental change in the industry that his level of knowledge and experience is required for the top job at @DefraGovUK t.co/OCNS8xSsEG— James Wright (@JPBWFarm)
Eustice who’s only failure in my eyes was his passion to pursue Brexit, but competent in all other respects. Why was he ever overlooked for Theresa Villiers? #ChaoticJudgement— Daye Tucker #FBSI#People’sVote (@RuralLeader)
Others, however, were less supportive of the move.
I think they are all being picked based on loyalty to ’the project’. I have no faith in Eustice being any more ’on our side’ than Villiers to be honest. However as he was the poster boy for Brexit and Ag I like the idea of him now being accountable for his promises.— Stephen Parkinson (@OnceAFarmer)
I think they are all being picked based on loyalty to 'the project'. I have no faith in Eustice being any more 'on our side' than Villiers to be honest. However as he was the poster boy for Brexit and Ag I like the idea of him now being accountable for his promises.— Stephen Parkinson (@OnceAFarmer) February 13, 2020
I suspect his appointment would be as an enforcer to drive the change they want.... understanding and empathy are not the same thing......— Hawcroft Lleyn (@PVickerton)
I suspect his appointment would be as an enforcer to drive the change they want.... understanding and empathy are not the same thing......— Hawcroft Lleyn (@PVickerton) February 13, 2020
Theresa Villiers’ sacking, after just seven months in the job, appeared to be given more widespread approval.
Many farmers had in recent weeks been critical of her invisibility since her appointment.
Her performance at the Oxford Farming Conference in January, where she refused to open up the political session as convention dictates, was also seen to be weak.
In a statement on Facebook, Ms Villiers said she had been told by the Prime Minister to ‘make way for someone new’.
Wellies for sale:— martin williams (@loosecollie)
One lady owner, barely used.
Tread lightly and leave without trace.
Small boots to fill, should suit someone interested in the countryside.
Ring 0800-govmnt and ask for Theresa. #reshuffle
Theresa who ? 👋— Jon Stanley (@JonStanley10)>
Theresa who ? \uD83D\uDC4B— Jon Stanley (@JonStanley10) February 13, 2020