Defra Secretary Michael Gove is ready to take on the ‘vested interests’ represented by the NFU, according to Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.
Mr Goldsmith used the screening of a new Landworkers’ Alliance film, In Our Hands, held in parliament this week, to launch an attack on the biggest farming union in the country.
His remarks are likely to have set alarm bells ringing in NFU HQ because he is known for his close links to Mr Gove – he was the man who took part in a question and answer session with the Secretary of State at this year’s Oxford Real Farming Conference.
Mr Goldsmith said: “For decades, the NFU has been the voice of farming in Government. They have privileged access and they have stood up for largely for vested interests.
“I remember protesting outside parliament with Farmers for Action where the chant was ‘NFU, no effing use’ and I hold this line.
“One of the advantages of Michael Gove is he does not like vested interests. He wants to see a breakthrough, so if ever there was a moment for this [anti-industrial farming] voice to be heard at the top table, now is the time.”
Mr Goldsmith’s comments come a matter of weeks after his brother, Ben Goldsmith, was chosen by Mr Gove to be one of five new non-executive members of the Defra board.
The role will involve providing ‘strategic and corporate leadership’ to the department.
His appointment raised eyebrows because of his activity on Twitter, where he has liked tweets calling for an end to the badger cull, branding the dairy industry ‘seriously out of touch’ and supporting the rewilding of wolves.
A Defra spokesperson said: “We have a historic opportunity to deliver a coherent farming policy for the first time in 45 years. We welcome the views of all stakeholders.”
NFU president Minette Batters told Farmers Guardian the NFU wanted to work constructively with Government and politicians of all parties at such a crucial time.
“The interests of our members continue to form the backbone of NFU policy”, she added.