There has been some fierce criticism of Theresa May’s latest appointment to Defra, but could Mr Gove be better for British farming than many think? Abi Kay gives her opinion.
A radical reformer with a reputation for challenging the status quo, it is easy to see why farmers craving stability and certainty are worried about Mr Gove’s appointment to Defra.
80 per cent of the 473 respondents to Farmers Guardian’s online poll thought he would be bad for British agriculture, compared to 20 per cent who thought he would be good.
Is Michael Gove going to be good or bad for British agriculture? Please RT— Abi Kay (@FGAbiKay)
Is Michael Gove going to be good or bad for British agriculture? Please RT— Abi Kay (@FGAbiKay) June 11, 2017
But there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about this posting. His record on rural issues – particularly before he embarked on his ministerial career at the Department for Education, where he learnt about the disadvantages schools in the countryside face – shows he has some understanding of farming’s challenges.
The area which gives most cause for concern is undoubtedly trade, where he has called for unilateral abolition of all agricultural tariffs. Even here, though, there is some hope. His previous positions show he cares about high standards of food production.
And as an English Literature graduate, his love for novels which use the British countryside as a backdrop and metaphor have given him a romantic attachment to our landscapes that are so wonderfully shaped by farmers.
Responsibility now lies with industry to make the case for British farming and all that it brings – nutritious, affordable food; beautiful scenery; economic growth and strong rural communities.
Make that case well, explain how a cheap food agenda puts all of this at risk, and we could well have a powerful advocate in Mr Gove.