Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The future is bleak for the Conservatives - unless ...

It was 11 o’clock on the morning of the 19th of October, 1922, when a meeting of Conservative MPs was called to order at the Carlton Club.

Mr Stanley Baldwin remarked that Mr David Lloyd George, the then Coalition Prime Minister, was ‘a dynamic force.’ Mr Baldwin also expressed concern that the Liberal Mr Lloyd George might destroy the Conservative Party if he were to be permitted to carry on as head of the government.

It was decided that Conservative participation in the Coalition should cease. It ceased and Mr Baldwin soon became leader of the Conservative Party. Thus was born the 1922 Committee.

Of course, the present Prime Minister is not a Liberal (or is he?). And the present Liberal Democrat leader is neither Prime Minister nor anything to touch Mr Lloyd George. But there is a parallel. The Conservative Party is in danger of being destroyed today. Mr Graham Brady, M.P., is now the chairman of the 1922 Committee.

Many Conservatives believe that Mr Brady should do his duty and rid us of this ConDem Coalition government.

Come out of the shadows, Mr Brady.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Another Amazon review - this is a gem, get it now!

"Despite there being one or two earlier criticisms from others, 'A World On Fire,' at Amazon's present price and with 1,000 plus pages, works out at just over a penny per page. Every page is a gem. Get it now.

This is a great big book so, if prospective purchasers don't fancy great big books, would they please stop reading this review now.

On the other hand, if prospective purchasers can cope with a great big book (9 ½ inches by 6 ½ inches by 2 ½ inches weighing about 3 ¾ lbs.), this is a work or rare genius, and I would go so far as to say that, for general historical readers and for 'Civil War' buffs in particular, 'A World On Fire' is a must-have and the book of the decade. It is wonderfully well written and a really great read.

One of the most insightful quotations in Amanda Foreman's masterpiece is by the British writer, William Michael Rosetti (brother of the artist Dante Gabriel Rosetti), who said that, during the war, expressions such as "'I am a Northerner," and "I am a Southerner"' were 'as common on Englishmen's lips as "I am a Liberal" or "I am a Conservative."' The partisan nature of the terrible strife was as much a part of the then British psyche and political scene as it was in America.

Though I am British, I have known since I was a child that I was a Southerner and I recall as if it were yesterday the day I first set foot in Virginia. I was in my spiritual home. It just felt right. I have never felt the need nor the desire to change my attitude and preference.

My guess is that the author is a Northerner in sympathy, but I absolve her of all partisan feelings as she has done her best to present the respective Northern and Southern causes in a fair light. Moreover, she shows an exceptional understanding of the sympathies of both British and American people, not only those who participated but also those who were interested but powerless bystanders like the hundreds of thousands of cotton workers thrown out of work by what was going on over the ocean.

It has been suggested that Ms. Foreman's work should have been better edited. Editing implies correction or cutting. I see no need for correction - other than the three typographical errors that I twigged - and certainly no need for cutting, for, if anything, the book leaves much out and isn't long enough. I could have coped with another 1,000 pages at least.

I was proud to read of distant relatives of both my wife and myself who had played parts on both sides (North and South) and on both sides of the ocean. Abraham Lincoln and William Henry Seward are studied thoroughly and it is again clear to me that Seward, as a drunk, was no credit to the State Department whilst Lincoln can never be absolved from the prime charge of the people of the South, namely, that he raised a great army to invade their states. That army burned houses and destroyed farms wherever it went, right from the start. Poor Virginia, indeed. Incidentally, the book's title is probably derived from the words of the drunken and irresponsible Seward - 'We will wrap the whole world in flames' (page 189).

An unexpected (to me) Southern hero was the British war artist and correspondent Frank Vizetelly (1830 - 1883), whose drawings graced the pages of the Illustrated London News. I had seen some of them before but I had not known what an important part this man had played, being on hand almost throughout and at the end of President Davis's doomed leadership of the equally doomed Confederate States. The book, already a magnum opus, is made better still by the inclusion of much of Mr Vizetelly's marvellous work.

Hundreds of books have been written about the American 'Civil War' (or 'War of Northern Aggression' or 'War for Southern Independence') and all bar a few describe the bitter divisions between peoples of similar blood and the almost indescribable suffering, especially of those in the invaded South. This superlative and stupendous tome succeeds as well as any other because it includes so many first-hand (and, in some cases, new) accounts of individual participants and on-the-spot observers.

The book's greatest strength - and its primary purpose - is its success in showing how important was the attitude of Great Britain and the British people. There were many occasions when British intervention could (and should?) have ensured the ending of the slaughter and there were more occasions than I knew of when Great Britain and the Lincoln regime might have found themselves at war. The then future of Canada was at stake, as was the governance of Mexico, for which France yearned.

Aside from Frank Vizetelly and many others who are mentioned and quoted at length, two more Southern heroes were Swiss-born Henry Hotze (1833 - 1887), a master of propaganda who worked with my Cambridgeshire-born cousin, John George Witt (1836 - 1906), and James Dunwoody Bulloch (1823 - 1901), uncle of Teddy Roosevelt and one of the Confederacy's principal agents in Great Britain. I have read of both previously, thanks to Amazon. Intriguingly, one of the Amazon critics of 'A World On Fire' is one James Bulloch. If the latter Mr Bulloch is a relative of the former Mr Bulloch, I forgive his criticisms and defer to his knowledge. If he is not, I hope that potential purchasers will give more weight to my remarks and buy this magnificent book that is enormously impressive in both scale and scope."

P.S. Here is the link to the above on Amazon.co.uk:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Fire-History-Nations-Divided/dp/1846142040/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293363980&sr=8-1

P.P.S. I have bought three copies of this book. One I have read and kept myself. Two I have given to two of my well-read and illustrious brothers-in-law. I hope that each enjoys it as much as I have.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The ConDem coalition lasted until Christmas, but ...

I predicted at the start that the ConDem coalition would last - at most - until Christmas. Well, it's Christmas Day and the coalition has lasted until today, but how much longer bearing in mind that one of its principal ministers is this shady-looking character?


There was a time when I thought that Dr. Vince Cable was the Liberal Democrats' best asset. Now it seems that he is just an ass, the worst of a very bad bunch. He boasted of his massive ministerial powers and his war-mongering to complete strangers to whom, even if they had been 'constituents,' he should not have breathed a word on his or the ConDem government's policy or plans for the BSkyB business. The man was and is an idiot: he can't escape the fact. Dr. Cable and others of his Lib Dem colleagues were gullible when faced with 'constituents' who were, in reality, reporters for the Daily Telegraph. They fell for flattery and they blabbed. More fool them.

But this man and his colleagues are still in government. Why? Because the ConDem coalition would fall apart without them and our rulers have ruled that they can't be got rid of for five years. Though I was wrong about them being gone by this Christmas and though they have ruled that they shall rule for five years, I make another prediction: they will not last for five years; the British people will not stand for it.

Just to cheer you up, seeing that it is Christmas, I include in my blog another picture of Dr. Vince, this time looking not shady but pretty silly. But, hey, what's new?

Have a good day.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Bad news: worse just before Christmas for the family. I say, 'Bring them home now' - I believe that you agree

News came today of the death (the 347th) of another brave Britisher in Afghanistan. Here is a link to that news, which is bad enough but, just before Christmas, it must be the worst possible for the family and friends most closely affected.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12060586

A friend has also posted me a link to a sad song on YouTube. Go to -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hVEdE0O5tA&feature=related 

I wrote to my friend as follows:

"Thank you for posting this beautiful and moving rendition of 'Stop The Cavalry,' James. Though it is commemorative of an earlier and even more terrible war, we can well imagine the present-day suffering and sacrifices of our boys in Afghanistan. The death (the 347th) of another Britisher has been reported today. I say, 'Bring them home now, for Christmas.' I believe that you agree, as do most of my friends."

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Have a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year

Some of my regular readers will know that Sue and I are big fans of Robert Fuller, the well-known Yorkshire wildlife artist.

The portrait above is one of Robert's finest and he has painted perfectly this cock pheasant's magnificent plumage as well as capturing equally well the 'personality' of one of our best-loved country creatures.

A link to the Robert Fuller gallery is below -

http://www.robertefuller.com/

- and we recommend in particular the Christmas and other cards on offer.

May we also wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Monday, 13 December 2010

As long as Mr Eric Pickles survives, Alderman Foodbotham lives. And so does dear old Peter Simple

Those of us who are really old can recall the late Michael Wharton's marvellous 'Way of The World' column in the Daily Telegraph. Writing as 'Peter Simple,' Wharton 'sent up' numerous characters and caricatures (brilliantly drawn by 'Michael ffolkes,' whose real name was Michael Davies) of characters, most of whom are listed on-line and may be found through the following link -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Peter_Simple's_characters

One of my favourite characters, partly because I knew one or two people whose style was not dissimilar, was 'the late Alderman Foodbotham' (above, by 'ffolkes'), 'the 25-stone, iron-watch-chained, crag-visaged, grim-booted Lord Mayor of Bradford and perpetual chairman of the Bradford City Tramways and Fine Arts Committee.'

As long as Mr Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and former Bradford City Councillor, survives, Alderman Foodbotham lives. And so does dear old Peter Simple.

Mr Pickles is today to announce the new 'Localism Bill' and the possibility of 12 more directly elected mayors.

Here is Mr Pickles.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Mr and Mrs Windsor in harm's way last evening

There has been extensive news coverage of the Prince of Wales and his wife being concerned for their personal safety last evening. The picture below ('borrowed' from The Times) tells the story better than I can.

They are not my favourite people, but I don't want Charles and Camilla Windsor to be harmed (I want them to emigrate, as Charles said he would if fox hunting were to be banned: it has and he hasn't), but someone has some serious questions to answer as to why the Windsors and their car were put in harm's way. What were their people and the police thinking of and doing?

As to the student tuition fees issue itself, I am saddened that we are moving from a period when university education was mostly state-funded to a less-beneficent system. I think that we shall all regret it eventually.

Post Script:

It now appears (from this evening's Channel 4 News) that Charles Windsor may have decided to ignore and/or over-rule the advice of his advisers to stay at home and watch the telly and, instead, to go to the theatre. In which case, he is either very brave or very stupid.

Monday, 6 December 2010

News today of the 346th British death in Afghanistan

A local man was the 246th Britisher to die in or as a result of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan. He died on Sunday, the 3rd of January, this year. Now we have news of the 346th British death in or as a result of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan. 100 more of our brave servicemen have died in or as a result of the on-going conflict in Afghanistan since January of this year. What has been achieved as a result of their sacrifices and the money and matériel that we have also lost?

Have we caught Osama bin Laden?

Is the Taliban nearer to defeat and elimination from Afghanistan?

Is al-Qaeda any less of a threat in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen or elsewhere?

Are the streets of Leeds, Leicester, Luton and London safer?

In other words, what use has been the loss of those additional 100 brave British servicemen?

If the answer is none, then they have been wasted. We must bring the rest of them home before we lose any more on this pointless mission that is achieving nothing and costing a mint.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Minister for Hunting - letter in Cambridge News

Dear Editor,

Mr James Paice, M.P., has written (or had written for him) a quite convincing article with regard to his and the ConDem government's concern for animal welfare. The trouble is that, whilst much is said in the article, much is unsaid.

I refer in particular to Mr Paice's own place in the government. He is officially Minister of State at the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, but one of his 'sub-titles' is 'Minister for Hunting.'

Mr Paice has pledged to vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004. Repeal would re-legalise the indefensible (to my mind) so-called 'sport' of hare coursing, against which I have fought for a lifetime. Mr Paice was given a chance at one of the election hustings meetings (Bottisham Village College on the 30th of April) to explain why he was (and is) so keen on repeal. I challenged Mr Paice to justify his pledge to vote to repeal the Hunting Act 2004. He didn't respond.

I don't see how this squares with real concern for animal welfare.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard.

I've already had enough of the ConDem coalition

Numerous newspapers and other media have reported Sir John Major's support for the idea of the ConDem coalition continuing beyond the next election. I disagree with Sir John.

One of the newspaper reports was in the Cambridge News at -

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/Home/Major-backs-coalition-for-second-term.htm

I have commented on-line as follows:

"I've already had enough of the ConDem coalition and for a former Prime Minister whose principal 'achievement' was the institution of the National Lottery - a voluntary tax on the poor to enhance the interests of the rich and cultured few: I wish that our country and its people had never had this iniquity inflicted upon them - to suggest that the ConDems ought to continue for ever and a day is not an acceptable idea.

And, besides, millions of Conservative supporters are hacked off with ‘Dave’ who, they believe, is not a Tory at all; millions of Labour supporters are hacked off with their losses that stemmed in the main from the charmlessness of Brown; and millions of Liberal Democrat supporters are hacked off by being betrayed by their so-called ‘leaders.’

We can’t go on much longer with such a substantial proportion of the whole electorate being hacked off.

John Major should back off."

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ark Royal on her way to being scrapped - shame!

I have seen today on TV Her Majesty’s Ship Ark Royal, soon to be on her way to being scrapped. It made me feel ill.

I know that Ark Royal and the Harriers are a bit dated, but surely it makes sense to keep the carrier going until a replacement is ready and surely it makes sense to keep the Harriers going even longer?

The ConDem government must be crazy.

(This rather puts the Blair government’s retirement of the Royal Yacht Britannia into perspective, doesn’t it?).

Here is the link to more pictures of H.M.S. Ark Royal from the Daily Telegraph.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/uknews/8157835/HMS-Ark-Royal-aircraft-carrier-sets-off-on-farewell-voyage.html

The caption to one of the pictures reads:

"The cost-cutting decision to scrap Britain's fixed-wing capability from aircraft carriers caused consternation and puzzlement on board the ship, which some say carries the most famous name in naval history. The ship saw active service in the Balkans and the second Gulf War. HMS Ark Royal leaves Newcastle after paying a visit to the city in which she was built as part of her final farewell."

Here is a cunning plan to solve Ireland's problems

Here is a cunning plan that is designed to solve Ireland's Euro problems as well as other ongoing worries:

1. Ireland should leave the Euro zone and should rejoin the British pound 'zone.'

2. Ireland should rejoin Great Britain (within the wider E.U.).

3. The Church of England should be disestablished.

The above would solve Ireland's Euro problems, would facilitate a united Ireland (within a United Kingdom), and would remove the Catholic Church's concerns that a United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland would still have the C. of E. as part of its parliamentary and governmental structure.

As to Dáil Éireann, it could become another assembly similar to those at Cardiff, Holyrood and Stormont, and with similar devolved powers.

As to the Irish Republic, maybe the Irish would accept again the British monarchy or - admittedly an unlikely event in today's climate - the English, the Welsh, the Scots, and the people of Ulster might themselves be receptive to the idea of a republic.

Speaking for myself only, I would.

It might be worth adding that the British flag - the Union Jack - contains within its design St. George's Cross, St. Andrew's Cross and the so-called 'St. Patrick's Cross.'

Sunday, 14 November 2010

"Britain's top soldier says al-Qaeda cannot be beaten"

Here is the link to an article in the Sunday Telegraph -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8131651/Britains-top-soldier-says-al-Qaeda-cannot-be-beaten.html

The article, based on an interview with General Sir David Richards, 'the head of Britain's armed forces,' speaks for itself and is well worth reading, even if it causes pause for further thought on this day of all days, Remembrance Sunday.

I have picked up an excerpt from the article and have commented on-line as follows:

"However, he said the sacrifice being made by the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, where 343 soldiers have been killed since 2001, "has been worth it"."

I don't go along with that at all. We, Americans and Brits, are wasting men, money and matériel on a now-pointless and wasteful mission, still attempting to do what George W. Bush said he would do - "smoke him (bin Laden) out." We should take more note of history. All of the empires, including the British and the Russian, have failed to 'tame' Afghanistan. Let's get Bin Laden with special forces and/or drones and let the Afghans have the Taliban if that's what they want, but let's be out now and bring our armies home. I want no more dead Brits for a cause that's been lost for a long time.

P.S. Will we remember them?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I was surprised to see this in today's Cambridge News

This must be the Mr Brian Hicks, who is East Cambridgeshire District Council's 'Travellers Liaison Officer.'

 As I say, I was surprised to see this in today's Cambridge News.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

A Friends of the Earth meeting at Swaffham Prior Village Hall: it was a bit better than the telly - just!

As a son of the soil and a lifetime friend of the earth, I thought that I ought to attend my first meeting of Friends of the Earth, especially as it was at Swaffham Prior Village Hall, a mere four miles from my home and in 'my' parish. Public transport being non-existent in Swaffham Prior Fen and it being wet for a Shanks's pony night out, I went by 'unsustainable' means - my car - and thinking that a suit would be unsuitable, I donned an old pair of cords and an equally old tweed jacket. There wasn't time to grow a beard and I couldn't find my sandals - besides, as I said, it was wet - so I bearded those present in 'neutral' clothes and 'sensible' shoes so as not to appear too out of place.

It transpired that the principal speaker was Mr Tony Juniper (above), the tireless eco-campaigner, friend of Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (alias Windsor) and unsuccessful Green Party candidate for Cambridge.

The audience of about fifteen persons - at least four officials of the 'Friends,' two Liberal Democrat District Councillors and their spouses, myself and a handful of others mostly unknown to me - was shown a film about the clearing of forests in Brazil to grow soya beans and it was both interesting and somewhat horrifying in parts. The horrifying parts implied that people with what looked like tumours and/or livid rashes on their skins were the victims of pesticides used by the soya bean farmers. It was unfortunate that the chemicals mentioned in the commentary were glyphosate and paraquat, both widely-used herbicides. I pointed this out.

The meeting was intended to drum up public and Parliamentary support for a Private Member's measure called the 'Sustainable Livestock Bill' being promoted by Mr Rob Flello, M.P., and to be discussed in the House of Commons on the 12th of November. The Bill suggests 'producing linseed, beans and other crops to cut down on importing soya [beans] from South America, which is leading to the destruction of parts of the Amazon rainforest.' Mr Juniper emphasised that pigs in this country are being fed genetically modified soya as protein and that, consequently, pork eaters are effectively supporting forest clearance in Brazil. I pointed out that I had started keeping pigs nearly sixty years ago, that in those days the principal protein source for pigs was dried fish meal, further that I was of the opinion that it was probably preferable for pigs to eat GM soya and not the world's allegedly diminishing fish. Moreover, I said, aside from the doings of certain 'Tea Party' people in the United States, the use of GM foods in America for many years seemed to have had little ill effect. This point was also noted.

I also stated (others present did get a look-in, too) that the growing world population - nine billion people by the year 2050 was mentioned by Mr Juniper - was a very major problem, aggravated in the countries of South America by the teachings of the Catholic church. We had to be careful how we dealt with this as I had been criticised for drawing attention to it at an election meeting at Stretham, where a Catholic lady said that she had wanted to hit me (she didn't, in fact). Mr Juniper then commented, 'You'll like my new book.' I don't know what is in his new book but, presumably, he has had some sort of a dig at the Pope. This, if so, is intriguing, and it may conceivably mean that the heir to the throne has been persuaded after all to be 'Defender' of the faith of the pro-family-planning Protestant Church.

As others' questions soon ran out, I also raised one of my pet points. I said that I assumed that Mr Juniper and his colleagues were in favour of reducing this country's food imports. 'Yes.' I said that I assumed that they were in favour of British farmers growing a larger proportion of British food. 'Yes.' I then said that this didn't square with Mr Juniper's support (along with Charles Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, alias Windsor) of the vast expansion of the National Trust's Wicken Fen National Nature Reserve through buying up and letting go to waste thousands of acres of fine food-producing farm land including that in Swaffham Prior Fen. Mr Juniper responded by dodging the issue and then, as is his wont, wittering on about food waste. As the hour was getting late and as I had been given the impression that the organisers wanted to get to the pub, I let it go by saying that I opposed wasting food and also opposed wasting good farm land. At the conclusion of the meeting I remarked in a stage whisper that it had been 'better than the telly - just.'

As our M.P., Mr James Paice, the relevant farming and hunting minister in the ConDem government, was not with us, those who were present were requested to contact him about Mr Flello's Bill. I'll think about that.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

I shouted at Congressman John Boehner who was on TV here yesterday. The man is very seriously mistaken


The U.S. Speaker-designate, Congressman John Boehner, said yesterday that what he and others on the right of the Republican Party term 'Obamacare' would 'ruin the best health care system in the world.'

I recall Senator Bob Dole saying something similar during an earlier campaign. I shouted at the TV then and the reason for my shouting was simple. The U.S. may have the best health care in the world but that great country does not have the best health care system in the world. Our British system may not be perfect and I don't want to brag, but we have had a comprehensive and practically free National Health Service since 1948. Of course, it's not truly free, for we pay our taxes, but, at the very least, nobody need worry themselves to death - literally, in some cases - that they will not be cared for in sickness and in health.

My wife and I (though we could afford insurance and are perfectly free so to do) both support and use the NHS. Contrary to what the 'Tea Party' people and others tell their fellow Americans, it is not 'socialised' medicine over here. We choose our doctor, who works for us. We choose our local surgery, which is excellent. Our local hospital, Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, is one of the best in the world.

Just to give an example, a good friend of mine was called in by his doctor because he had reached a certain age (60), for a prostate check. Though he felt no symptoms, he was found to have a slightly higher than normal PSA level. He was asked to come in again soon and the PSA level was higher. The same happened a third time. Tests and biopsies were then done at Addenbrooke's and, as a consequence, he underwent chemo-therapy and radio therapy for several months. He hopes now that they have 'zapped' it and he has been asked to go back to Addenbrooke's for a check-up in six months. All of his treatment was free and nothing would have been done for him until it was too late unless that initial call had come. In addition, my wife has had major surgery recently, and it, also, was absolutely free of charge on the NHS without an insurance company making a profit out of her or me or anyone else.

And I shouted at Congressman Boehner again yesterday. The man is very seriously mistaken.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

I'm thinking of starting a Tea Party over here ...

I'm thinking of starting a Tea Party over here. I'm not Alice. I'm not the March Hare. I'm not the Dormouse. That leaves ...

Monday, 1 November 2010

Some very good news in today's 'Torygraph'!

I didn't think that I would read the following very good news in the 'Torygraph' so soon after the election, but here it is as published in the newspaper that ought to know about these things:

"Fox hunting ban set to stay as repeal campaign 'falls off political agenda'



A ban on hunting with dogs is likely to remain despite the change in Government because worries about the nation’s finances have forced the issue off the political agenda, campaigners admitted.

The impact of the economic downturn has meant attempts to change the controversial law have become a low priority, the Countryside Alliance acknowledged.

As the traditional start of the season gets under way today, the Alliance conceded it was keeping a low profile because it was foolhardy to make hunting a priority issue when country was just recovering from a recession.

Officials admitted that for many living in the country, the issue was “not at the top of the agenda” as many families struggled financially.

Earlier this month, the new head of the Countryside Alliance Alice Barnard, 33, told the Daily Telegraph that David Cameron needed to “right a great wrong” by overturning the ban on hunting with dogs.

But within Tory ranks, traditionally seen as pro-hunting, dissent to overturn the ban, introduced under the Hunting Act 2004, appears to be growing.

On Sunday it emerged that only a minority of MPs – 253 out of 650 – are committed to repealing the Act with at least 22 Conservative MPs are among more than 300 who would vote against repealing the law.

Opponents of hunting claim that less than one in five people would support a repeal of the ban.

A YouGov poll for the League Against Cruel Sports (Lacs) found that 37 per cent believe the ban is an infringement of civil liberties while 17 per cent want to see the hunting ban properly enforced.

The Alliance contested the findings but a spokeswoman admitted that negotiations for a change in the law were now being undertaken more “behind the scenes”.

“At the moment certainly with the economic situation we are facing, the countryside is more concerned about having a job and ensuring they have enough money to put fuel in their machinery than how we kill a fox,” she said.

“The priorities at the moment have changed and we understand we are not top of the pile in terms of those priorities at the moment.

"But we are still actively undertaking discussion with people as to why this is a bad law and we are doing that more behind the scenes.”

She added: “Maybe if Labour had not spent 700 hours talking about this law then the economy might not be in this state in the first place.”

Douglas Batchelor, the chief executive of Lacs, claimed that attempts to reverse the ban were a "pipe dream"."

I have posted an on-line 'comment' as follows:

"That's very good news for those who think as I do, but I advise my friends to be on guard, for those who want the return of the so-called 'sports' of fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, etc., are a cunning, determined and resourceful lot and they have powerful allies in the ConDem government. The 2004 Act was a major advance for civilisation. I write this as a farmer and as a countryman, born and bred."

Here is the link to the Daily Telegraph report:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/8100575/Fox-hunting-ban-set-to-stay-as-repeal-campaign-falls-off-political-agenda.html

Sunday, 31 October 2010

'Changing' the clocks is absolutely batty: it bugs me!

'Changing' the clocks is absolutely batty. There are so many hours of daylight - more in Summer, less in Winter - and that's it. As a farmer, I know that I and my farming friends are unaffected by the clock. We work as we can and as we need. What the clock 'says' is immaterial. What bugs me is the twice-yearly 'change': I suffer for about a week each time, rather in the manner of jet-lag.

Another British soldier shot dead in Afghanistan


"British soldier shot dead in Afghanistan" (Sunday Telegraph).

"A British soldier, from 101 (City of London) Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), has been shot dead in southern Afghanistan.
 
The soldier was killed by small arms fire in the Nahr-e Saraj North District of Helmand Province on Saturday morning.

He was serving with the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force and was attending the scene of a suspect device when he was killed.

His death takes the total number of UK military personnel fatalities since operations began in Afghanistan in 2001 to 342.

Lieutenant Colonel David Eastman, A spokesman for Task Force Helmand, said: “It is my sad task to inform you that a soldier from the Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Task Force has died this morning.

“The soldier was part of a team responsible for clearing ground of explosive ordnance for coalition and Afghan forces, as well as ensuring the safety of the local Afghan people, when he was killed by small arms fire in the Nahr-e Saraj North District of Helmand Province.

“He sacrificed his life in the service of others, carrying out a hazardous but crucial task; he will live on in the memories of all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the soldier’s next of kin have been informed."

 Yet another loss on a pointless mission is in itself pointless. Bring all of our boys home now.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

At last, some splendid news from the ConDems!

I love trees. Everywhere I have been and have had the opportunity, I have planted trees. I have planted trees at Chalk Farm, Bottisham, Spring Hall, Bottisham, at the sides of the Swaffham Bulbeck Heath Road, at Manor Farm, Swaffham Prior, and where Sue and I live now - Chapel Farm, River Bank. Some of those trees have been planted for my enjoyment and, eventually, my profit. Some have been planted for public enjoyment and for nobody's profit. But I have never believed in state-owned trees, no more than in state-owned farms and farm land. Therefore, a report in the Sunday Telegraph to the effect that the ConDem government is planning to sell off part of the state-owned Forestry Commission's estates is splendid news. For once, I commend the ConDem government and the relevant Secretary of State, Ms. Caroline Spelman.

Here is the nicest portrait of Ms. Spelman that I could find.


And here is the link to the report -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/countryside/8082756/Ministers-plan-huge-sell-off-of-Britains-forests.html

I have left a comment on the Sunday Telegraph's website as follows:

"I'll believe this when it happens. But, if and when it happens, I'll be the first to praise Ms. Spelman. I have often said that a test for me is whether the government will authorise the privatization of the Forestry Commission, a darling of certain dyed-in-the-wool rural Tories, and/or whether County Councils will be ordered to sell, preferably to the farming tenants, their vast holdings of agricultural land. The latter will be resisted by the Liberals and by the self-same said dyed-in-the-wool rural Tories."

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Monday, 18 October 2010

"Angela Merkel: multicuturalism has failed"

The Daily Telegraph has reported a speech by Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. I reproduce it here without comment because no comment is needed.

"Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have "utterly failed".

Speaking at a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, Merkel said it had not proven possible for people from different cultural backgrounds to simply live side by side in Germany, which is home to some four million Muslims.

"This (multicultural) approach has failed, utterly failed," Merkel told a meeting of young members of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

"We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don't speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here," she added.

"The demand for integration is one of our key tasks for the times to come. At the same time, it must be a trademark of Germany to be a country which gives people in our country an opportunity."

The debate comes against a backdrop of US and British concerns over the threat of terrorist attacks by militant Islamists living in Germany, with Berlin toning down such fears."

Here (below) is the link to the report and a video of Mrs Merkel's speech complete with English translation:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/8069434/Angela-Merkel-multicuturalism-has-failed.html

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Young soldier's name added to village's war memorial

The report below has appeared in the Cambridge News. Aside from my mentioning that the late Private Robbie Hayes was the 246th British serviceman to die in or as a result of the conflict in Afghanistan, the report appears here without further comment:

"Young soldier added to village's war memorial

[by] John Goode

A young soldier killed in Afghanistan has been honoured by having his name added to the war memorial in his home village.

The name of Private Robbie Hayes, who was the first British soldier to die in the conflict this year, has been carved on the memorial at Burwell, joining those of more than 100 other villagers who died in the First and Second World Wars, as well as other conflicts since then.

A special service of dedication was held at the memorial yesterday, which included representatives of the Royal Anglian Regiment, with whom Robbie, 19, was serving when he was killed by an improvised bomb on January 3. Family and friends of Robbie also attended the ceremony.

He had been in the Army for just a year when he died while on patrol in Helmand Province. It was Robbie’s dream to join the Army and he has been praised by senior officers and colleagues as a "hugely professional and talented soldier".

He has already been remembered by the dedication of a flagpole at Burwell Village College Primary School, which he attended as a child before moving on to Bottisham Village College.

The service was organised by the parish council with help from Paul Hawes, chairman of the Burwell Museum Trustees, who previously researched missing names from the memorial and campaigned for them to be added. Wreaths were laid by the parish council and the regiment during the service.














Robbie Hayes' mother Diane Baldwin (right) and Burwell Parish Council Chairman Pat Kilbey."

Sunday, 10 October 2010

"Wayward dreamers in charge and no true Fenman would support it" (Mr Tony Day, artist, of Wicken)

Tony Day, the great artist, writer and historian of Wicken, has had another good letter published in the Cambridge News:

"No Fenman can back 'Vision'

Last week I read a report on England's failure to safeguard its wildlife, accompanied by an idyllic photograph of Wicken Fen - or at least of a swan nestling by the water that could have been in many places.



This little bit of pictorial propaganda illustrates the wishful thinking behind the plan to extend the fen to no less than 53 sq km on a vulgar tide of money, destroying some of Britain's richest farmland. If Wicken fen now is an example to follow, I feel deeply for the endangered species that are meant to be attracted by this new scheme, for which a mountain of money has been put in place. Mr Ben Gibbs, envisaging employment for a long way ahead, claims government support for the scheme but I wonder how many ministers have taken it in.

And I wonder how they would respond to the present policy at Wicken Fen with its fun and games programme for many thousands of visitors every year, its ghost walks, its scarecrow competitions, its everything bar concern for the creatures that were meant to take refuge here free from invasion.

For this is a microcosm for the new plan for everything to please the hordes of visitors on foot, in cars, on bikes and ponies and in boats, carrying fishing tackle and nets. Everything but true concern for the protection of endangered species for which another huge sum has been put in place.

We have wildlife in our area today. The w retched Wicken Vision will send away more than it attracts, rob us of mountains of food while disrupting life for the residents.

It reeks of wayward dreamers in charge and no true fenman would support it.

Anthony Day
Pond Green
Wicken."

Saturday, 9 October 2010

"Rail plan is not up to speed so Y bother?"

A short but pithy report appeared in today's Daily Telegraph. I am greatly encouraged by the fact that one of our 'heavyweight' newspapers is taking an interest in what is potentially a huge and useless waste of public money - the so-called 'High Speed 2' - the plan by Tory Transport Secretary Philip Hammond to impose higher speed rail services on many areas that don't want them and, more importantly, won't use them. The expected cost is colossal. I battled along these lines during the election. I wish that the DT had cottoned on sooner. Here is the report:

"Rail plan is not up to speed so Y bother? 

Therapy comes in many guises. Over at the transport department, they’re trying art classes to take their minds off the spending cuts.

They involve drawing lines on a map of Britain and calling it the route for High Speed 2 – the £33bn rail link to zip passengers from London to Leeds and Manchester at 250mph.

This week, Tory Transport Secretary Philip Hammond came up with a stunning 'Y’ shape. Even allowing for the fun of blighting homes in the Sheffield constituency of LibDem leader Nick Clegg, you wonder Y he’s bothering.

The obvious question, given our £149bn deficit, is why would anyone want to go to Leeds or Manchester any faster?

Then there’s the cost. A taxi from London to Leeds costs £430. You could buy a lot of those for £33bn. High Speed 1 cost £5.7bn to build and is now being sold for about £2bn.

Such fun, this fantasy railway lark. Toot toot."

My own comment follows - and appears on-line at:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/alistair-osborne/8052164/Rail-plan-is-not-up-to-speed-so-Y-bother.html

Do we need this project at all? As I understand it, the cost for the link from London to Birmingham alone is £17 billions. I also understand that a traveller from London to Birmingham can expect to get to Birmingham in half an hour less than at present. Is the expense and the disruption worth this trifling 'gain'? I think not. I also think that, excepting the putative traveller from London to Birmingham, there will be few in the remainder of the country who will either benefit or want to pick up the tab. I live in rural Cambridgeshire. If I want to go to Birmingham, I go by car. I would never in a million years go by train. It's time for us taxpayers to take an interest in this thing that was left over from Labour. There is nothing worthwhile in it for the vast majority of us. We must stop it altogether.

I have just found this and I am so pleased that somebody is taking action. I ask my friends to sign the petition, please. Here is the link:

http://www.gopetition.co.uk/petitions/stop-hs2.html

And I have also found an anti-HS2 poster.

Monday, 4 October 2010

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves!


I sent the following report to the local newspapers this morning:

"'We Shall Come Rejoicing!'

Over £400 for Charities from 'The Little Chapel in The Fen.'

The annual Harvest Service at 'The Little Chapel in The Fen,' near Upware, was held on Sunday afternoon and over £400 was raised for charities from the packed 'house' of about 90.


The charities supported were 'Help For Heroes' and the Swaffham Prior Scout Group, each of whom will receive £115. In addition, £170.55 was contributed for the Chapel's upkeep and maintenance.

This was the 126th Annual Harvest Service, the Chapel - a former Wesleyan Methodist place of worship in Swaffham Prior Fen - having been built and opened in 1884 to replace an earlier Chapel. 'The Little Chapel in The Fen' is now non-denominational and is kept going by a group of Trustees.

One of the Trustees, Mr Geoffrey Woollard, said that he was delighted with the outcome of this very special annual event where Fen people get together for a fine and joyful 'songs of praise' to celebrate the safe 'bringing in' of the harvest from the Fens.

The service was taken by Mr Peter Cockerton, of Little Thetford, who is another Trustee. Hymns sung were 'Shall we gather at the river?,' Come ye thankful people, come,' We plough the fields and scatter,' How great thou art!,' Great is thy faithfulness,' and 'Bringing in the sheaves.' The last lines of the latter include the following phrases:

'We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.' The words, 'We shall come rejoicing' are painted as a legend on the Chapel wall and a picture of this is above.

The produce was loaded this morning and all taken to the Burwell Day Centre, where one of the ladies was heard to exclaim, 'Christmas has come early!'"

I have found a pleasant rendition of 'Bringing in the sheaves' on YouTube. Here is the link:


Sunday, 3 October 2010

"At last, it’s Strawberry Hill for ever" - William Waldegrave, Provost of Eton College (The Times)

Lord (William) Waldegrave has written a splendid piece in The Times about Strawberry Hill, largely the creation of Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford (1717 - 1797). Walpole's portrait (below) was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1756.






















The piece includes praise for John Major and his 'invention' of the National Lottery. I regard the latter as a social disaster and, as subscribers to The Times are permitted to add comments on line, I have added an appropriate comment.

"At last, it’s Strawberry Hill for ever.

Walpole’s Gothic villa is the beginning and end of the story of preserving our heritage

Strawberry Hill, the little villa in Twickenham that Horace Walpole converted into his fantastic Neo-Gothic “Castle of my Ancestors” between 1748 and 1790, reopens to the public today. It is the latest triumphant episode in a story that illustrates almost every aspect of the rollercoaster history of England’s heritage over the past two and a half centuries. To start at the end, it is yet another monument to the greatest of all Britain’s patrons of the arts in the late 20th century: John Major.

Without his invention of the National Lottery (and it was very personally his invention), there would have been no Heritage Lottery Fund to supply more than half of the £9 million needed for the restoration, brilliantly achieved by Peter Inskip and the builders Bowmans. It would just never have happened. The house would have continued its decline until some merciful accident of fire or tempest put it out of its agony.

To start at the beginning, there might not have been the heritage industry itself, engaged in making popular the saving of the past, without Walpole. Of course the credit is not his alone. But as Britain powered into the first of all the industrial revolutions he perhaps more than any other single person infected our national psyche with that creative antiquarianism that saw to it that the dark satanic mills did not pulverise everything from the past, as for example China’s industrial revolution is pulverising the ancient heritage of that great nation.

Walpole not only reinvented Gothic and wrote The Castle of Otranto to go with his wooden battlements and papier-mâché ceilings; he preserved old glass, collected coins, armour, miniatures and books and rescued historic objects that he bought in the equivalents of car boot sales.

Not all were quite what he thought they were: but no matter. He made people look at what was destroyed when they modernised a church or built a Palladian house, tearing down the ancient manor on the site as they did so. In all this he was leading the first campaign for the physical rescue of the past from the destruction of progressive modernity. He is the progenitor of all the heroic Betjemans and Lees-Milnes and Cornforths who came later.

He did it quite consciously: his 1784 Description of the house is part interior decorator’s catalogue, part museum curator’s guide. He wanted to popularise as well as record. The house was open from the beginning; from the beginning (although he thought carefully about its preservation) he took steps to ensure that even if the worst happened and his collection were dispersed and his house destroyed, it should be meticulously recorded. After all, he had watched his spendthrift brother sell off the great collection of his father, the Prime Minister Robert Walpole, from Houghton Hall, his Norfolk home. The pictures, he wrote, were “transported almost out of the sight of Europe”, to the court of Catherine the Great. If that happened to his objects they would at least have in his writings a “genealogy not so noble as those of the peerage, but on a par with race horses”.

In his day there was no National Trust, no Heritage Lottery Fund (although a one-off lottery did help to build the British Museum). His transmission mechanism for the house and collection was my own family — respectable, second-rank aristocrats with a good record, it must have seemed, of negotiating the hazards of English life throughout a good many dangerous centuries. But lest we fall into the sentimental trap of thinking that old families will always look after their inheritance, observe the behaviour of the Waldegrave family in its senior line between the Napoleonic War and the 1840s. Gambling. Lawsuits over legitimacy. Prison. A ménage à trois between two dissolute Waldegrave brothers and a young adventuress at Strawberry Hill, ending in the chaotic sale of 1842 that dispersed Horace’s collection to the four winds. Sir Simon Jenkins is quite right to try to install a family feel in National Trust houses, but he needs to pick and choose which periods of which families. Labradors, yes. Bailiffs and gamblers, drink and whores, perhaps not.

In the end, however, Horace’s own spirit is triumphant. The house has re-emerged like a butterfly from a chrysalis of neglect. The good Vincentian Fathers and their successors who, in another implausible twist, preserved the house through most of the 20th century, passed it on to the trust of which (making some small atonement for the past) I am a member, which has restored it. The result is stunning. Go and see it, not just because of its importance to the history of art, or even just to marvel at the skill with which this glittering little jewel of a house has been restored; but also because Horace Walpole invented the idea that preserving our heritage need not be a solemn affair: it could simply be fun. And Strawberry Hill is fun.

Lord Waldegrave of North Hill is Provost of Eton College."



William Waldegrave writes beautifully and eloquently and I can't wait to visit the newly-reopened Strawberry Hill, but there is another side to this piece. I believe that John Major's worst deed was his 'invention' of the National Lottery. I have never bought a ticket and I never will. But whether I buy a ticket or not is neither here nor there. What worries me enormously is that millions of ordinary people who might not be able to afford it - and have no idea that they might be supporting the likes of Strawberry Hill - are buying tickets in the hope that 'it' might be them this week or next week or whenever. I witness this every day when I collect my Times: those ahead of me at the checkout, especially on Saturdays, often spend £10 or £20 on lottery tickets and, sadly, they often give the appearance of - how shall we say? - being less well-off. The national lottery is a voluntary tax on the poor to enhance the interests of the rich and cultured few and to fill the pockets of those whose skill and expertise lies in obtaining grants from such as the 'Heritage Lottery Fund.' I wish that our country and its people had never had this iniquity inflicted upon them. (GW).

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Mr Ben Gibbs (of Ely) is clearly cock-a-hoop!

An odd piece has appeared in the Cambridge New (yesterday) and the Ely Weekly News (today).

I say odd because I don't understand which 'Government' - the last one or the present one - is responsible for Mr Ben Gibbs (of Ely) being so cock-a-hoop.

Anyway, for what is worth, here (above right) is Mr Gibbs and here (below) is the piece (in italics). Further below is what I feel about Mr Gibbs and some of his supporterss, who appear to include Mr John Cowan, the disgraced Labour candidate for South East Cambridgeshire at this year's General Election. Mr Cowan is also pictured (below left). He was canvassing in what he called 'BAALSHAM' when I ran across him.

"Project to expand fen gains backing

Jordan Day

Controversial plans to expand Wicken Fen have been backed by the Government.

An online petition calling on the Prime Minister to back the Wicken Fen Vision, a 100-year-long project to create a nature reserve covering around 53 square kilometres between Cambridge and Wicken Fen, was launched by Ely resident Ben Gibbs last autumn.

It was signed by 867 people and now the Government has confirmed it is behind the £2 million project. It said in a statement: “The Environment Agency and Natural England both support the National Trust’s vision.

“The Environment Agency supports the Wicken Vision because it has similar objectives to its corporate strategy; to create a better place.

“The vision will help the agency deliver outcomes related to climate change, habitat creation, biodiversity, fisheries, recreation, water framework directive, flood risk, water quality and sustainable places.

“As well as a rich wildlife habitat, Natural England believes that the area can function as a flood storage area, store carbon dioxide and also provide a vast area for public access for leisure, relaxation, exercise and education.”

But some residents are against transforming prime agricultural land into a “jungle”. Geoffrey Woollard launched a Save our Fens petition last year in a bid to stop the project.

But Mr Gibbs said the response to his own petition showed the public’s support for the plans.

He said: “I was delighted with the public’s response to my petition, which clearly demonstrates the level of public support for the trust’s 100-year plan, in this region and beyond.

“I am now also delighted that the Government has clarified its position on the National Trust’s far-sighted plan for Wicken Fen.

“It would seem that there is now a widespread recognition that we need to protect certain habitats and manage larger areas of land for public use, and that this does not in itself threaten our ability to feed ourselves.

“I would very much like to thank all those in Ely and the surrounding areas who signed my online petition.”"

Mr Ben Gibbs is clearly cock-a-hoop regarding his E-Petition in support of the National Trust's so-called 'Wicken Vision.'

When the previous government was in power, I, also, had an E-Petition on the 10 Downing Street website in opposition to the 'Wicken Vision.' The number of people signing Mr Gibbs's E-Petition was a bit bigger than the number signing mine.

However, aside from a few well-known Liberal Democrat councillors, the disgraced Labour candidate for South East Cambridgeshire (yes, even he signed up with Mr Gibbs, and a fat lot of good it did him) and some National Trust employees, I recognised the names of few of those signing Mr Gibbs's E-Petition whereas many if not most of the people signing mine were and are local to the area affected by the 'Wicken Vision.'

I assert, therefore, that many of Mr Gibbs's supporters are local Liberal Democrat politicians with a political axe to grind or people who are not local to the area.

I respectfully suggest that Mr Gibbs being cock-a-hoop should be taken for what it is: a campaigner making the best of a bad job, a little like the national Liberal Democrats being involved in government with their worst enemies, the Tories. That is a really bad job for all of us!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Nick Clegg's speech: it's beyond my comprehension


It's beyond my comprehension.

Nick Clegg spent much of his time today attacking Labour and praising David Cameron (presumably this was all cleared with Number 10).

But how are his people going to fight the Tories at local elections and at the next general election? They'll be laughed to electoral oblivion.

Mr Nick Boles’s ideas are gaining ground: I reckon we’re in for an ever ongoing coalition run by the boy wonder bosom buddies.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

"They will be greatly missed and their sacrifice will not be forgotten. We will remember them." We will, I hope

From the BBC: "Afghanistan blast kills two British soldiers. Two British soldiers have been killed in an explosion in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.One of the soldiers was from the Queen's Royal Lancers and the other was from the Royal Engineers. Their next of kin have been informed. Task Force Helmand spokesman Lt Col James Carr-Smith said the two, who died on Saturday, would be "greatly missed". The deaths took the number of British military personnel killed in operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 337. Lt Col Carr-Smith added: "It is with great sadness I must inform you that a soldier from the Queen's Royal Lancers and a soldier from the Royal Engineers were killed this afternoon west of Lashkar Gah." They were attached to the 1st Battalion Scots Guards Battlegroup. The soldiers were part of a ground domination patrol when they were struck by an explosion. "They will be greatly missed and their sacrifice will not be forgotten. We will remember them." An MoD spokesman said the deaths were not a result of insurgent activity aiming to disrupt the Afghan parliamentary elections."

Thursday, 16 September 2010

New Reach Lode Bridge opened - hang the expense!

The new bridge over Reach Lode has been opened. Pictures have appeared in the local papers. Here is one I took earlier.

The pictures in the papers have appeared as has a letter that I wrote, as follows:

"Dear Editor,

I missed the 'community picnic' organised by the National Trust to mark the opening of the new bridge over Reach Lode. Whilst I have no objection to increased access to our fine food-growing Fens, I can't see why it was necessary to construct such a huge and expensive span just to bring people from Anglesey Abbey to Wicken Fen. The job could have been done differently and at considerably less cost.

But what is money to the National Trust? It falls off Government trees every time some is demanded.

The Trust has recently been granted permission to 're-wet' (that's a fancy word for flooding) 200 more acres of Grade 1 farm land at Burwell. A Trust officer has admitted that the area of our Fens to be 're-wetted' or flooded in the name of the so-called 'Wicken Vision' is 3,000 to 4,000 acres. This, of course, is the lower-lying land which happens also to be the very best and most peat-rich.

The Trust seems to be good at growing ragwort, stinging nettles and thistles on land that it already controls. Farming matters in the Fens. I also assert that with our population growing exponentially, our best food-growing land ought not to be lost, either to water or to weeds.

Yours sincerely,

Geoffrey Woollard."

Sunday, 12 September 2010

200 more farming acres 're-wetted' and 're-wilded'

Just days after the National Trust received permission to 're-wet' (that's flooding in my book) and to 're-wild' about 200 more acres of Grade 1 farm land at Burwell, there are numerous reports in the press of food price inflation and more food shortages in various parts of the world. One of the reports is in the Daily Telegraph at -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/7996556/Fear-over-food-prices-despite-inflation-dip.html

I have responded to some of the reports along the following lines:

"Using public money, the National Trust is busily buying up thousands of acres of the finest Fen farm land in my area (South East Cambridgeshire) in order to take it out of arable production and to 're-wet' and to 're-wild' it. We have a population of over 61 millions (those are the ones willing to be counted) and we haven't a hope in hell of feeding them without massive food imports which may not always be available. Our best Fen land should be used for what it does best - growing crops of food. I wish I could attach pictures to this contribution. They would show magnificent wheat and fields of superb vegetables as only our Fen farming can produce. All this alongside unique wildlife which our Fen farmers cherish and love."

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Peter Brookes, the favourite cartoonist of Sue and I, is back in The Times today - he needs no explanation!

Well done, Farmers Weekly, for having this poll!


Farmers Weekly, the best-known magazine for the farming community, is having a poll on its website as to whether the ban on fox hunting, hare coursing and stag hunting should be repealed.

I have voted 'No'!

To do the same, I urge my readers to go the Farmers Weekly website at -

http://www.fwi.co.uk/Home/

- where I have also left the following comment:

"Well done, Farmers Weekly, for having this poll. The ban rightly received all-party support. Most of the Labour members wanted it, most of the Lib Dems wanted it, and some of the Conservatives wanted it. The persistence of Ann Widdecombe and Tony Banks in its pursuit was heroic. But, most importantly, public opinion, both urban and rural, was ready for it. Like the bear baiting and cock fighting of old, fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, etc., had all come to the end of their days of acceptability. These so-called 'sports' were known and seen to be incompatible with our British approach to wild animals. There is plenty of suffering in nature already: it doesn't have to be made worse by those who are out for 'fun.' Incidentally, I write this as a former shooting man, as a farmer and as a born-and-bred countryman. The Hunting Act 2004 was a fine and honourable piece of progress and, rather than repeal, which the likes of Hague, Herbert and Hart want, it should be strengthened."

Post Script (added 8/9/2010 from the Farmers Weekly website):

FWI WEEKLY POLL

Should the coalition lift the hunting ban? ( Poll Closed )

Yes 50.65% (11,175 votes)

No 49.35% (10,888 votes)

Total Votes: 22,063

Let it never, ever be said again that country and/or farming opinion is firmly behind the chorus of Tories - Messrs. Hague, Herbert, Hart, & Co. - regarding repealing the Hunting Act 2004 that banned fox hunting, hare coursing, stag hunting, etc. As is shown by the poll run by the Farmers Weekly, it is 100% clear that very large numbers of voters would prefer the ban to stay. I am of that view, too.