Only farming ministers have to have some knowledge of their subject
I’m catching up on news items here as I’ve been away from my home computer and driving around the UK, or so it seems, for weeks. Robert Goodwill is the new Minister of State in Defra with responsibility for farming – he is a farmer (although his main crop seems to be dead people).
Conservative Defra farming ministers are always farmers: Jim Paice, George Eustice and now Robert Goodwill. To be fair, the Lib Dem optometrist David Heath did have a brief spell in the job in the coalition government but he wasn’t regarded as being particularly clear-sighted by anyone. In contrast, Labour struggles to find an occupant of the job who has a blade of grass in their constituency (Jim Fitzpatrick, Poplar and Limehouse; Jane Kennedy, Liverpool Wavertree; Lord Rooker, formerly Birmingham Perry Bar; Lord Bach; Elliot Morley, Scunthorpe.
It’s not really worth getting too excited by new ministers at a time when there may be changes at the very top of government which will have knock-on or knock off impacts all the way down the ministerial pecking order. However, even though we are not now Brexiting on Friday, we may be Brexiting in mid-April so any Farming Minister has his or her work cut out sorting out that mess.
But it may be worth saying that Farming Ministers, such as the new incumbent Robert Goodwill, are almost always of a higher ministerial grade than Environment or Biodiversity Ministers, such as Therese Coffey, and it is notable that Dr Coffey was passed over for promotion this time. Biodiversity Ministers would rarely pass a GCSE in natural history before taking up their roles whereas Farming Ministers tend to be farmers. ‘Nuff said.