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Deep Divisions in British Society over #Badger Cull

March 25, 2013

Michael Heseltine’s intervention(1) in the financial crisis to-day expressing concern the UK  lacks the will and resolution to achieve economic change because Britain suffers  from affluence complacency, reminded me of the late Harold MacMillan’s (2)intervention at the height of Thatcherism .

Macmillan expressing shock that miners should be regarded as the Enemy Within, which might be even more relevant on the eve of what I believe will be a catastrophically divisive policy decision by #Owen Paterson to go ahead with the #badger cull. 

Hesseltine’s reknown quality has always been to grab headlines and be glamorously correct after the event.

MacMillian’s comments came as a  reflection of deep concern by a former Prime Minister(1957-1963) and a very senior statesman who saw Britain being driven apart in the  Miners strike (1984-85) by a government he perceived to have abandoned traditional core values of  One Nation Conservatism .

He was concerned that Margaret Thatcher and the leadership of the Conservative party had divorced itself from orthodox consensus to the detriment of the broader nation in the eyes of the Etonian patrician, who once extolled  “Britain had never had it so good” whilst Heseltine seems to imply “we have it too good for our own good!” .

I am drawn to make the association between MacMillan’s concern for the nation being torn apart those years ago and the present conflict  between the two sides of the #Bovine Tuberculosis  debate because matters have reached a critical and deeply impassioned moment  and before events become too heated to retrieve what will be a  tragic situation potentially leaving  our nation  divided and unable to turn back.

The #cull is scheduled for July 2013 despite the scientific weight of opinion indicating that it will be ineffective or only marginal in its attempt to reduce infection within the national dairy herd.

Rather than address the detailed scientific issues again, despite previously vigorously  campaigning against the cull, I am concerned now to address the social  consequences  if the government and specifically Owen Paterson persist with their  expressed intentions .

The consequence of headlines and news broadcasts describing the destruction of up-to 10,000 badgers will unleash a resentment and anger that will leave the already estranged farming community even further isolated  and their opponents furious and in a hostile frame of mind that will not recover or go away quickly..

All farmers will inevitably suffer from this anger and will be characterised collectively as indifferent and self-interested regardless of their individual dispositions.

If as is suspected the Badger cull is a distraction from deficiencies of  forthcoming  government policy proposals the farmers may find themselves without public support when they most need it in the not too distant future.

The public ,whilst still purchasing from the big supermarket chains, have in recent years understood the pressure adversely exerted upon  farmers in their efforts to supply quality home-grown goods for a commercially viable return.

That sympathy may well evaporate.

 Paterson is a free-marketeer and will eventually remove subsidies that protect small farms.

Who then will farmers have to stand up for them ? …certainly not the ground of Middle England they are choosing to alienate by killing Badgers..

I draw the association with Macmillan’s concern for a divided nation from my own memories of the 1984-85 Miners Strike that decimated the traditional mining communities and left them utterly bereft of hope  for many years.

During the strike  living in an affluent , albeit radical Cotswold community, in the Stroud Valleys we provided support and sustenance to the Cwm , Ebbw Vale, Marine Colliery miners and families in South Wales for almost 2 years and came to know their stories and lives as friends.

Coming and going with community arts entertainment and welfare support programmes I witnessed how embedded a  hatred of an insensitive London based government  could get when matters became  so polarised.

People almost starved and were desperately  proud to support their own families and communities whilst the NUM national leadership and government fought from rigid positions on both sides.

Following the eventual return to work behind their banners and colliery bands they enjoyed a brief respite before they discovered too late the industry was in terminal decline velocity and the “valleys” were spent and destroyed……. if never defeated.

The residual anger was tangible and still haunts many communities to this day.

You cannot repair such anger in a single generation.

Given our nations current economic and environmental difficulties our society can barely afford further, let alone deep divisions, if a common objectives and united political will are fragmented by bitter rows over bTB.

Heseltine is right to point out the need to be unified and purposeful but there is a further historic connection of fate that befalls  the farmers and  former miners …..

The miners were led by a powerful and rigid leadership that enjoyed class confrontation before a negotiated arrangement.

The NFU like the NUM of the day is leading its membership with a closed mind, preferring to posture rather than understanding the longer game or the virtues of flexibility and gentle persuasion .

The NFU leadership is intransigent and committed to oppose scientific opinion and public concern.

Ten thousand carcasses are not going to change the fate of the farming community positively and someone has to intervene to call for a better approach that will carry the general public and protect the long-term fortunes of agriculture or Macmillan’s ghost may reappear and farmers like miners may become an insignificant sector spoken of in the past tense.

Stevetomlinsustainability .

Asthall Leigh

(1)March 25th 2013

Macmillian (2) Viscount Ovenden, Earl Stockton 1894-1986  IN November 1984 He criticised Margaret Thatcher for treating the “brave men who helped defeat the Kaiser and Hitler… the Enemy Within” 

(2a) ” We used to have battles and rows  but they were quarrels and we got over them”

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