Geoffrey Lean seems troubled by a Cabinet reshuffle in the UK – that can’t be bad
“Always keep ahold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse”. The payoff line of Hilaire Belloc’s Jim has long summed up the attitude of many environmentalists to Caroline Spelman, who was sacked today as Environment Secretary – a comparison, it must be said, strengthened by her rather condescending manner of speaking. Though she was ineffectual, had cut her department far too eagerly in an apparent attempt to please the Treasury, and had been responsible for one of the most humiliating U-turns even by this Government’s standards – the botched attempt to sell off England’s forests – they felt, with justification, that her heart was in the right place.
Now they may just have ended up with the lion, which Jim encountered after he “slipped his hand and ran away” and which “hungrily began to eat the boy, beginning at his feet”. Her replacement, Owen Paterson, who until today served as Northern Ireland secretary, has described himself as “a passionate supporter of progress, free enterprise and less interference in people’s lives”, which suggests that he will not have much sympathy with the regulatory approach that underlines much environmental policy.