Not a bad idea actually

Some stories do leak — such as the 2005 memorandum of our Ambassador in Poland, Charles Crawford, who suggested that Tony Blair, concerned about attacks from the “scary new teenage” Tory Opposition, should start a forthcoming EU negotiation by putting a “large naff children’s alarm clock” on the table to make it clear that time was running out on the egregious Common Agricultural Policy (the “most stupid immoral state-subsidised policy in human history, give or take communism”).

Certainly a reasonable description of CAP….although we do have to leabve room in there for rent control as well, the most dangerous policy to blight urban areas short of all out war.

6 thoughts on “Not a bad idea actually”

  1. For anyone interested in the original of my own leaked memo about the CAP and so on, here it is:

    Mind you, it seems to me that it is one thing to use official time and money to mock errant policies, another to mock individuals, especially when they are being invited to visit the country at the highest level of protocol.

  2. There’s a joke that goes something along these lines:

    A man is sitting in his garden with a massive gun on his lap. Chap walks up and asks him what he’s doing. ‘Keeping the elephants way’ he says.
    ‘But there aren’t any elephant here!’ responds the passer by.
    ‘Doing a good job then aren’t I?!!’ comes the reply.

    At the risk of sounding rather like the elephant guardsman, are we absolutely sure there is NO good to come from the CAP? Yes, it costs a bomb, and everyone pays about £100/per year (??) in higher food costs. But it has produced plentiful food supplies, in a notoriously cyclical industry. Can you discount what could have occurred under a totally free market system if shortages had arisen due to bad weather?

    Given the nature of society nowadays, where we are so far removed from our food production, and live at the end of fairly precarious supply chains (CF disruption caused by the Icelandic volcano) , is it not wise to ensure there is a fairly vibrant agricultural sector in this country (and in each European country too)?

    Vested interest alert: I am a farmer!

    Tim adds: Nice try but: those countries which do not have CAP also have plentiful food supplies. In fact, New Zealand, which is almost entirely free market, has a better food supply system than we do.

  3. Ah, but NZ doesn’t prove anything. They are one of the few countries that have a totally unsubsidised agricultural sector yes, but they can rely on the subsidised produce elsewhere to maintain supplies if there was a big fall in output in NZ for some reason. Plus they are themselves a big agricultural producer, with exports many times home consumption, so in times of famine, they could still feed themselves.

    We on the other hand import 40% of our food nowadays, and that would undoubted be more under a totally free market. We are an island of 60m+, 99.9% of whom rely on supermarkets to feed themselves. If for whatever reason supplies were cut off from abroad, or became super expensive, I would expect to see food riots within weeks.

    Its a lot easier for a government to feed its population if the food actually exists inside that nations borders. It can commandeer transport, and the food itself in extremis. If it has to come from abroad, that is not a option. You are the mercy of others, who may well be in the same position.

    I would not want to be the Prime Minister who had to deal with a situation where there were 60m hungry Britons, and little food to feed them on because we had turned our countryside into a theme park, and wilderness, and relied on foreign imports entirely.

  4. @Sobers
    I won’t presume to argue with your figures, it’s your premise I find confusing..
    Are you saying that, freed of the CAP, Brtish farmers would not be capable of producing sufficient food to feed the nation? Or that they would produce only the commercially most profitable crops, assuming that those were not food crops, to the detriment of the rest of the population? Or that higher food prices resultant on our overseas suppliers’ inability/reluctance to supply us would not result in an attempt by the farmers to fill the gap? Or are you saying that, without the CAP, our farmers will concrete over the countryside?

  5. @Nick Luke:

    If all agricultural subsidies worldwide disappeared tomorrow, UK farmers could not compete with food produced elsewhere. Climate, geographical factors and reduced regulatory requirements mean the cost of production is considerable lower overseas. Lamb would come from New Zealand, much dairy produce also. Beef would come from South America. Cereals would come from Canada and Australia. Vast swathes of the UK countryside would stop being farmed. Most of Wales, the north of England, Scotland. This wouldn’t happen overnight, but slowly the UK farming industry would die, just as the so many other UK industries have. And once you lose a critical mass the support industries die too, and starting over is very hard.

    Unfettered by subsidies, farming is a very cyclical industry. Look back at the history of food prices in the centuries prior to the CAP and you will see a constant boom and bust cycle. So a free market in food would probably result in AVERAGE prices being lower, but in some years the prices would be massively higher due to shortages. And those shortages have the capacity to create massive social upheaval in our urbanised way of life. It is those shortages that subsidies try to eliminate – by allowing farmers to ride out the bad years, and continue to supply food at a fairly constant rate.

    It is entirely reasonable to argue that that it is fine to let farming go – we do without a shipbuilding industry, a mining industry, a fishing industry, why shouldn’t farming go the same way? I can’t say thats wrong, I’m just pointing out the potential problems of relying on foreign produced food in an ever changing global economy. We forget we live in an historically anomalous period – where food is taken for granted – its cheap (in relative terms) and readily available. This has not been the default position in history other than since the use of farm subsidies around the world from about 1945 onwards. I am suggesting there MIGHT be a link between those two facts.

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