Donald Macintyre's Sketch: It’s time for Owen Paterson to cull this abstract language

He skilfully bypassed the question on  whether £1m cheques for large landowners could be justified

Has Owen Paterson banned the C-word to protect the squeamish? Today he proudly referred MPs to his written statement on wiping out bovine TB, one which promises to “tackle any significant reservoir of infection in wildlife” but unaccountably neglects to mention that culling badgers is mainly how they’re going to do it. Clearly, his colleague Michael Gove’s departmental directive – “always use concrete words and phrases in preference to abstractions” – has yet to percolate to Defra.

The National Farmers’ Union, of course, was pleased by the bovine TB statement. In the midst of the Coalition’s onslaught on the dreaded Unite, heaven forbid that ministers should notice that their own relations with the NFU are distinctly cosy — Paterson and his junior Richard Benyon own splendid estates in Shropshire and Berkshire respectively.

Tory backbenchers routinely refer, as they have done for generations, to “my farmers” (in Tewkesbury, Stratford, wherever). Paterson assured MPs that British farmers would be pleased with the outcome of the latest Common Agricultural Policy “when the detail is worked out with the representatives of the farming unions.”

And he skilfully bypassed a question from the mild-mannered Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George on whether subsidies, “indeed, £1m cheques”, to “large landowners who do not need the money”, could be justified – all but implying that agribusiness was solely motivated by the charitable goal of feeding a growing population. “We want... an extremely efficient, hi-tech agricultural sector producing food... and welcome large, efficient farmers.”

Later, a Cabinet split on that Gove “would your mum understand it?” directive to his civil servants! The Education Secretary had improbably suggested Jane Austen as a literary model for Whitehall correspondence. Leader of the Commons Andrew Lansley ventured: “My personal preference is for colleagues, when composing answers, to pay more attention to Sir Ernest Gowers than to Jane Austen, but that is just a matter of taste.” Lansley one, Gove nil. Gowers, author of the mid-20th century classic “The Complete Plain Words”, was himself a civil servant and actually knew what he was talking about.

Badgers were not the only creatures under pressure. Tory MP Sir Tony Baldry, Second Church Commissioner, returned to the fray on the desecration of churches wrought by “bat faeces and bat urine” because of a European directive protecting their roosts from removal. “Churches are not field barns; they are places of worship,” he declared. This was not an issue that could just be “managed”, said Sir Tony, who was also obliged to rebuke MPs: “This is no laughing matter.”

Least of all for the bats, if Sir Tony gets his way.   

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
News
i100
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Web Application Support Manager

£60000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Reigate...

Music Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

Maths Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

C# asp.net Developer - West Sussex - permanent - £40k - £50k

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments