Environmental groups have launched a ferocious attack on the Tory former minister Owen Paterson after he used his new freedom from office to label them a “green blob” of “unelected busybodies” who were damaging Britain.
Friends of the Earth described Mr Paterson as “paranoid” and “never fit” to hold ministerial office, while Greenpeace said his “tenuous grasp of the facts” showed why is was best that he “no longer dictates policy”.
The intemperate remarks on both sides reveal just how bad relations between Mr Paterson and the Environmental lobby had become while he was in office and are almost certainly one of the factors behind his departure.
Mr Paterson is understood to have mounted a passionate defence to keep his job when he was told he was being sacked by David Cameron. He told the Prime Minister that if he was dismissed it would amount to a “smash in the teeth” to rural voters, claiming he was one of the few Conservatives in government who really understood them.
In an article in The Sunday Telegraph he went further, revealing his longstanding battle with green groups opposed to fracking, his controversial cull of badgers, and onshore wind farms.
“I leave the post with great misgivings about the power and irresponsibility of the Green Blob,” he wrote. “This tangled triangle of unelected busybodies claims to have the interests of the planet and the countryside at heart, but it is increasingly clear that it is focusing on the wrong issues and doing real harm while profiting handsomely.”
But Friends of the Earth’s energy and climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole said Mr Paterson’s “paranoid outburst” confirmed that “he was never fit to hold office”.
A spokesman for Greenpeace added: “He claims we burned an effigy of him, something that never happened and never would. If he can’t get the small things straight, it’s probably for the best that Mr Paterson no longer dictates policy, and we wish his successor well.”
Mr Paterson was not the only sacked minister to speak out yesterday after last week’s reshuffle. The former Attorney General Dominic Grieve said he thought it was “certainly possible” he lost his job because of his advice to Mr Cameron against pulling out of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
The Conservative MP warned Britain’s reputation could be damaged internationally if it withdraws from the ECHR, which is not an EU institution.
“The signal we would send out if we were to leave the convention would be a very negative one and viewed negatively not just in Europe but across the world,” he said