Will nobody stand up for the right to eat horses?
Donald Macintyre writes political sketches for The Independent, having been Jerusalem correspondent since 2004, covering Israel and the Occupied Territories, as well as travelling for the paper to Iraq, Turkey, Jordan, Libya and Egypt. As Political Editor and then Chief Political Commentator, he previously covered the John Major and early Tony Blair era. He has written for the Daily Express, Sunday Times, Times and Sunday Telegraph, and Sunday Correspondent. He is the author of Mandelson and the Making of New Labour (2000).
Thursday 17 January 2013
It was day two of the horse burger crisis, and the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was not to be seen in Parliament. When Labour’s agriculture spokesman Mary Creagh last dragged ministers to the House – to discuss the death of ash trees – his Liberal Democrat deputy David Heath explained that Owen Paterson was away “talking to people who are dealing with the disease”.
Where was he this time? Stuffing one of the offending articles into the mouth of an unsuspecting child to show there was no risk to health, as John Gummer had done to his own daughter during the BSE scare? Heath wasn’t saying, despite repeated invitations from Labour MPs to do so.
Instead he got rather cross. He told Ms Creagh that it was “very, very important that neither she nor anyone else in this House talks down the food industry at a time when the standards of the industry are at a very high level”. He had been “impressed” by the speed with which Tesco had cleared the burgers off their shelves. As MPs got cross in turn, he got crosser still, telling them: “I am not personally responsible for having mislabelled horse meat in the Republic of Ireland.”
True there was a mild danger of some MPs overdoing it. Labour’s Kevan Jones asked how “confident” his constituents could be “that they are getting a Big Mac rather than a Shergar Mac?” The Tory Philip Hollobone sought to make sure in the event of “criminality”, “exemplary sentences” would be handed out. Joan Walley challenged Mr Heath to say whether he had held a “cabinet-level meeting across all departments”. Presumably to trigger an immediate mobilisation of Cobra – perhaps rechristened for the purpose Cabinet Office Burger Room A.
The debate nevertheless exposed a real divide between Mr Heath and many consumerist backbenchers, identified most luridly by Labour’s Kevin Brennan, who asked whether Mr Heath realised he had given “the impression that he has been captured, stunned, trussed up and served to the nation as the minister for the producer interest?” His colleague Ben Bradshaw warned Mr Heath he was “striking a very ill-judged tone”.
No one, however, was prepared to stand up for eating horse meat. In the fevered atmosphere, that really would have been political suicide.
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Michelle Obama highlights harsh restrictions faced by Saudi women after meeting King Salman without wearing a headscarf
Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Isis publicly behead man in Syrian town square for 'insulting Allah' as he screams for help
One spelling error costs Companies House up to £9 million after being sued for ruining business
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£450 per day: Ashdown Group: HR Systems Project Manager - Surrey - up to £450 ...
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An excellent opportunity ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Systems Administra...