Village People: 09/01/2010

By Andy McSmith
Saturday 09 January 2010 01:00

If you see a lost cow, please report it

*At the risk of spreading alarm I have to report that there are 37,927 missing head of cattle somewhere in the UK.

Since the outbreak of mad cow disease in the 1990s, there has been a kind of ID card system for cattle run by an agency called the British Cattle Movement Service, based in Workington. It has 659 staff, and annual running costs of £21.4m.

The idea behind the scheme is that if a cow is found to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, the agency will immediately be able to trace its movements from birth, and pinpoint every other animal with which it has come into contact.

But an answer to a written question from James Paice, the shadow Agriculture minister, reveals that currently there are 12,638 animals whose owners cannot locate them, because they have been lost or stolen, and another 25,289 which appear to have changed owners, but the agency does not know where they are. "This many missing cattle makes a mockery of the whole system of traceability," Mr Paice said yesterday.

So, if you see a cow wandering about looking lost please alert the British Cattle Movement Service.

Will we see 'Saint Mo' or the real thing?

*Mo Mowlam, the former Northern Ireland Secretary, has taken on an almost saintly status since her death from a brain tumour in 2005, at the age of 55. In public Tony Blair called her "our Mo". In private, he was not so flattering. They found it almost impossible to work together in a crisis. In Alastair Campbell's diaries, Mo is accused of being "deeply irritating" and "near hysterical". On Tuesday week, Harriet Harman will speak at a private viewing of the new Channel 4 film of the life of Mo, starring Julie Walters. It will be interesting to see whether it captures her complex and ultimately very appealing character in the round, or settles for a sugar gloss on "Saint Mo".

Third time lucky for Hancock?

*Matt Hancock, the former Bank of England economist who is now the brains inside the office of the shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, has a third chance to carve out a career for himself as an MP. On 30 January, anyone registered to vote in the constituency of West Suffolk can join in a meeting in Mildenhall to choose the next Conservative candidate. In this part of the Tory heartland, that is the same thing as choosing the next MP.

An attempt by head office to parachute Mr Hancock into the safe seat of Macclesfield last autumn was seen off by the locals. He was then shortlisted for Congleton, Cheshire, but lost to Fiona Bruce, a Warrington lawyer.

Let us hope Mr Hancock's expedition does not come to such a painful end as his valiant attempt, years ago, to walk to the North Pole, when he had to be airlifted out with frostbite.

Not the most popular minister in his family

*A few years ago, delegates to a Labour conference were sporting a badge with the slogan "my favourite Miliband is Ed". That was pretty much the buzz among Labour MPs after this week's failed coup against Gordon Brown.

David Miliband now seems to have irretrievably tarred himself with a reputation for having a brilliant mind but no sense of tactics. Ed has had a good few months, coming out well from the expenses scandal and the Copenhagen summit. The older Miliband, they are saying, should make way for his brother.

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