Monday, July 03, 2006

The wide verges of the Great North Road

Last Friday's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News was written before I went on holiday.

Demob happy? You could say that.

Fishy stuff

Poor Ben Bradshaw. He has put so much effort into pleasing the prime minister, but still finds himself with a boss who is younger, brighter and prettier than he is.

Worse, David Milliband got to be secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs through talent. Bradshaw has made it only to parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment, food and rural Affairs and won himself an unfortunate reputation along the way. “The ludicrously biddable Member for Exeter” is one of the kinder descriptions applied to him.

Hansard says parliamentary under-secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs, but Bradshaw is really the minister for fish. Put a question about tench, hake or guppy in the Commons, and it is Bradshaw who will answer you.

Last Thursday John Greenway asked about “the movement restrictions imposed on fish farms in North Yorkshire”. Moving fish? Perhaps we have come across a forgotten chapter of agricultural history here.

For centuries the North Riding was famed for its fish. They were fattened in the Dales, then driven to London along the wide verges of the Great North Road to be sold at Billingsgate. Most fishdrovers’ inns have long since been renamed, but memories of the trade are still to be found in place names along the route. There is a Coddington just outside Newark, and it is no coincidence that you find Finsbury Park near the southern end of what is now the A1.

Bradshaw mentioned none of this, talking instead about viral haemorrhagic septicaemia. When your days are filled with viral haemorrhagic septicaemia, you must wonder if a career in politics is all you thought it would be.

This session was remarkable for the number of Lib Dem MPs taking part. There were nine, with questions on meaty subjects like climate change and water resources. It was a sign of how central the environment now is to British politics and of how it is we who are making the running on it.

But caring for the environment is not all about hairshirts. I wish someone would convert the Emperor Ming’s Jag to run on green fuel. Then he could drive it again, which would make him happier and be good publicity – as long as he looked out for the fishdrovers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

>>Bradshaw is really the minister for fish.

I really shouldn't be rocking in my chair, helpless with laughter at this point should I.