Who pissed on the parade?

Non-stop rain, an imprisoned cow and a Cameron that's actually in power

Dear Auntie Marina,

Ever since the Tories won the local election, it's done nothing but
rain. This certainly wasn't mentioned on their election leaflets. I
preferred your weather. Is this something I can refer to the Electoral
Complaints Commission?

Yours,
That bloke up the hill, Whitehawk, Brighton

In October 2006 at the annual Conservative Party Conference David Cameron laid out his fair weather policies. He said: "We can only become the party of the centre ground by renouncing rain and the causes of rain."

At a dry indoor location the spliffing toff continued: "It is no long possible for a socially responsible, moderate, modern party to hanker for the old days of rain. More sunshine, less rain is what the modern world is about."

Dave added: "Being for sun and against rain is what the modern Conservative party is about. That is after all why I voted to send our troops to Iraq. More sunshine and less rain is what the modern world is about."

So yes, I think you have an excellent case against the Tories who, once again, have proved what a prize bunch of showers they truly are. They say one thing to get elected, but once in office lose no sleep over raining on the electorate’s parade. Let’s go get ‘em boy! You mop, I’ll squeeze.

Dear Marina

Like this is sooooooo unfair. Jail is no place for a lady of my impekable (sic) social cred. The judge simply failed to understand their has to be one rule for us and one for them otherwise why would night clubs have VIP lounges? With your excellent campaigning skills I have to overlook your humble beginnings to beg of you help get me out this hell hole.

Paris Hilton, Century Reginal Detention Fasillity, LA, California

My dear girl, have you any idea how many lives are destroyed and families torn apart through grief because cows like you drive while drunk? You are extremely lucky, young lady, to have pulled off the biggest PR coup of your 'career' without killing anybody - including yourself.

Apparently a photo of you in jail "finding Jesus in a foetal position with a half-eaten bologna sandwich" would be worth $200,000 - more than double that "if you can see the tears". I assume this refers to you, not Jesus.

In your position I would hold out for a close-up lesbo gang bang sex sequence captured on a mobile phone. Got to be worth a cool million at least. More if it’s you leading the assault and you’re clever with online advertising.

You could use your time in jail to improve your woefully inadequate literacy skills thus standing you in good stead for the inevitable book deals on your release. But you’re probably better off concentrating on smuggling in a mobile phone. Get back in touch if you need a ghost writer. In the meantime, learn a lesson girlfriend!

Dear Marina

It’s not easy having Dave as a brother. Even at Eton he was cooler, braver and more popular. I would never have dared do some of the things he’s gotten away with. But now I’ve showed him. Future prime minister he may be. But I’m the chair, the treasurer, the secretary and the clerk of Peasemore Parish Council. Can I at long last feel equal?

Alex C, Peasemore

Parish meetings must be fascinating. How parishioners must smile, as you open up a debate with yourself and fastidiously minute your every word. But who notes your apologies when you’re away in Notters advising Dave? And why a secretary and a clerk?

Such challenges for modern Britain are mirrored – or should that be smoke and mirrored – on my own local town council. Dave certainly didn’t allow a shortage of candidates here to get in the way of his boast of fielding more candidates than rival parties.

I have this image from the count in my head that won’t go away: a cluster of suits sporting blue rosettes, each bearing a white elephant pissing green pee into the wind. I think that’s what they were. There was so much jostling and hand shaking with weird finger moves – not to mention the appalling number of Tory votes piling up at the count - it was all most confusing for me.

But I digress. Basically the Tories won 36 places out of 39. Sounds good. Yet when you go through the names you realise there are only 24 actual Tories. They doubled up and in three cases tripled up as candidates. We now have Tory representatives from outside the area, sitting on two town councils, the district council and in two cases are the county councillors as well. That’s two men holding eight positions of office between them. One would have to ask: is our multi-layered local government system now crap on every level?

With your wildly superior and privileged background I will assume you are supremely able to cope on behalf of the people of Peasemore.

But here in Telscombe Town – well, if you like brick-a-brac and tat come along to our meetings and browse. There’s no shortage of white elephants.

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.