Dog whistle politics. Photo: Channel 4 News screengrab
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Without the Lib Dems, there would be nothing to stop the Tories neglecting the environment

Green blues.

It's hard to imagine now, but it's not that long ago that David Cameron was still bandying about the slogan: "vote blue, go green." He once championed himself as a Tory moderniser on the environment. But we've come a long way since the days of trips to the Arctic and hugging huskies. Cameron now openly talks about "getting rid of green crap," while Tory minister Michael Fallon has said the Tories would stop the construction of onshore wind farms if they win in 2015. As we near the general election, the Conservatives are rapidly abandoning any pretence that they care about the green agenda.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the European Parliament, where the Tories are completely unrestricted by the constraints of coalition government. Time and again Conservative MEPs have shown their true colours when it comes to EU environmental measures, and they are definitely not green. They voted down EU measures to restrict the destructive practice of deep-sea fishing. They've opposed efforts to reduce plastic bag use and tackle the scourge of plastic waste in our oceans. And they've repeatedly voted against efforts to strengthen the EU's carbon emissions trading scheme, Europe's landmark policy for fighting climate change.

Yesterday, the Tories showed their true colours yet again when MEPs voted on EU proposals to tackle air pollution, which the new European Commission is threatening to withdraw or water down in its drive to cut red tape. This is being rightly opposed by many MEPs, including Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder who's leading the charge to keep these proposals on the table. We all want to see moves to make EU regulation smarter and more efficient, but that shouldn't come at the expense of the air we breathe. Air pollution now causes an estimated 29,000 premature deaths in the UK each year, almost as many as smoking. And with 40% of the most deadly pollutants coming from elsewhere in the EU, it's clear that we need urgent action on this across Europe.

Yet Conservative MEPs refused to stand up for these vital measures to improve air quality, voting against key amendments to prevent them being delayed and calling for them to be watered down to "reduce administrative burdens." It seems that for the Tories, laws that protect the environment and improve people's quality of life are just more red tape to be slashed. They fail to see that moving towards a cleaner, greener economy isn't just the right thing to do for the planet. It's the best to way to secure future growth and jobs.

The Conservatives' approach to the environment in Europe shows what sort of approach they would take if they are allowed to govern alone. In coalition, Liberal Democrats have fought to make sure that the environment has stayed at the top of the agenda. We've doubled the amount of energy generated from offshore wind and stopped the Tories from slashing support for renewable energy. And while senior Conservative politicians voice their doubts about man-made climate change, Energy Secretary Ed Davey has been busy paving the way for a global deal to cut carbon emissions. Without the Lib Dems, there would be nothing to stop the Tories from lurching to the right on the environment. The truth is, the only way to make blue go green is by adding yellow.

Tim Farron is Lib Dem MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

Tim Farron is leader of the Liberal Democrats.

HEINZ BAUMANN/GALLERY STOCK
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With the BBC Food’s collection under threat, here's how to make the most of online recipes

Do a bit of digging, trust your instincts – and always read the comments.

I don’t think John Humphrys is much of a chef. Recently, as his Today co-presenter Mishal Husain was discussing the implications of the BBC’s decision to axe its Food website (since commuted to transportation to the Good Food platform, run by its commercial arm), sharp-eared listeners heard the Humph claim that fewer recipes on the web could only be a good thing. “It would make it easier!” he bellowed in the background. “We wouldn’t have to choose between so many!”

Husain also seemed puzzled as to why anyone would need more than one recipe for spaghetti bolognese – but, as any keen cook knows, you can never have too many different takes on a dish. Just as you wouldn’t want to get all your news from a single source, it would be a sad thing to eat the same bolognese for the rest of your life. Sometimes only a molto autentico version, as laid down by a fierce Italian donna, rich with tradition and chopped liver, will do – and sometimes, though you would never admit it in a national magazine, you crave the comfort of your mum’s spag bol with grated cheddar.

The world wouldn’t starve without BBC Food’s collection but, given that an online search for “spaghetti bolognese recipe” turns up about a million results, it would have been sad to have lost one of the internet’s more trustworthy sources of information. As someone who spends a large part of each week researching and testing recipes, I can assure you that genuinely reliable ones are rarer than decent chips after closing time. But although it is certainly the only place you’ll find the Most Haunted host Yvette Fielding’s kedgeree alongside Heston Blumenthal’s snail porridge, the BBC website is not the only one that is worth your time.

The good thing about newspaper, magazine and other commercial platforms is that most still have just enough budget to ensure that their recipes will have been made at least twice – once by the writer and once for the accompanying photographs – though sadly the days when everyone employed an independent recipe tester are long gone. Such sites also often have sufficient traffic to generate a useful volume of comments. I never make a recipe without scrolling down to see what other people have said about it. Get past the “Can’t wait to make this!” brigade; ignore the annoying people who swap baked beans for lentils and then complain, “This is nothing like dhal”; and there’s usually some sensible advice in there, too.

But what about when you leave the safety of the big boys and venture into the no man’s land of the personal blog? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find a recipe that actually works? You can often tell how much work a writer has put in by the level of detail they go into: if they have indicated how many people it serves, or where to find unusual ingredients, suggested possible tweaks and credited their original sources, they have probably made the dish more than once. The photography is another handy clue. You don’t have to be Annie Leibovitz to provide a good idea of what the finished dish ought to look like.

Do a bit of digging as part of your prep. If you like the look of the rest of the site, the author’s tastes will probably chime with your own. And always, always, wherever the recipe is from, read it all the way through, even before you order the shopping. There is nothing more annoying than getting halfway through and then realising that you need a hand blender to finish the dish, just as the first guest arrives.

Above all, trust your instincts. If the cooking time seems far too short, or the salt content ridiculously high, it probably is, so keep an eye on that oven, check that casserole, keep tasting that sauce. As someone who once published a magic mince pie recipe without any sugar, I’m living proof that, occasionally, even the very best of us make mistakes. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 26 May 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit odd squad