23 October 2001
Papers make a meal of Beckett’s brains

By FWi staff

RURAL Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett has been lampooned by parliamentary sketch writers in Britains national papers.

During a speech to MPs on Monday (22 October), Mrs Beckett denied trying to cover-up botched BSE tests on cow brains instead of sheep.

Simon Hoggart in The Guardian writes: “Her aim was to disgust the Tory opposition into silence, and she very nearly succeeded.”

Mrs Beckett “shouted angrily, raging as if any attempt to question her judgement was an assault on the whole of British farming,” he adds.

Mr Hoggart criticises a government spokesman who acknowledged it was perhaps wrong to announce the bungle at night on a departmental website.

“This is No 10 [speak] for That stupid cow – or sheep – is going to get whats coming to her, just you wait for the next reshuffle,” he writes.

He asks: “Why do we need Osama bin Laden when our own Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs can cause such havoc and horror?”

A parliamentary sketch by Matthew Parris of The Times says Mrs Beckett “looked as if she was about to be sick” during her speech.

“There are cock-ups and this was one of them, when every attempt to explain only makes the mess worse,” he writes.

A sketch by Simon Carr in the Independent carries the headline: “Whether a cock-up, a balls-up or a cover-up, something is sadly wrong.”

Mr Carr writes: “As Mrs Beckett pointed out (to prolonged laughter), she wanted to release the information absolutely as soon as possible.”

But he adds: “The announcement was made in the dead of night when the last news editors had collapsed into their alcoholic torpor.”

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