28 December 2001

PMs record on rural policy…

FARM Villain Tony Blair did little to endear himself to the rural population during his first few years in power. But the Prime Ministers actions over the past few months ended his chances of ever being regarded as a champion of the countryside, according to our readers. Even DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett was left trailing in her leaders wake.

Mr Blairs handling of foot-and-mouth and his refusal to hold an independent inquiry have left many farmers incandescent. But thats not all. His decision to hold a general election in June, failure to pay agrimoney compensation to arable farmers and his Partys stance on hunting have left people equally fuming.

The king of focus groups is obviously not too bothered about his reputation in the countryside. Ceri James from Brecon in Powys summed up the thoughts of many readers. "He has no sympathy for British farmers or people living in the countryside. He will not be happy until he has got rid of all British farmers."

J Foster from Shirley Hall Farm, near Ashbourne in Derbyshire went further, saying he showed open hostility towards farming and anything to do with countrypeople. "Cunningham, Brown, Beckett and a veggie in Wales. Need I say more," he said.

Mrs Walters, a retired farmers wife from Brecon in Powys nominated Mr Blair as her hero and her villain. He was a hero because he stated publicly that supermarkets have got farmers in an armlock. But he was a villain "for doing nothing about it."

Some readers objected to the fact the winner of the villain award will be sent a pair of wellingtons to encourage him to get out into the countryside. Alan Marshall of School Lane Farm, Chilsworthy in Devon said: "Send me the wellies, Tony would not know what to do with them."

TOP THREE VILLAINS

Prime Minister Tony Blair

DEFRA secretary Margaret

Beckett

MAFF/DEFRA

OTHER CONTENDERS

Former farm minister Nick

Brown

Junior DEFRA minister Elliot

Morley

Chief vet Jim Scudamore

Junior DEFRA minister Lord

Whitty

Rural recovery co-ordinator Lord Haskins

Chief scientist Prof David King