Tony Blair thought it was wrong that the government got all the blame for the foot-and-mouth crisis when he felt that “it was negligence that started it.”
The Alastair Campbell Diaries, published this week, give a fascinating insight into what was happening in Downing Street during the F&M crisis of 2001.
The diaries, called The Blair Years, suggest that the former Prime Minister thought that some farmers became “totally unreasonable” and when he went to Devon for a visit in April he was worried about the possibility of demonstrations.
In the entry of March 14 Mr Campbell noted: “In Cabinet, FMD was the main focus and TB said it was serious, the number of cases growing day by day, the future unsure.
“Most of it was traceable back to one farmer and two dealers and it was now affecting large parts of the country. He said the farming sector was in difficulty even before this and we were going to have to provide a lot of help.”
By March 18 the view was: “Nick Brown [former MAFF minister] had done well early on but it was getting more and more ragged and though the NFU was still trying to be reasonable with us, a lot of farmers were getting more and more critical, while the public imagery was really bad.”
It explains how Tony Blair become increasingly frustrated by the fact that things he felt should have been done by MAFF were not done.
By March 26, Mr Campbell’s view was that the MAFF people were tired and lacking in clarity. “The things that TB asked for yesterday were still being promised for tomorrow.
“Scudamore [the chief vet at the time] was giving reasons why things couldn’t happen rather than explaining how they could.”
The March 28 entry reads: “If people knew how hard it was to crank our machinery into gear, they would be appalled.”
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