Aid package what the papers say

31 March 2000

Aid package — what the papers say

By FWi staff

TONY BLAIR is portrayed as a champion of farmers by the daily papers, who say he fought hard to prise the farm aid package from his reluctant Chancellor.

The Prime Minister is said to have used his personal authority to over-rule Gordon Brown and extract the maximum amount of cash

The aid package, announced after the Downing Street summit, includes 193 million from Mr Browns Treasury, with the rest coming from the EU.

Cash payments are backed by long-term strategy to move farmers away from subsidy payments into new forms of farm business.

The Times reports that the Prime Minister “caved in to demands of crisis-stricken farmers in face of fierce Treasury resistance”.

It says that during tough negotiations Gordon Brown and Treasury Chief Secretary Andrew Smith challenged every element of the package.

Sources said negotiations were “blood, sweat and tears” and that Mr Blair and farm minister Nick Brown fought every inch for the aid.

The Times says the Prime Minister was determined to show that his government – often accused of being “townie” – cared about farmers.

The Daily Mail takes a similar angle, saying the Prime Minister only secured the deal by vetoing his “very tight-fisted” Chancellor after a “furious row”.

The Financial Times reports that Mr Blair bowed to farmers demands after tough discussions with the Treasury, which lasted until the morning of the summit.

An emergency lifeline to angry farmers is how The Daily Telegraph describes the package, saying Mr Blair has finally realised the need for urgent action.

Meanwhile, The Independent views the deal as “a batch of measures to take farming in a new and profitable direction”.

But Richard Haddock, spokesman for militant Farmers For Action protestors, tells the paper that supermarket blockades by producers will continue.

The Guardian reports that Tony Blair warned farmers that the package must be matched by a renewed willingness to restructure their ailing industry.

The newspaper says it remains to be seen whether this will persuade farmers to stop blockading supermarket depots and dumping milk.

Birgit Cunningham, who hit the headlines by squashing a chocolate éclair into Nick Browns face, staged her own Downing Street protest.

The Telegraph publishes a photograph of her drenched in fake blood and being led away by police after handcuffing herself to railings.

Ms Cunningham admitted to The Guardian that this was a publicity stunt, but “not half as much as the one going on right now in Downing Street”.

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