Brown attack what the papers say

3 February 2000

Brown attack — what the papers say

By Donald MacPhail

THE chocolate éclair attack on agriculture minister Nick Brown features prominently in newspaper coverage of the National Farmers Union conference.

Coverage of the incident has overshadowed an emotional address made by a former farmer from Devon who was driven out of business by the BSE crisis.

Pictures of agriculture minister Nick Brown after being “caked” by a protestor make the front pages of the and The Daily Telegraph

The Mail describes the incident as a humiliation for Mr Brown and “the face of farming rage”.

In three pages of coverage the paper delves into the background of Mr Browns assailant, uncovered as environmental campaigner Birgit Cunningham.

Ms Cunningham, who made her patisserie protest in frustration that Mr Brown appeared to be offering nothing to farmers.

She is described as a former Roedean girl who has rubbed shoulders with Elizabeth Hurley and pursued careers from stockbroking to Hollywood.

The researcher associated with The Ecologist magazine returned to England to set up her own environmental public relations company.

The Times comments that being smeared in chocolate éclair by a “leggy blonde” was the sort of protest that late Tory MP Alan Clark dreamed of.

The plight of Devon farmer Tony Mason, who once kept a herd of 230 prize-winning South Devon cattle, takes second place to the incident.

Mr Mason accused Mr Brown of failing to pay a fair price for cattle which the government says must be destroyed under rules designed to minimise BSE.

In its inside page coverage, The Telegraph claims that the farmer forced to sell up just before Christmas stole the show from Mr Brown.

says Mr Masons heartfelt speech, made with tears flowing down his cheeks, conveyed the scale of rural anger towards the government.
The Financial Times takes a different angle in its farming coverage, focusing on a proposal by the German cabinet to lift the ban on British beef.

Describing the move as a “beef export boost for farmers”, it believes this could leave France increasingly isolated for maintaining its ban.

It notes, however, that a final decision rests with Germanys 16 powerful regional states, which have shown reservations about lifting the ban.

On the evidence of protests at the conference, many papers predict that Tony Blair will now have a hard job persuading country folk theyve never had it so good.

On Thursday (3 February), the Prime Minister embarked on a two-day tour of the south-west, where he is expected to launch a new government report.

The report claims that rural dwellers enjoy a better quality of life than their urban counterparts, and have a longer life expectancy.

But a speech along those lines from the Prime Minister will be guaranteed to antagonise countryside campaigners, says The Telegraph.

The Mail reports that government spin-doctors are anxious about the reception Mr Blair will receive.

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