Track record down years

21 August 1998

Track record down years

If ever farmers had a friend within government, it was former coal miner Tom Williams (Labour farm minister 1945-51). Together with his junior ministers, who were former train driver Percy Collick and amateur artist Lord Huntingdon, Mr Williams revitalised British farming in the wake of World War II.

Anti-marketeer Fred Peart (Lab 1964-68) had the misfortune of being a protectionist at a time when the country was moving towards joining the Common Market. But his ability to hold sway in Cabinet was matched by his ability to talk to farmers and he is remembered to this day.

Like Nick Brown, Michael Jopling (Con 1983-87) also served as a government chief whip before becoming farm minister. Unlike Mr Brown, however, Mr Jopling is a professional farmer, with 200ha (500-acres) in Yorkshire. But his degree in agriculture from Newcastle University didnt stop him from clashing with the NFU over the introduction of milk quotas.

Amateur conjuror John MacGregor (Con 1987-89) worked as a journalist for New Society magazine in the 1960s before becoming parliamentary assistant first to Sir Alec Douglas-Home and then to Edward Heath. Mr MacGregor is widely acknowledged as the under-rated but effective farm minister who paved the way for linking subsidy payments to environmental measures rather than output.

Former journalist and publisher John Gummer (Con 1989-93) will be remembered for feeding his daughter Cordelia a hamburger on television in a vain attempt to quell growing concern over BSE. Some thought him conceited and arrogant, but his analytical mind and ability to speak French won him farmers respect and enabled him to score in Europe. Like Tom Williams before him, Mr Gummer served as a junior minister before taking the top job.

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