There is speculation that the Government is planning another reshuffle, and UK agriculture could experience its fourth Secretary of State at DEFRA in just three years.
Since 2005 a succession of politicians has led the beleagured department, from Margaret Beckett to David Miliband and now Hilary Benn. The current Secretary of State took over in July 2007, and therefore has not completed a full year in the job.
However, in media circles and across industry there is talk of Gordon Brown wanting changes in the Cabinet to revive the Labour party’s fortunes following disastrous local elections. Hilary Benn could be considered for a move with some commentators predicting that the Prime Minister will want a bigger profile poltician competing against David Cameron on environmental issues.
DEFRA minister Jeff Rooker joked at the Pig and Poultry Fair today that he was still in his job, but did not know for how long. When asked if he was aware of a Government reshuffle, he said he did not know.
Farmers Weekly editor Jane King said: “We may be reading too much into this, but today Jeff was even more bullish than he normally is.
“He was very outspoken and supportive of farming and happy to be controversial about the Environment Agency. I thought he spoke like a man who maybe thinks he is not going to be around much longer.
“It is also noticeable that Hilary Benn has still not made a decision, as promised, on bovine TB.
“He told farmers in February that a decision on whether to cull or not would be imminent within weeks, but we are now four months on and have heard nothing. Some people are inevitably speculating that perhaps Hilary Benn does not want DEFRA to have to take this tough decision on his watch.”