Things can only get better
HAVING made such a muck of 2016, we still turn to 2017 with the hope that things may be better. It’s the same basic optimism that encourages us to make New Year’s resolutions, even though we remember just how bad we were in keeping the last lot. Making them for other people avoids any such drawback, so here goes with my 2017 suggestions.
After such a year of turmoil, farming needs effective leadership and, in the days of Lord Netherthorpe, Richard Butler or Henry Plumb, it would have got it. So, for Meurig Raymond, today’s NFU president, his New Year’s resolution is clear: ‘This will be the year I build a countryside coalition reaching far beyond my members to make sure that Brexit doesn’t mean the end of farm support and sensible tariffs on agricultural products.’ He’ll need real steel to keep that resolution because, up to now, the NFU has been conspicuous in its failure to join with others to face a future outside the EU.
That makes pretty easy my resolutions for the presidents of the CLA, the Food and Drink Federation, the Institute of Grocery Distribution and all the other food-and-drink bodies. Theirs is simply to use every effort to join the NFU in common cause to protect home food production.
In achieving that end, they’ll come face to face with Andrea Leadsom, who is the nearest thing we have to a Minister of Agriculture. For her, therefore, my resolution is even simpler. ‘All year long, I’ll remember I’m lucky enough, albeit by accident, to be responsible for Britain’s biggest industry. I will, therefore, defend food and farming against hard Brexits and tough Treasuries.’
She’ll find that easier if the major conservation bodies get the same message and resolve: ‘In 2017, we’ll try to get a further shift of farm support towards environmental goods, but we’ll also insist on farmers being able to make a living from the land they look after.’
A countryside united by those resolutions would have some chance of making 2017 a success. Mind you, there’s also a wider world and there’s need for some pretty tough resolutions there. For Donald Trump, I have little hope on the resolution front. He appears not to remember what he said yesterday, let alone what he promised. Nonetheless, I won’t give up. His resolution should be: ‘I will be humble and listen to the experts.’
That will also serve for all the self-opinionated billionaires and science deniers he’s appointed. Indeed, there are several common resolutions I’d like to offer for 2017. For Katie Hopkins, Nigel Farage, Nigel Lawson and Boris Johnson: ‘I’ve said too much in 2016, so I’ll take a year’s break from unnecessary public utterances.’ And for Gary Lineker, John Major, Michael Heseltine, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Ruth Davidson: ‘I’ve tried hard in 2016 to instil some sense into public debate and I’ll not give up in 2017.’
Which leads me to the Prime Minister, a vicar’s daughter. Her resolution must surely be: ‘The Lord alone knows how we got into this mess and certainly only He knows how we’ll get out of it, but my job for this year is to soldier on and do my best.’ Not actually a bad resolution for most of us, although there are two people, neither of them young, who deserve a more upbeat version: ‘I’ve done all I can in 2016 and for many years before and my resolution for 2017 is, simply, more of the same.’ For The Queen and the Pope, there is, happily, no more to be said—except thank you.
‘Having made such a muck of 2016, we still turn to 2017 with the hope things may be better
Follow @agromenes on Twitter