I’m a fan of Rod Liddle who has an entertaining column in the Sunday Times and the temptation is to plagiarise his work for my blog, but I don’t because I’m bigger than that. And I don’t want to be sued.
However, every now and then he hits the nail so squarely on the head that I can’t help myself. Take the case of Jim Paice, the minster who couldn’t answer the perennial ‘do you know the price of a pint of milk’ question.
Unfortunately the Sunday Times online is subscription only or I’d simply provide a link. Instead, here are the edited highlight of Liddle’s column. It says better than I can what a bunch of eejits we’ve have running the country:
How much is a pint of milk? That’s one of those questions that are often asked of politicians by mean-spirited journalists, designed to show that they are remote and ineffectual monkeys out of touch with ordinary life.
Most of the time it is not a terribly fair question; our MPs or ministers have wives or Filipino servants for the purpose of buying milk, plus they have other more complicated stuff to remember, such as the balance of payments deficit and which is their second home and which is their first home, and so on.
But it becomes a slightly fairer question if you are a senior member of the government that has recently been accused by a Conservative MP of being a bunch of posh boys who “don’t know the price of milk”.
I would argue that it becomes a fairer question still if you are a government minister who is more or less responsible for the price of milk. I think if you are that minister, knowing how much a pint of milk actually costs would be helpful for the job.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s asking too much for such a minister to know the answer precisely. Even a general idea – “I think it’s somewhere between £50 and a grand” – would be better than nothing. Some vague idea would be helpful, and a journalist would be justified in asking the question.
It’s a fairer question still, I think, if the minister is actually a farmer.
But the point at which it becomes a really fair question and even the question that should be asked first and foremost, the only question worth asking, is when the following conditions occur. The politician is a minister in a government that has been accused of not knowing the the price of a pint of milk by one of its own MPs. He is the minister responsible for the price of milk. He is a farmer. And – I reckon this is the clincher – he is about to address an important meeting of loads of really angry dairy farmers the next day that is entirely about the price of a pint of milk.
Then (hell, call me a stickler) I think it is very fair question. And if he can’t answer it, then the idiot should resign.
So meet James Paice, food and agriculture minister, for he is that man. Farmer Paice was asked the question on the BBC programme Farming Today and he didn’t have an inkling. Not a clue.
Paice has previously distinguished himself by a strange and atavistic desire to gas our nation’s badgers – and indeed by a robust antipathy, in general, to all forms of living creatures.
But this one is the clincher, isn’t it? How can he do his job and not know such a thing?