What has that got to do with the price of milk?

The problem I have with reading the Sunday papers is that they’re full of people who can really write, people who can put into words what you’re thinking if only you’d thought about it.

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?

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

12 comments… Add yours
  • Jennyta 17th July 2012

    It just goes from bad to worse, SP. That is really a situation on a par with Marie Antoinette’s ‘Let them eat cake’ comment – but worse…

  • Milk Pudding 17th July 2012

    What is the price of milk? It depends where you shop. No wonder my old chum Spunky Paice didn’t know the answer! At Lidl and Aldi you can pick up a two litre container of semi-skimmed for £1. This will cost you £1.18 at Tesco unless of course you shop at a Tesco Metro where they will up the price by a few pence – after all “Every Little Helps!” the gluttonous Tesco Monster.

  • Arctic Fox 17th July 2012

    perhaps he’s just one of those unlucky people who are lactose incompetent?

  • Mr Parrot 17th July 2012

    YP: Now you’re just complicating things by using those new-fangled litres when we all know it’s 46p a pint. (Compared to 36p ten years ago)

    AF: I think it’s more a case of lactose incontinent, at least that’s what he ended up in.

  • Roger Green 17th July 2012

    Of course, I never BUY a pint of milk. It’s either a half gallon or a gallon.

  • Trevor Rowley 17th July 2012

    Slight change of subject. The first two shillings pint. They said it would never happen, it was unthinkable etc, but happen it did. My recollection is that it was Watneys Red Barrel and the price rise happened down south (probably Home Counties) round about 1963/4. There was uproar at the time and, for many committed drinkers, their worlds briefly fell apart.

  • Mr Parrot 17th July 2012

    A little before my beer drinking time Trevor, but I recall that a pint of Wilsons bitter was 1s 10d when I first started. Less than 10p! Scary stuff.

  • rhymeswithplague 17th July 2012

    I had no idea you people were forced to live in such dire straits. The question over here is not “Do you know the price of a pint of milk?” The question over here is “Do you know the price of a gallon of milk?”

  • Mr Parrot 17th July 2012

    Well this is an eye-opener from the US – you buy milk by the gallon?!

    To be honey, it’s a long time since I bought a pint of milk. Apart from the fact that it is delivered to our doorstep every other day, it comes one or two litres containers. (Sadly the glass pint bottle is a thing of the past) Thinking about it, two litres works out as about half a US gallon.

  • john 17th July 2012

    “The problem I have with reading the Sunday papers is that they’re full of people who can really write”

    same could be said for me when I read blogs like yours!

  • Trevor Rowley 17th July 2012

    Wrong there, Mr P. In this neck of the woods (the foothills of the Pennines) we still get our milk delivered in pint bottles – although, in a concession to our European overlords, the bottle is embossed/stamped “568 ml”.

  • Jay from The Depp Effect 23rd July 2012

    Good grief. Used to be the case that people had to be fit for the job they were employed in, ESPECIALLY at government or even management level. These days, it seems the higher up the ladder you go, the less competent the people are, clinging onto the rungs.

    The price of a pint of milk is something that should concern us all, especially if we care at all about animal welfare. There are plans to build ‘super dairies’ to keep the price of a pint of milk down, and it will be the equivalent of those horrible battery unit cages they tortured hens with – and yes, there are new regulations, but they ain’t really a great deal better. It’s just a bigger jail cell with a perch in it.

    I am appalled that some of our biggest supermarkets actually want to pay the farmers that produce the milk LESS than it costs to produce it. The Minister For The Price Of Milk needs to get his finger out and get with the programme.


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