Patriotism as the last refuge of the Tory MP

The government’s trade deals with Australia and New Zealand will lead to a decimation of the UK’s agriculture industry. Ipswich MP Tom Hunt says farmers should be ‘patriotic’ about it.

patriotic sheep
Sheep at Ickworth Park, Suffolk. Photo by Karen Roe on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The British government has recently signed two trade deals, with Australia and New Zealand.  According to farmers and many commentators, both will act to the detriment of British agriculture and may lead to the collapse of many sectors of it.  We may well see the end of the traditional family farm.

Phil Stocker of the National Sheep Association said:

For all the warm words we’ve heard from our Government this news is highly disappointing, even though I’d say it’s no surprise. You only have to see the statements being made by the red meat sector in New Zealand for evidence they intend to send more and more sheep meat in our direction, and this in addition to the increase in access by Australia means together, in just over a decade, these two countries will have access to our entire volume of lamb consumption.

Trade deals that will impoverish the UK

One journalist has mused that this may be the first time in history that trade deals have been signed in the knowledge that they are likely to lead to further impoverishment of the country’s economy and the collapse of major strategic players within it.

But when Brexit is causing so many businesses to face the possibility of bankruptcy, the prime minister will do whatever it takes to gain a few promising headlines.  The absurdity of the plan, in narrow political terms, is that most people won’t read about it and so won’t be impressed by these apparent triumphs.  Those who will read it, who will have a keen interest in it and a horror at what is being done in their name, are the farmers who have been betrayed.

But just so long as it means any excuse not to talk about Brexit, and provide something for floundering and all-at-sea Tory MPs to wave like a flag in otherwise paralysingly embarrassing TV interviews, it will have served its purpose. 

Which brings us once again to Tom Hunt, MP for Ipswich.  In an interview with the BBC’s Politics Live, Mr Hunt declared that the latest trade deal would be worth £2.3 billion, without mentioning that the £2.3 billion would be almost entirely for New Zealand.

Tom Hunt appeals for patriotism

Mr Hunt appealed to farmers to be “patriotic and passionate and positive” about their forthcoming business failures.  They should not only see risk, but also opportunities.  As the last strawberry has shrivelled unpicked on the vine and the last animal carcass is dragged away for incineration, British farmers can feel that swell of patriotic pride that comes with knowing that your generations-old family farm may have been sacrificed, but it has been sacrificed to patriotism.

It is a much used word, a word we have heard increasingly often since Brexit to obfuscate the failures and the incompetence of those who got us into this mess.  Patriotism has meant many honourable things to people over the centuries.  But these days it has been distilled into one simple definition.

Saving Boris Johnson’s arse.

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