This is a mere sketch of a document that is “as thick as a telephone directory,” as Chair Robert Goodwill described it.
In short, restaurateur Henry Dimbleby’s Food Strategy is the agglomeration of several blobs – culinary, cultural, climate control. He looked, standing in the Committee Corridor like the Henry VIII of blobs: tieless, portly, hands on hips, immeasurably assured. The Old Etonian son of a publishing and broadcasting dynasty, he is also, he told the committee, the lead non-exec director of DEFRA.
Is it proper for a non-executive, whose job is scrutiny, to perform an executive function like producing a strategy? We live in innovative times.
He said he didn’t want to recommend “a Stalinist five-year plan” for the country’s food supply before revealing his 25-year Stalinist plan for the country’s food supply.
The assumptions underlying his thinking are spectacular. That the price of solar is falling so fast that there will be “huge amounts of free energy and at that point energy becomes very cheap.” And that “Too much of our land is grass.” And that it takes 70 kgs of carbon to produce a kilo of Brazilian beef. However that figure was calculated, we know it could be recalculated the other way with a flick of a statistician’s finger.
He is recommending a national plan to regulate all land use, to guide diets, limit meat eating, and to substitute a Carbon Price for his much-reviled Meat Tax.
He has understood that both Left and Right dislike what he’s proposing (R: Nannying, L: Paternalism). He spoke warmly of a more obvious but less visible mechanism – the Carbon Border Tax combined with a licensing regime that only allows the sale of meat under certain conditions of production. It’s the sort of administrative trick that not one person in a thousand will be aware of.
Rust never sleeps.
The elephant in the room was … insects.
Dimbleby is an active part of the international alliance to promote Insects for Poor People. They are high in calories, nutritious, full of vitamins, and – properly prepared, not necessarily crunchy.
It has been pointed out that the restaurant chain he recently sold had very few cockroaches on its menu.
In the same way, for all his talk of the evils of inequality, a review of the wage rates in his ancestral newspaper group would reveal remarkable disparities.
There was a wonderful interview between an earlier Dimbleby and Sir James Goldsmith in the early 80s. The prosecuting Dimbleby laid out a ferocious case against the roguish financier showing that he had based his companies in Monaco purely for the purposes of avoiding tax. “Why else would you have done it?”
Sir James smiled his vulpine smile and said, “Before I answer that question, I took the precaution of researching your family’s own chain of companies publishing newspapers in England. They have been based in the Channel Islands, presumable for the very purpose of avoiding tax.”
The interview was halted abruptly.
Will this current Dimbleby be tripped up so neatly? There’ll always be another one to take up the cause.