Mr G picked up a curiosity at our local vide-grenier this morning. It had a handle beautifully turning in hedgerow Holly. Mounted on top was a gourd, painted with a scene of bucolic splendour, Limousine cattle grazing on a lush pasture.
“What is it, though” he said.
I took it from him and shook it. Sure enough, inside was a coffee bean.
“A child’s rattle” said I.
A French peasant in years gone by had taken the items freely available to him, the gourd, the piece of Holly coppiced from his hedgerow, the probably lead filled paint! – and created something simple to amuse his child.
He wouldn’t bother today, he would buy some plastic nonsense created in China; the antique version will go into the collection of a Parisian banker and be displayed in silk lined luxury.
Time was when the humble farmer was exploited by the Parisian. The unfairness of those who toiled by day and night, in all weathers, producing the food, creating something of value, receiving no more than a subsistence income, so horrified the idealistic architects of the Common Market that the CAP system was invented.
Its aim was ‘to provide farmers with a reasonable standard of living, consumers with quality food at fair prices and to preserve the rural heritage’.
We are constantly told of the need for our island race to grow its own food, creating an image of lush rows of vitamin filled vegetables carefully tended by a gnarled peasant who would starve at the hands of the idle rich if it were not for the CAP payments ensuring he received fair value for his endeavours.
When we think of farmers, we invariably have in mind that gnarled peasant, whether he be rearing sheep on a rain soaked Welsh hillside, preserving our rich pastoral tapestry, as they say; or blockading our route to the sun spots of Europe, driving his tractor in ever decreasing circles round Paris in an effort to persuade the government of the essential evil of their plan to cut his tobacco subsidy.
Whichever country comes to mind, our image is that of a one man band, a lone farmer, those bucolic pastures, battling against the elements to produce essential foods, even if it is for a rich landowner.
So it came as some surprise to find out where the UKs largest recipient of a CAP payment actually farmed. I have been playing a guessing game with everyone I met this morning. The answers were varied.
Cornwall was a popular guess. Something to do with the Prince of Wales? It seems that knowledge of CAP payments going to rich landowners is fairly widely spread.
A few ventured ‘somewhere in Scotland’ – the amount of money flowing north of Hadrian’s Wall is a popular subject in England.
No one guessed the answer. East Ham. London. The crime ridden constituency of our newly stabbed MP, Stephen Timms. Wikipedia tells me that East Ham has ‘many green spaces in the otherwise bustling and urbanised area’ – indeed the ‘graveyard of the Norman St Mary’s church is maintained as a nature reserve’!
I’m not quite getting the picture of rolling acres growing some essential crop to nurture our mortal bodies here.
What crop could they be growing in the graveyard of St Mary’s that would attract a CAP payment of nearly 8 billion – do you need me to repeat that? Almost 8 billion, not million, Euros! And who was the farmer that had managed to turn one of the ‘many green spaces’ into liquid gold by growing something so essential to our well being?
Just one farmer, albeit a joint enterprise, and just one crop.
Mssrs. Tate and Lyle; earnestly employed in turning sugar beet into sugar to fatten our bloated bodies.
CAP payments are made up of a collection of payments that eventually arrive at a fairly standard 1% tariff of GDP of all 27 EU members. It accounts for almost 50% of the money that the EU ‘redistributes’ each year. To those starving farmers. And a stonking 8 billion of it ends up in East Ham to ensure that everything we eat is full of sugar?
The NHS has been whining that the cost to the tax payer of obesity was running at £4.2 billion in 2007 and expected to rise to £6.3 billion by 2015.
We have a simple answer here folks. Stop making CAP payments to that lone liquid gold farmer in bucolic East Ham and we can save around £14 billion pounds a year and halve the ‘size’ of the British population.
UPDATE: As Paul has just kindly pointed out – Tim Worstall has a different take on the Tate and Lyle issue.
Do go over and read it.