“Scotland gets its brains from the Herring” – Ivor Cutler

Michael Gove’s imbecilic comments have got a good run-out this week with him arguing on the Andrew Marr Show that: “If you don’t benefit from a uni eduction you shouldn’t pay for those who do”. The comments triggered a hailstorm of comments about how dumb this was, including pointing out that if you’d ever walked over a bridge, lived in a house, rode on a train or been treated by a doctor, you were benefitting from someone with a university education.

The quote is seen as a terrible re-boot of Thatcher’s famous ‘no such thing as society” line and a gentle threat to higher education. It is of course both but we should also be looking at this in the context of the environment, which somehow, in this mad world this man is ‘Secretary for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.’ His track record on the environment is shocking, including (randomly and incompletely):

  • Voting against requiring the UK Green Investment Bank to act in support of the target of reducing UK carbon emissions to 20 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.
    (7 October 2012)
  • Voting against requiring the setting of a target for the amount of carbon dioxide (or other greenhouse gases) produced per unit of electricity generated (4 June 2013)
  • Voting against allowing financial incentives for small-scale low-carbon generation of electricity to be paid to plants which were previously too big to be eligible
    (4 June 2013)
  • Voting against requiring an environmental permit for tracking (26 January 2015)
  • Voting to apply the tax on non-domestic electricity supplies, known as the Climate Change Levy, to electricity generated from renewable sources (14 July 2015)

As Caroline Lucas said: “His record of voting against measures to halt climate change and his attempt to wipe the subject from our children’s curriculum show him entirely unfit to lead our country in tackling one of the greatest threats we face.”

But his comments should also be seen as a very explicit and ideological rejection of the idea of the commons. This is immediately expressed in his bizarre comments about a ‘Sea of Opportunity’ as we leave the EU.

If alarm bells aren’t already ringing, he told the BBC that: “It’s sometimes been the case, not just in fisheries but in agriculture and other areas, that people have tried to suggest that high environmental standards work against economic success.”

“It’s in our interests to be able to dramatically increase the amount of fish that we catch.”

Here’s a reality bite from Richard Dixon:

“In 1993 the Norwegian Environment Minister called John Gummer, the UK Environment Secretary, a drittsekk – a shitbag – because of the massive impact on Scandinavian lakes and forest of acid rain caused by emissions from British power stations. Throughout the 1980s Britain had been known as ‘the Dirty Man of Europe’ because of our widespread pollution of air, land and water…The air we breathe, the water we drink, the products we buy and the food we eat are all cleaner and safer because of 40 years of EU rules. Collective EU targets on climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency have pushed the UK further than we would otherwise have gone.”

The sea of opportunity that Michael Gove has announced includes excluding foreign boats from our boats, boosting our indigenous fishing fleet then cutting off the market for that catch. It’s the perfect metaphor for the insanity of green capitalism, a brand driven by ideology and incapable of facing the realities of limits to growth, living within finite resources, or recognising the need to co-operate with others. Brexit will be a disaster for our environment.

There’s no doubt that the European Fisheries Policy has been a disaster for Scottish fishermen. There’s no argument that foreign fleets are any less avaricious than ours – in fact in some cases they are considerably more damaging. But the reality is that this is cheap populism predicated on throwing away any prospects of sustainability.

Ask yourself this, in the sentence: “It’s in our interests to be able to dramatically increase the amount of fish that we catch” – who is the “we”?

Liberating mackerel, freeing herring, “taking back control of our seas” is just a new level of idiocy in a sea of stupidity that is the Brexit rhetoric.