Coffee House

Clegg admits that the quango he and the Lib Dems boasted of saving made the floods worse than they needed to be

24 February 2014

3:46 PM

24 February 2014

3:46 PM

At Lib Dem conference last autumn, the Liberal Democrats couldn’t tell you often enough how they had saved the quango Natural England from the Tory axe. Both Nick Clegg and Ed Davey made a big deal out of it in their conference speeches, portraying the Tory desire to abolish it as evidence of their coalition partner’s anti-green agenda.

But at the inaugural meeting of the Cabinet Committee on flooding, Clegg admitted that Natural England had made the situation on the Somerset Levels worse than it needed to be. According to a civil service record of the meeting, he said that Natural England and the Environment Agency’s approach of letting nature take its course ‘was nonsensical for what were essentially artificial environments such as the Somerset levels.’


Clegg’s acceptance that philosophy underlying the work of Natural England and the Environment Agency is flawed should be welcomed. It means that there is now a coalition consensus on completely overhauling these disastrously-run bodies. Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, is already searching for a proper countryperson who understands the need to manage the countryside, manage rivers and manage wildlife to succeed the current chairman, the former Labour Culture Secretary Chris Smith.

But the fact that the Liberal Democrats were so keen to boast of how they had saved Natural England shows that there remains a mistaken view that quangos are, per se, a good thing. It would be far better if government, which is at least accountable, did more and quangos did less. ​

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  • global city

    I have long thought that even the highest echelons of the Lib Dems take on board ‘core beliefs’ on a principle of differentiation, rather than actual belief in the principle itself…. if you know what I mean.

    Their slavish support of the EU is often contradicted by other policies and pronouncements. They often get caught out but are never made to explain. Half of them clearly have no understanding of what membership of the political project entails, as it progresses to tight integration and bureaucratic rule.

    This slavish support of the EU on the twin alter of ‘Green’ and ‘the EU’ have really aught them out…… but will James or any other MSM journo press it further?

    I think not.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      All of LibLabCon does as you describe. They’re socialists. It’s what socialists do.

  • Rossspeak

    The Libdems, and in particular,Ed Davey – have been an unmitigated disaster “in charge” of energy and environmental policy.
    All very well for Cameron to say now that “he doesn’t want another coalition” – why couldn’t he have said this in 2010 – pretty obvious that it was going to end in tears with Cleggy et. al. If he wasn’t so desperate for power he could have seen the obvious – so if he can’t take a joke, he shouldn’t have joined.

  • Noa

    One would like to sat the Lib Dems chicks have come home to roost, but if they had they would all have drowned.

  • HookesLaw

    I cannot say I am in favour of govts taking on more. They do enough already and we would only get accusations of political motivation. Why do we need the dept of wotsit and climate change anyway
    Likewise dept of agriculture and the business dept.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …perhaps then you shouldn’t be cheerleading incessantly for your mate Call Me Dave and the socialist Camerluvvies, who love all that waste.

      • Geronimo von Huxley

        Man dude you are doin’ it again man!!!! Have you got a screw loose man?? I mean what is goin’ on man can I say this man???? Either you are with us man or you are with Labor man that is the only choice you have in London/England man don’t you no that man??? It’s either us or THEM man!!! Get it man??? Insane!!!

        • the viceroy’s gin


  • Lady Magdalene

    I bet The Clegglet didn’t go so far as to admit that the Organisation chiefly responsible for the flooding in the Somerset Levels was his beloved EU …. and its various Directives which put the interests of wildlife above those of the people living on the Levels or the businesses operating there.
    That would require a degree of honesty which is sadly lacking in the Clegglet – indeed in all the Leaders of LibLabCon.

    • Makroon

      The organisation chiefly responsible for the Winter floods, was the confederation of weather gods. Speak it softly, because they seem to have been even more mean to the poor old USA.

      • ButcombeMan

        There is always flooding on the Somerset levels and moors, the extent of it and the length of time it lies for, is a matter that careful management can very substantially affect.

        Extended flooding, more flooding, was the very deliberate and inevitable outcome of the policy.

        Richard North has spelt it all out. Read it, then come back and tell us what he has got wrong.

  • ButcombeMan

    “the fact that the Liberal Democrats were so keen to boast of how they
    had saved Natural England shows that there remains a mistaken view that
    quangos are, per se, a good thing”

    Er No. What it shows is allowing the “green lobby” unfettered power without heavy questioning of motives and science is a great mistake. Green Power, like any other power, corrupts absolutely.

    The RSPB, who I generally have supported, were very much involved. The EU were and are, very much at fault. Lots of other hangers on, “Consultants” and outright hopeless objects like Smith, were very much involved.

    The Labour Government that just left it all to the Environment Agency, were very much involved.

    Somerset County Council looks weak on it all. LibDems have had a strong showing in that Council , indeed ran it if I am not mistaken.

    Arise Sir Christopher Booker and Sir Richard North for exposing the whole farce?

  • idmurray

    What did the local Conservative councillors and MPs do over the last few decades?

    • ButcombeMan

      See my post above, the Lib Dems ran Somerset for the crucial years. Tories have been gradually pulling it back.i

  • Peter Stroud

    The Libdem’s, Labour supporters and the left wing Tories, who have supported the hard green agenda, now need to show some contrition, bearing in mind what has been exposed. Putting people’s lives and livelihoods in jeopardy because of unbalanced support for wild animals and plants, is disgusting. Perhaps Cameron should reflect on some of the outcomes, due to the greenest government ever.

    • Makroon

      Just sacking Goldsmith would be an excellent start.

  • In2minds

    ” It would be far better if government, which is at least accountable, did more and quangos did less” – EU permitting that is!

  • Smithersjones2013

    But the fact that the Liberal Democrats were so keen to boast of how
    they had saved Natural England shows that there remains a mistaken view
    that quangos are, per se, a good thing.

    You can guarantee that if the Libdems are going to adopt a position on something invariably it will be the wrong position. How they ever managed to get any votes is beyond me. How anyone can contemplate voting for these idiots defies even the most basic of logic

  • Hexhamgeezer

    Time for ‘Sorry #2’. Looking forward to the Xmas CD

  • colliemum

    Cleggie showing contrition – well I never! Will he now also condemn the Eu for their directives underlying these ‘flaws’ in ‘philosophy’?
    Not holding my breath …

    • Makroon

      Time to re-issue the famous youtube ditty “I’m sorry” ?
      Ha! Hexham beat me to it.

    • Thomtids

      I no more accept Clegg’s apology than the Irish accepted Blair’s apology for the Irish Potato Famine.
      All these oily apologists seek are gullible recipients prepared to adjust their view of them. In Clegg’s case, his goose was both cooked and cremated when he irrepentantly sold his political soul for power. “No increase in tuition fees” he said to gain re-election.
      He might, and I am not inviting him to do this and if he were to I would have to deny it, in a fit of diminished responsibility you understand, hoist the poisonous dwarf, Bercow, out of the Speaker’s Chair and bludgeoned him about the testicles with the Mace during PMQ. That might improve people’s view of him!
      Now Milisnot might complain that PMQ has to change, but who could possibly deny that allowing one much-hated MP, every other week, to select another equally reviled MP and bludgeon them in full view of the cameras.
      It would save a fortune building all those sodding expensive stadia. And if there was a period of “austerity” you wouldn’t need a Boundaries Commission, just don’t hold a bye-election. Soon reduce the numbers and, here’s the really clever bit, might dissuade followers.
      I commend the measure.

  • Eyesee

    Well, changing the name of the body that implements EU policy should make things much better! And well done for getting ‘government should do more’ into the piece. The whole point is, having so much government involved is where the problem came from. Less would achieve so much more. Clegg wandered into saying something correct though; the EU issued a one size fits all directive on what to do with water and combined with that other idiocy, Global Warming, flooded land that needs protection to stop it flooding. It is clear though that the bureaucrats knew they would damage people’s property and put lives in danger and just didn’t care. Sue them, I say and do the one thing all government departments hate, make them take responsibility for their actions.

    • Conway

      It’s funny that things worked well for hundreds of years. Everything only started to go pear-shaped when the EA took over from the Rivers Authority.

  • BarkingAtTreehuggers

    No no no come on now, this is all the EU’s fault, and if not that it’s all the EA’s fault, and if not that it’s all Morley’s fault, and if not that it all the fault of the Dutch, and if not that then it’s all the Greens’ fault, or no hang on it is of course the ‘long term weather’ change’s fault.

    Never is it the fault of the government. How could it be, they are ineptocrats. We cannot blame ineptocrats can we? That would make no sense at all.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Of course it would make sense. They’re socialist nutters, just like you, laddie.

    • Lady Magdalene

      DEFRA and the Environment Agency are controlled by the EU and its Environment Policies.
      So yes …. it is the EU’s fault. The EA was implementing EU Directives.

  • anyfool

    Still no sign of the fool in charge ` Smith ` being sacked, still no accountability, still jobs for the boys destroying the fabric of the country in all ways, not just physical.
    Still no laws to stop the politicizing of charities, when is the bonfire of quangos, when are the parasitical socialist leeches put in place by the last Labour government going to be purged, when that is done, only then, can you start to turn the country around.

    • Fergus Pickeranus

      Why should Lord Smith be sacked? Catastrophic climate change isnt just a buzz phrase, its real, its here and its happening now, as these catastrophic floods have shown. Why should Lord Smith take the blame for over 200 years of burning fossil fuels. Humanity is to blame not Lord Smith.

      • MirthaTidville

        Why should he be sacked?…try incompetence…thats why!!

        • Fergus Pickeranus

          97% of the worlds scientists say the flooding was due to climate change caused by man burning fossil fuels not by Lord Smith dealing with the problems caused by man.

          If you want to blame someone, blame yourself, your friends, family and everyone else who burns fossil fuels

          • Thomtids

            No Fergus. That’s 97% of those paid to say it attribute the non-existent warming to burning fossil fuels. The majority of folk attribute the allegations to those paid to say it.

            • Fergus Pickeranus

              The Spectator shouldnt allow climate change deniers to post on their blog

              • Thomtids

                So The Spectator’s blog is “Peer reviewed” in the best traditions of the IPCC. Only those who agree get to be approved and published. 97% is as unbelievable as the science cited to support your “Scientists” opinions.

              • Conway

                I see, so discussion should be stifled, should it? Opposing views are banned. Where have I heard that before?

          • BobH2003

            97% of the worlds scientists don’t even know that the Somerset Levels have flooded, or where or what Somerset is, or who Lord Smith is. You should stop quoting your imagination as anything of value to the world.
            Do you really think that 100% of the world’s scientists have been asked, and only 3% dissented, really, are you sure of that Fergus? LOL
            You are just being a mouth piece for other fools Pickeranus

            • Fergus Pickeranus

              Bobby, if you dont believe the science more the fool you. Daffodils are already beginning to flower in my garden, there is blossom on the trees. This is happening because it is climate change in action. What more evidence do you want?

  • Bluesman_1

    “It would be far better if government, which is at least accountable, did more and quangos did less”

    Better still, it would be better if they both did less; and in many instances, nothing at all.

    • Conway

      And especially if they didn’t follow EU directives like the Waste Management Directive and the Water Management Directive.