Never let a good crisis go to waste

Harvesting chickpeas in Myanmar

Apparently it was Machiavelli who said (almost certainly in Italian) “Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Churchill followed him by saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” Obviously their advice is being followed.

I just read that the government will unveil a new food strategy ‘and tell farmers to produce more fruit and vegetables in the wake of record inflation.’

Not only that but government is going to call for changes to make it easier to turn land into farms, make poultry workers eligible for seasonal migrant jobs and propose that schools, prisons and hospitals offer vegan options.

Some people haven’t got a clue. If UK farmers could make money out of producing fruit and vegetables, they’d already be producing fruit and vegetables. But now, in the wake of record inflation, they’re not only expected to produce them, but produce them cheaply to keep prices down. Answers on a postcard please, why is this not going to happen?

But given that only weeks ago the policy was to turn farmland into forestry, perhaps the ‘oil tanker’ of government policy, which has regarded farming as expendable since the 1980s, is at last turning round?
But I do love the way the whole vegan experience has leapt onto the bandwagon.
I went on the BBC website for some vegan recipes for people in schools, prisons and hospitals.
Falafel burgers; – basic ingredients chickpeas, not grown in this country but most come from India, Australia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Turkey. Strikes me as some of these countries would be better off eating their own produce rather than producing cash crops to export of the wealthy west.

Vegan chili; – containing sweet potatoes, (somebody did manage to produce a crop commercially in the UK, but effectively they’re all imported from the US, Egypt, Vietnam and Spain) a can of black beans (There are trials going on to see if there are varieties that can be grown in the UK but they’re largely exported by India, Myanmar, Brazil and the USA) and a can of red kidney beans. (Again the main exporters are Thailand, Brazil, South Africa, Ukraine, and Papua New Guinea. These beans probably like a warmer climate than we can manage.)

Finally (because I’m just doing the first three) Spiced aubergine bake.

Of course the aubergines are largely imported as commercial production in the UK is under plastic and may involve some heat, (so don’t look for an expansion of UK production any time soon) whilst I suspect that you will search for a long time to find the UK coconut plantations to provide you with the coconut milk.

So we have a war, a food and an energy crisis, and a vocal minority have convinced government this can be tackled by importing expensive food from abroad.

But to be fair they’re not the only ones taking advantage of a good crisis. I know somebody who had to take a family member to hospital. Of course they were not allowed in A&E with them. So an elderly, injured and vulnerable person was separated from anybody they knew. The person they most wanted with them was left outside in the carpark. At night. In the dark. But this lady left on her own in the carpark couldn’t just go home, she had to wait there so the hospital could tell her to come and take the elderly person home. Perhaps. In their own sweet time.

And at 3am, after six or seven hours, alone in her car on a dark carpark, she could finally take the person home.
Come on, why?
What on earth is the epidemiological reasoning behind this? I could see it if hospital staff led closeted lives, not mixing with anybody and keeping themselves in a bubble. But I know hospital staff. They go home to their families, they kiss their children good night even through the children mix with everybody else at school. For all I know they might even condescend to kiss their partners. They go into shops (unmasked and with no PPE) and they are even seen in public houses and other places of entertainment. So if doing these things is so dangerous, why on earth are they allowed into hospital? They’ve every bit as potentially infectious as the rest of us.
The sneaking suspicion is that it’s no longer epidemiological, it’s just we’re a damned nuisance and if they can discourage us from going in, it makes life easier for them. Especially if there’s nobody with sharp elbows asking why they haven’t done their job properly.

And we’ve seen other people using the crisis. I think that government has had a lot less trouble pushing forward nuclear than it would have had. In this case events have concentrated minds. Similarly others have grasped the opportunity to push forward with electric cars, which are starting to look more economic.

But I confess I do wonder. Electric cars will not work for a lot of people who currently run a car. They are fine if you have a nice house with a drive and even a garage. You can back your car into the garage overnight and charge it at the cheapest times in perfect security. If you live in a flat are you going to have to dangle your expensive and anonymous copper cable out of the window and across the carpark to your car?

Or perhaps that brief window of human existence when perfectly ordinary people had the opportunity to just go anywhere they wanted, at a whim, without worrying about timetables and suchlike, is drawing to a close?

And a final thought, people are trapped between high energy prices, high food prices and high housing costs. In all candour, government can do very little about food costs. They could cut fuel duty, but again, most of our energy is imported to they can do very little about energy costs. But housing costs is something they might be able to tackle. After all, we don’t ‘import it’.
There’s already talk about increasing taxes on second homes. I suspect that will go down well enough with voters.

But what about capping rents. Limiting them to a maximum of £x per square meter (or yard or whatever) so that, for example, a three bedroomed house was no more than £650 a month. Combined with regular inspections to make sure they were fit for habitation. Yes there would be howls from buy to let landlords but the answer to them need only be, “Well you can always sell up.” I suspect the releasing of housing onto the market would bring prices down with a bang. Electorally this could play well for the government that brought it in. Far too much money in this country goes into housing as it is. It’s warping the economy. Perhaps we shouldn’t let a good crisis go to waste?


There again, what do I know. Ask an expert.


As a reviewer commented, “This book charts a year in the life of a Cumbrian sheep farmer. It’s sprinkled with anecdotes and memories of other years. Some parts (especially when featuring Sal, the Border Collie) were so funny as to cause me to have to read them out loud to my husband. It’s very interesting to read these things from the pen of the man who is actually out there doing it – usually in the rain! A very good read.

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36 thoughts on “Never let a good crisis go to waste

  1. Eddy Winko June 12, 2022 at 4:56 am Reply

    Next time someone asks me if I would like to move back to the UK I think I will stick with the two letter answer and use your post as a reason why 🙂
    Not that Poland is fairing any better, but its good to know the alternative is no better, and massively more expensive!

    • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 5:16 am Reply

      pretty much sums it up. And don’t get me started on heat pumps 🙂

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 12, 2022 at 6:18 pm

        We started considering heat pumps until we realised that they trash your EPC rating.

      • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 6:28 pm

        And don’t get me started on EPC ratings. They make no allowance for the fact our walls are knocking on for three feet thick because they aren’t cavity walls 😦

      • rootsandroutes2012 June 12, 2022 at 6:32 pm

        Benn there, done that…

  2. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 12, 2022 at 5:17 am Reply

    But there are cheap cans of beans at the store!

    Some people have no clue where things are grown and why – they’ve never had the pleasure of removing cabbage loopworms from broccoli, or washing the soil of a root vegetable they grew themselves. Sad.

    You can’t have it both ways: either you have stuff going across borders freely, or you don’t for some reason. Sounds like the government trying to ignore consequences. Vegan – in prisons? When it’s too expensive for many households? They’ll insist it be done – and not provide the funds.

    • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 5:18 am Reply

      Remember a lot of these foods cannot be grown in the UK anyway

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 12, 2022 at 5:24 am

        I know that. You know that. Apparently, ‘they’ don’t. They think you can grow fruits that require warm weather and lots of sun – anywhere. When even if you could, they would not meet the consumers’ expectations for quality.

        I don’t know about Britain, but we are pretty spoiled on our side of the pond. And I still don’t know how they do it: I can have fresh strawberries – really good sweet ones – 365 days of the year so far since we moved to California. And they are HUGE.

        We live not far from huge almond and walnut groves. Most of the rice of some kind (California growers produce about 20% of the U.S. rice harvest. Medium grain varieties dominate California production, accounting for roughly 90% of the production.) is grown between our city and Sacramento, the capital a half hour away. Considering the drought, I wonder what machinations are going on.

      • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 5:29 am

        Yes, a vegan diet for the masses in the UK in winter would consist of potatoes, brussels spouts, cabbage and broad beans 🙂
        You could have turnip or swede for a chance and perhaps apples out of store for feast days

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 12, 2022 at 5:21 pm

        Very medieval. Maybe they’d stop whinging after a couple of winters like that.

        Lack of a background in history shows.

      • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 6:27 pm

        People have just lost touch with the underlying reality 😦

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 12, 2022 at 8:03 pm

        Ordinary people are stressed; it’s understandable. Officialdom should do much better – and they’re not. They don’t want to take the popularity hit. Infuriating watching them try to shift blame.

      • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 8:28 pm

        I suspect the officials haven’t grasped how much the world has changed. Most of them have no training or experience in the relevant industries (very few people have) and even officials are just citizens who have grown up knowing instinctively that food comes from supermarkets and there’s always plenty of it.
        Not only that but in the UK food and agricultural policy has gone in the same direction pretty much whoever was in power for the last fifty or more years. So you have politicians who in theory could change policy but frankly don’t know enough and officials who could advise a change of policy but again, don’t know whether it’s time to.
        After all it’s not much over 100 days since the war started. Some committees will not have met three times. The first meeting would have had no incentive to change policy. Everything is far too up in the air. The second wouldn’t be much better. Only at the third is it looking as if this war could go on for years. But some may have been counting on the French and Germans to swing the EU behind convincing the Ukrainians to surrender land for peace. It’s now becoming apparently that a lot of the EU, especially the East, has no intention of falling for that. So I suppose that from the point of view of officials, there is a growing probability of it being a long war. So a change of policy may be necessary. But it’ll be summer soon, and a lot of them are working from home anyway, so don’t expect anything to happen at speed.
        With regard to policy makers, Parliament goes into summer recess from 21 July 2022 to the 5th Sept 2022, then they’re in recess for Conference, 22 Sept 2022 to 17 Oct 2022
        If things work as they normally do we might see consultation documents in October with the idea of a decision after Christmas
        The wild card is Boris. He’s shown a better grasp of the Ukrainian situation than most but knows no more about food etc than the others. Also he’s desperately fighting for his political life.
        He might come to the conclusion that business as usual will finish him. So he might just be desperate enough, or have the guts enough to just tear up the old policies and push through a new one.
        Or he could be so weakened and desperate to watch his back he can do nothing

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 12, 2022 at 8:42 pm

        Sad to depend on BJ having guts – unless he sees a benefit to himself. Big risk for him, either way, and many people would like to see anything be the hill he dies on.

        Peacetime and wartime require different leaders – and trample all over human rights.

      • jwebster2 June 13, 2022 at 4:43 am

        The problem is a lot of people will never forgive him for taking us out of the EU. He remains a hate figure for them. Those people who approve of him taking us out of the EU have now moved on to the next problem so there is little gratitude.
        But it does mean that for a lot of the media, the universities and suchlike, even people in his own party, he will never be able to do the right thing, even if it is actually the right thing he’s doing

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 13, 2022 at 6:35 am

        Change is coming – we’ll see what happens over the next few years. Maybe the next person will be better at hiding the bad stuff.

      • jwebster2 June 13, 2022 at 7:16 am

        No hope in a world of social media. 😦

      • Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt June 13, 2022 at 6:34 pm


  3. Doug Jacquier June 12, 2022 at 5:42 am Reply

    Vintage rant, Jim, at the top of your form. We’re still in the honeymoon phase of a new Labor Government here and I’m hoping to see glimpses of rationality peaking through the clouds of inflation, food prices (largely because it won’t stop bloody raining in our food belts) and fuel prices (which are of course making the transport of what food is available even more expensive). But that will have to wait until we’ve paid off the French with nearly a billion dollars to compensate them for not building submarines we ordered from them but then cancelled because the previous Government signed up with you and the Yanks for some nuclear submarines that will be delivered some time in the next millennium.
    Like the UK, the housing crisis here is appalling and the gap between Government benefits and the poverty line just keeps widening.
    Regarding electric cars, on top of the fact that no-one’s really worked out to how to recycle the batteries safely, we are now told that the amount of new mining projects needed for the materials to build EV’s on a mass scale will need to be double that currently operating in the world’s biggest quarry (i.e. Aus). Oh, and they will require double the water required for existing mines, which are currently struggling to access sufficient water.
    But at least the sun shines here occasionally. Chuck it in and come and join us, 🙂

    • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 5:51 am Reply

      I have family in Australia, I couldn’t cope with your summer. 🙂
      Look on the bright side, if the French subs were as reliable as their aircraft carriers, you’ve saved a fortune in tug hire 😉
      But yes the whole electric car thing is a nightmare and I think food prices are going to concentrate a lot of minds as we go into winter.
      I also wonder what people are going to do about central heating in this country this coming winter.

      • alphaandomega21 June 30, 2022 at 9:18 pm

        Perhaps they will knit jumpers instead? Perhaps people will start living together more and huddle together.

  4. Doug June 12, 2022 at 5:43 am Reply

    Why would the government food policy not be as useful, well thought out, and as deliverable as all their other policies?

    Personally I get great satisfaction from growing things, but I don’t fool myself I could feed me in anything other than a very limited fashion, and I have a small greenhouse. This year we will have apples, pears, cherries, leeks, strawberries, three varieties of lettuce, potatoes, broad beans, runner beans, peas, squash, tomatoes and chillies. Of course these will be ready to harvest at the same time as a glut appears on the shelves of supermarkets. And there’s always Kale, seaweed and sprouts if you get desperate.

    • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 5:52 am Reply

      There’s a lot that you can do at home if you have something like that. I remember one old chap working miracles with a ‘french hot bed’ and some old window frames he’d salvaged from a demolished house

      • Doug June 12, 2022 at 6:08 am

        I’m just hopeful the thing will hang together in the high winds we have been getting. But it’s so satisfying to watch everything grow, and after living so many years in Oz, to not have to watch our plantings shrvel and die in the midday sun. 5 tons of compost helps…bought very cheaply from the local council who make it.

      • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 12:31 pm

        Yes something just to hold the moisture in

  5. Jack Eason June 12, 2022 at 6:09 am Reply

    I’ve always said that if we were meant to be herbivores we’d be elbowing the cows and sheep aside to get at the best grass. God save us from all idiots; politicians et al…

    • jwebster2 June 12, 2022 at 12:31 pm Reply


    • alphaandomega21 June 30, 2022 at 9:22 pm Reply

      Moo-sic to my ears to hear you say that. God is doing His best, but is going rather bald as he is tearing His hair out at the stupidity.”Look if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times…”

  6. Dan Holdsworth June 13, 2022 at 9:44 am Reply

    A lot of the problem with veganism and vegan foods is that as a species, humans cannot thrive on a purely plant-based diet without quite a lot of trouble. Millions of years of evolution have forced a few things onto us; we cannot synthesise our own vitamin C or B-vitamins, and we are also unable to synthesise a range of fatty acids our brains rely on for development.

    We need meat to develop from child to adult and hit our full potentials, and we need a lesser amount of meat as adults to continue to thrive. Much of Africa lacks this level of omnivory, and as such mental retardation from lack of proteins and fats is commonplace. If this veganism thing carries on, we’ll start seeing actual childhood diet-based retardation in this country too.

    Vegans are also not, in the main, agriculturalists. They are noisy and can generally bore the hind end off a donkey, but actual facts are thin on the ground. As it stands in the UK, only a small percentage of the land is really good cropland, and then only if we control crop pests. There’s a somewhat larger area that will grow crops passably well if you can keep up inputs of natural and inorganic fertilisers, and there are very large areas that only really grow grass or other poor land specialists well.

    We cannot eat native grass species; we only eat the seeds of imported mutants like wheat, barley and oats. Livestock such as sheep and cattle, both grass-eating specialists which use micro-organisms in their guts to digest cellulose, can thrive on these grasslands and we can then utilise the land by taking a harvest from these animals.

    Once again, this is dependent on people understanding this and understanding that the situation isn’t natural and that we are going to have to control pests. Examples of these include badgers, which carry tuberculosis to which cattle are highly susceptible; reducing the numbers of badgers is the only effective measure here.

    Finally we have Scotland. A strange place or as my mother colourfully put it “Miles and miles of bugger all”. The underlying rocks of England and Scotland are very different, and Scotland is mostly igneous and not very fertile. Most Scots now live in cities and few try to make a living out of the poor environment there. Politics in Scotland is thus the politics of the cities, and damn well shows this.

    • jwebster2 June 13, 2022 at 3:01 pm Reply

      I think you’ve summed it up nicely

  7. Stevie Turner June 20, 2022 at 3:47 pm Reply

    How will the National Grid cope with millions of electric cars all charging at the same time? This electric car thing isn’t going to work unless thousands more charging points are installed and the price of the cars reduced. ‘Clean Air’ charges are happening in cities, but I think it’s just a money-making scheme. People will use their cars whatever if they have to go somewhere in a hurry.

    • jwebster2 June 20, 2022 at 4:17 pm Reply

      That is one of the problems, charging points. One or two people have suggested to me that electric cars are a dead end, children slaving to mine stuff for their unrecyclable batteries, and few people having anywhere they can charge them.
      Apparently there is some thought that with hydrogen cars they might just get round the problem of the fuel by having a cylinder you just slot in and slot out so you’d stick the usual filling stations but without pumps

      • Stevie Turner June 20, 2022 at 4:33 pm

        Sounds feasible. Also the government will lose out on fuel duty, so they’ll have to invent another tax.

      • jwebster2 June 20, 2022 at 5:39 pm

        Yes apparently that is already being discussed.

  8. Jack Eason June 22, 2022 at 6:46 am Reply

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from our farming correspondent Jim…

  9. alphaandomega21 June 30, 2022 at 9:12 pm Reply

    Dear Jim

    Hello from the UK. Many thanks for your post. Yous say “What on earth is the epidemiological reasoning behind this?” I consider you answer very reasonable.

    I would say myself the answer is there is none. This is because Covid 19 is the ‘flu re-branded in 2020 by big pharma etc to make more money. And although I didn’t realise this until I researched properly in 2020 at the grand old age of 60 years, you can’t actually catch the ‘flu from someone else.

    This is because the ‘flu is the internal toxicosis of the body, mainly via urea, partly due to metabolism of food and partly due to the many poisons in our environment which can and do enter our bodies in the air, food and water.

    My experience of the NHS is that it lost the plot entirely in 2020. I was also mis-diagnosed with cancer and received immuno-therapy as a consequence. This has probably added to my symptoms, a facial palsy. I am not very happy about this which is putting it politely.

    You say “Far too much money in this country goes into housing as it is. It’s warping the economy.” As someone who was a building surveyor I quite agree. I blame the Germans myself as they have been up to their old tricks. They took our industrial base; we used to make excellent stuff. They even own Rolls Royce. I’d like it back in British hands (not that I want a Rolls Royce as I am quite happy with my bicycle!).

    Kind regards

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