George Eustice has not enjoyed an easy time since being elevated to the Cabinet last year. The environment secretary has had a lot on his plate with the Brexit fall out, pesticide squabbles, a department dominated by Goldsmith allies and near-endless rows about free trade deals impacting Britain's food. This week a Cabinet row over talks with Australia has exploded out into the open with Eustice's faction concerned about the consequences for British farmers if trade secretary Liz Truss secures a tariff-free deal.
Not for nothing is a new nickname for the hapless minister now doing the rounds: George Useless. Tory MPs have been heard uttering the phrase in exasperation, with Tory backbencher Peter Bone inadvertently voicing the soubriquet on Radio 4's Today programme this morning. Commenting on the government's response to international travel, Bone prompted presenter Martha Kearney to correct him in the following exchange:
“Bone: Well I thought Lord Bethell's comments were wrong and I mean just plain wrong. And I mean anyone who knows anything about the travel industry is that the travel industry goes out of its way to put safety as its number one issue so I thought he was just having a bad day. George Useless I think was also not correct –
“Kearney: George Eustice I think?
“Bone: Yes sorry yes my pronouncing – it is early in the morning, at least it is for me anyway.
It's not the first time Today has been the scene of such a gaffe of course. Steerpike suspects that Kearney was just glad Bone's mispronunciation did not compare to her predecessor Jim Naughtie's unfortunate slip up in 2010 when introducing the the then culture secretary Jeremy Hunt.