Colin Brazier

Why Britain’s farmers aren’t revolting

A farmer gets to work in New Romney, Kent (Credit: Getty images)

Europe’s ablaze, but not on this side of the English Channel. Paris has been besieged. Dutch politics turned upside down. Yet in the country that gave history the Peasant’s Revolt, the only thing British farmers are flailing is hedgerows. As tractors blockade the chancelleries of Belgium and Germany, why is it that the only traffic gridlock caused by British agriculture is the queue of cars outside Jeremy Clarkson’s café?

Partly, it’s who we are. Battlefields of industrial strife like Peterloo and Orgreave aside, our culture of protest is different. As the comedienne Victoria Wood put it, the British do not have revolutions, preferring instead to write to ‘Points of View’. Roger Scruton, speaking as both philosopher and farmer, noted that – if forced to demonstrate – many of us would limply raise an arm and whisper ‘hesitate!’

With their increasingly gigantic tractors, British farmers could bring Whitehall and Westminster to a standstill with a speed that would make Just Stop Oil orange with envy. However, with the exception of the odd muck-spreader who redecorates his local council headquarters after falling-out over planning, disruptive protests are not the stuff of British farming.

British farmers could bring Westminster to a standstill with a speed that would make Just Stop Oil orange with envy

It is not that farmers lack a cause. British agriculture contends with many of the same cost pressures, environmental red-tape and supermarket rapacity endured by our continental counterparts. In the last year more than 30 farmers have died bringing food to a nation which talks the talk about a fair deal for farmers, without walking the walk. How else can we account for shoppers who pay more for water than milk?

Does British farming lack angry leaders? No. The fuel protests which almost brought the Blair government to its knees in 2000 were led by David Handley, a dairy farmer from Monmouthshire.

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