27 SEPTEMBER 2003, Page 39

No votes in farming

From Frederick Forsyth

Sir: Seeking the real rogue behind the failure of the Cancun talks, your leading article of 20 September settles not entirely unpredictably upon that universal blackguard. the British farmer. As one of these perpetual scapegoats, let me suggest your sniperscope was off-target. Pre-1957 the Common Agricultural Policy was dictated (literally) by the French. The aim was clear: to force the urbanised members of the EU to featherbed the grotesquely inefficient French farmer in perpetuity.

For 30 years the British have been promised, year on year, a reform of this obscenity. Each year, the French government, of whatever hue, flatly vetoes the slightest change and maintains the naked self-interest of protectionism. Paris was still doing this at Cancun, but on behalf of the whole EU of which we are members.

Over the years the British taxpayer has shovelled huge amounts of money into the pockets of Continental farmers. The reason is simple. In France and Germany (and the USA, by the way), offended farmers mean an intolerable loss of votes. Not here. British agriculture has no electoral clout and the present government hates our guts anyway. So please: blame where it is merited — Paris, not Farmer Giles.

Frederick Forsyth