The Telegraph’s serial fraud Christopher Booker had no doubt about the real hero of sorting the Somerset floods, when dispensing his dubiously sourced pearls of wisdom the weekend before Young Dave’s cabinet reshuffle. “The real unsung hero of this story has been our Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson” he told readers. The fact that it stopped raining might have also helped, of course.
“For years now, Paterson has had the powerful ‘environmental’ lobby foaming at the mouth, because he has dared to question so many of their fashionable delusions. But it is hard to think of any minister whose decisive, down-to-earth leadership has been more effective in helping to solve such an immense practical problem” rambled Booker, as he heaped praise on his new hero.
His words were more effective than he could have predicted: soon afterwards, Paterson had been summoned by Cameron to be given the hard word, and he was out, replaced by Liz Truss. The sacked MP duly found solace in somehow allowing his thoughts to be heard by Mail On Sunday political editor Simon Walters, in a move which may not find favour at 10 Downing Street.
“If you sack me it is a smash in the teeth for the 12 million people who live in the countryside. I am one of the few Conservatives who really understand them ... If you chuck me out you are rejecting everything I have stood for ... I can out-Ukip Ukip” he is reported to have recalled, with “A Senior MP” telling “Owen was shocked to be told he was losing his job. The PM said he had to make way for new faces”.
Who was that “Senior MP”? Most likely Paterson himself, rather like the “Well-placed source” who said “Mr Paterson launched a passionate defence of his record, saying: ‘I have been every bit as radical in environment as Michael Gove has been at education and Iain Duncan Smith with welfare ... I have not been afraid to take on the greens on everything, from fracking to GM foods, the badger cull, even bees!’”
So that’s a routine level of counter-briefing, then. But despite his refusal to go quietly, and mildly inconvenient stance on a number of issues, Booker has rushed to defend Paterson: “It is hard to recall recently a more direct political insult than his contemptuous sacking of Owen Paterson as our Environment Secretary; a man who, below the media radar, has been the most effective of all his ministers”.
There was more: “Cameron’s treatment of his most effective minister is not just an insult to Paterson – it is also an insult to the countryside and to the political process; a surrender to those who put mindless spin above the need to see our country sensibly and intelligently run”. One might think that, after cursing Paterson once, Booker might stop and think. Who knows what fate may befall the MP next?
With friends like Christopher Booker, no politician is in need of enemies.