Most of you will by now be familiar with the ‘Tory Toff’ label applied to many of the Cabinet. You may not be so familiar with one who has raised toffdom to an art form.
Introducing Richard Benyon, as the Independent says, “a scion of a well-known Berkshire landowning and political family: he is the great-great grandson of Lord Salisbury, that most aristocratic of Tory Prime Ministers at the end of the 19th century.
Thus, he is not only a toff: he is as grand a toff as they come, and his CV displays the archetype of the Tory landed gentleman: educated at Bradfield, the well-known Berkshire public school, army service in the Royal Green Jackets, until its amalgamation perhaps the smartest of the infantry regiments, and an estate management degree at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester, the Oxford for young gentleman farmers.
His is the type of Old Tory background David Cameron is none too keen on highlighting. Today, Mr Benyon presides over the Englefield Estate, 20,000 acres of beautiful Berkshire countryside, and you might well expect that with his background, he would enjoy game shooting. The problem is, he has taken his enthusiasm with him into Government, and it is now clashing with his conservation responsibilities.
Keen observers have started to notice that under his tenure, the wildlife part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has been favouring shooting interests over conservation. For example, in the spring, when Natural England, the Government's wildlife watchdog, was attempting to prosecute the owners of a grouse moor in the Pennines, Walshaw Moor, for damaging protected bogland, Defra – read Mr Benyon – forced it to drop the prosecution. That went largely unnoticed; perhaps it emboldened him. But his extraordinary decision to allow buzzards' nests to be destroyed with shotguns will be noticed, and resented, and challenged, all over Britain. It is a classic case of a minister so blinded by his personal enthusiasms that his political judgement deserts him completely.” Independent 29th May
There are even better reasons to despise this arch toff. The unsubstantiated claims about the Buzzard and the reaction from Defra without a shred of evidence is concerning. It gets worse. The news that the Hen Harrier faces extinction in England has been met with a deafening silence from Defra. The majority of the recorded casualties occured on land owned by the huntin ‘n shootin fraternity who also happen to be very wealthy supporters of the tory party. This damning revelation is allegedly contained in a report suppressed by Natural England. Don't want to upset the toffs do we.......
Just in case anyone is in any doubt let us reiterate; Benyon ‘enjoys’ game shooting. This includes importing pheasant chicks from France so they can be fattened up on these sporting estates. Large amounts of public funds are diverted to these estates for ‘conservation’ ie killing all potential predators (many protected by the law of the land) while claiming the contrary. Colossal numbers of pheasants are killed every year in a manner that could best be described as shooting fish in a barrel by chaps with little willies and even smaller brains.