Real life

Why farming needs Ben Wallace

23 July 2022

9:00 AM

23 July 2022

9:00 AM

My phone buzzed and rang while I was doing the horses until I thought, fine, I’ll call the Defence Secretary back. I sat down on a picnic chair by the muck heap and dialled.

He was extremely courteous. He just wanted to point out that he really didn’t want to be Prime Minister. The profile I had written of him was very good, he said, but the one thing he wanted to put me straight on was, well, the whole premise of the article. He didn’t want the top job, no matter what I had heard.

I told him my sources were impeccable. He didn’t need to be so modest. But he insisted people had got him wrong. He really, really didn’t want it.

He’s a nice chap, Ben Wallace. I could tell as much from talking to him. He said he had my number because we had spoken before. It must have been a while back. I have so many people in my phone from the days when I was clattering in stilettos around the corridors at Westminster being a political correspondent that I’m amused to look through my contacts now. As I scroll through, it even says ‘Carrie Tories’. I’m sure Mrs Johnson has changed her number since she gave it to me when she was working as a press officer, but wouldn’t it be funny if I dialled it and she answered.

‘Hello? Carrie? Hi! It’s me! You gave me your number and said to call if I had any queries. Well, I have a few. Let me see… there’s actually quite a long list of things…’

I won’t do that because it’s just my luck she might answer and I couldn’t face it.

But Ben Wallace is a lovely chap. And even though I hate it when people call me to complain I do think it’s good, plain dealing and as much as I’d like not to get told off by government ministers in the morning while I’m trying to do the horses, I thought I would, because it’s only fair.

So I answered and he got going with the whole ‘I don’t want to be Prime Minister, no really I don’t’ thing and I let him go on for a while and then I said words to the effect of: Look, don’t think me rude, but I’ve got two stables to muck out. Can I cut to the chase?

I pointed out that a lot of former Boris fans like me were aghast – at everything, really. The illegal parties, the lefty environmental nonsense, the endless Carrie-fication of reshuffles and strategy and policy-making.

The consensus was that, much as we felt sorry for Boris, people were starting to talk at dinner parties. I don’t go to many but I was at one the other month and the rotund Tory grandees around the table were tearing out the few strands of hair they share between them.

Had he considered, therefore, that even though he didn’t want the top job, things had gone beyond what he wanted. Maybe he should just get used to the idea that Tory members liked him so he needed to stand.

But his reply was that he really wasn’t going to. And I didn’t quite believe him, although now I suppose I do, because with the contest up and running, Ben Wallace has been true to his word and ruled himself out.

That’s a shame, because once we had finished debating whether he really didn’t want it, what we then went on to talk about was my favourite topic.

Because having heard me say I was doing the horses, he started talking about the countryside, and the problems I’ve been having keeping livestock on the disappearing fields and farms of Surrey.

He seemed to care. He said the government needed to put the word farming back into Defra. What a shame he’s not standing, then, because I don’t suppose any of the others give two hoots about what rural people think about issues outside the Westminster bubble because inside the bubble they’re all too busy discussing the merits of the plant-based burger they’re eating for lunch at some trendy London eaterie.

I’m willing to bet none of the contenders are going to talk about our country being in the grip of a virtue-signalling cult of veganism that is contributing to the already perfect storm of problems sending our farmers out of business so that ever more of our meat and milk is coming from abroad.

I would sum up the Boris Johnson era thus: what Carrie wants Carrie gets. Rewilding, that was her thing.

And now the pair of them are being set free from Downing Street to roam the political wilderness, you could say she’s got what she wanted.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments