Sink or Swim
20th March, 2001
Opinionated and outspoken, often wildly at odds with the government’s line, the UK’s environment minister Michael Meacher is, by his own reckoning, a lone voice in the wilderness.
Michael Meacher is in something of a ministerial hurry. As we bustle down the steps of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs a car pulls up to whisk us away. Five hundred metres down the road it stops in front of the House of Commons and we all pile out again. The minister turns to us with a smile. ‘Not a very good start, eh?’ he says. ‘The Ecologist is here to interview me and I start by doing a Prescott.’
‘Doing a Prescott’. It’s not exactly what you’d call ‘on message’. One can’t imagine finding it in the official New Labour dictionary (which is like other dictionaries except the definitions are changed with each new edition and education is listed three times), any more than one would find ‘Doing a Byers’ – to continue to lie in the face of unrelenting media pressure – or ‘Doing a Morris’ – to act with honour to save the face of one much more powerful. But neither would you expect to find ‘Doing a Meacher’, because it has never meant towing the party line.
The environment minister has made a name for himself by veering away from the Third Way to such an extent...
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