PM 'more interested' in selfies with Kaleb Cooper than UK food crisis
Rishi Sunak slammed for being ‘more interested’ in Instagram selfies with Clarkson’s Farm star Kaleb Cooper than Britain’s food crisis as industry figures deride No10 farming summit as ‘nothing more than a PR stunt’
- Critics round on the PM after he hosts a ‘Farm to Fork’ summit in Downing Street
Rishi Sunak has been accused of being ‘more interested’ in Instagram selfies with Clarkson’s Farm star Kaleb Cooper than tackling Britain’s food crisis.
Critics rounded on the Prime Minister after he hosted a ‘Farm to Fork’ summit, attended by Cooper, in Downing Street on Tuesday.
Mr Sunak was quick to share snaps of his meeting with the 24-year-old, as they sat down on hay bales placed in the No10 garden, on his Instagram account.
It left one attendee to brand the summit an ’empty meeting’, while another said it remained to be seen whether it was mere ‘window dressing’ by the PM.
Mr Sunak was also criticised for failing to demonstrate a ‘laser focus on immediate issues’ amid sky-high inflation.
An industry figure dismissed the event as ‘no more than a PR stunt’ as the Tories look to secure rural votes ahead of the general election.
Rishi Sunak has been accused of being ‘more interested’ in Instagram selfies with Clarkson’s Farm star Kaleb Cooper than tackling Britain’s food crisis
Critics rounded on the Prime Minister after he hosted a ‘Farm to Fork’ summit, attended by Cooper, in Downing Street on Tuesday
Shortly after his meeting with Cooper, the PM eagerly posted pictures of them both – as well as fellow Clarkson’s Farm star ‘Cheerful’ Charlie Ireland – on social media
Yet others were more enthusiastic about the summit, with National Farmers’ Union president Minette Batters welcoming a ‘very positive’ event.
Cooper himself said the PM ‘100 per cent’ understood the countryside and had farmers’ concerns ‘at the front’ of his mind.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Clarkson – who owns the Oxfordshire farm made famous by the Amazon Prime series Clarkson’s Farm – hailed a pledge by Mr Sunak to cut red tape for farmers looking to convert old buildings to farm shops as ‘extremely good news’.
Yesterday’s summit was held against the backdrop of soaring food inflation and supermarket shortages as the industry battles with supply chain problems.
Shortly after his meeting with Cooper, the PM eagerly posted pictures of them both – as well as fellow Clarkson’s Farm star ‘Cheerful’ Charlie Ireland – on social media.
Mr Sunak wrote: ‘Farming isn’t just a job. It’s a way of life. And it doesn’t matter how young you are, there’s a role for you in farming. Anyone can do it.
‘And farming businesses really thrive from having young entrepreneurial spirit.’
The PM also revealed he and Cooper ‘compared hairstyles’, with the young farmer known for regularly changing his ‘do.
But, amid wider criticism over the actual usefulness of the food summit, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron – the party’s environment spokesperson – said: ‘Far from solving the national food crisis Rishi Sunak looked more interested in some selfies for his Instagram rather than addressing the needs of British farmers.
‘The Conservative Government has consistently taken farmers for granted and let them down, a fresh crop of photos won’t change that, real action will.’
Labour’s shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon branded the No10 food summit ‘all talk and no action’ and said it was ‘an insult to the grafters who work tirelessly to keep the country fed’.
He claimed the Government had ‘treated farmers, producers and all of us hit by the cost-of-living crisis with contempt’.
One representative of a trade body that attended yesterday’s summit told the Guardian it was an ’empty meeting’ with no action on inflation discussed.
‘It was there for the Tories to show they are supporting farmers,’ they said.
Another said the event ‘did not touch the fundamental problems of food price inflation’.
Cooper himself said the PM ‘100 per cent’ understood the countryside and had farmers’ concerns ‘at the front’ of his mind, following their meeting in No10
‘He’s got the farming community in his head, not at the back of his head, actually, at the front,’ Cooper said of Mr Sunak
Food and Drink Federation chief executive Karen Betts said the summit was a ‘constructive first step in addressing some of the complex challenges the UK food system is currently facing’.
But she added: ‘It’s a pity there wasn’t more of a laser focus on immediate issues and the drivers of inflation. While some of these are beyond everyone’s control, many are not.
‘Action to fill labour and skills shortages and to simplify current and upcoming regulation, as well as simplifying post-Brexit labelling changes, would help to drive down prices.’
Aled Jones, president of NFU Cymru, told BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today it ‘remains to be seen’ whether the summit would prove to be more than ‘window dressing’ by the PM.
‘What I would like to see is the commitments, the warm words being translated into action, something that’s measurable,’ he said.
Richard Griffiths, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, said the event was a ‘crucial first step towards building effective solutions with industry colleagues to prioritise a sustainable food system for all’.
But he warned it must lead to ‘real tangible change’, adding: ‘We must now ensure that this doesn’t pivot into a side step around the big issues we are waiting for more detail on.’
Lee Stiles, the secretary of the Lea Valley Growers’ Association, a trade body for glasshouse growers, was not among the attendees of the event but described it as ‘no more than a PR stunt’ with ‘nothing of substance’ to help growers.
In an interview with Farming Today after meeting with the PM, Cooper said Mr Sunak ‘100 per cent’ understood the concerns of those from rural areas.
‘He’s got the farming community in his head, not at the back of his head, actually, at the front,’ the Clarkson’s Farm star said.
‘He’s thinking about all the time, while doing this incredibly hard job because, let’s face it, running the country is going to be hard, isn’t it?’
Asked whether the summit was merely a means for the PM to shore up Tory voters, Cooper added: ‘I don’t get political like that, to be honest with you. If we can make him change the world of farming and help the farmers out, brilliant.’
Yesterday’s summit was hosted by the PM against the backdrop of soaring food inflation and supermarket shortages as the industry battles with supply chain problems
The No10 event was dismissed by some as ‘no more than a PR stunt’ as Mr Sunak looks to secure rural votes ahead of the general election
Clarkson himself did not attend the summit but praised Mr Sunak for plans to make it easier for British farmers to diversify their incomes, such as through setting up farm shops on their land.
Under the Government’s proposals, farmers would no longer need to seek permission from local councils to repurpose farm buildings.
The move comes after the much-publicised travails of Clarkson to turn a profit on his Diddly Squat Farm.
The series has revealed the ex-Top Gear host’s many planning battles over his Diddly Squat Farm Shop, as well as his bid to set up a restaurant on his Oxfordshire farm.
A consultation on the Government’s plans will be launched later this year, which Clarkson described as ‘extremely good news’.
NFU president Minette Batters described the food summit as ‘timely’.
Speaking outside Downing Street after the meeting, she said: ‘I think the move was very positive.
‘It’s the first Farm to Fork food summit that No10 have ever hosted and extremely timely because, of course, we’re facing enormous cost inflation pressures.
‘The PM hosted this summit, members of Cabinet circulated with everybody beforehand so there was opportunity for everybody here to have conversations right across Government.
‘Ultimately, that is what No10 does, it brings departments together to solve problems, but also, I think, a strong ambition, a new attache is appointed today for British food, not only at home but abroad as well.’
The union leader said she had ten minutes alone with the PM and spoke to Mr Sunak about how a billion less eggs were produced last year, how salad ingredients had to be rationed and how to make Britain more self-sufficient.
‘I’m really confident that he gets the issue. He is from a very rural constituency, farming is at the heart of his constituency,’ she added.
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