If you are a follower of British politics in any way shape or form you could not have failed to notice that before the last election David Cameron; then leader of the Tory party and now Prime Minister; was very keen to nail his colours to the mast. “The NHS is safe with me!” he proudly proclaimed, praising, after his disabled son's tragic death, the enormous help it had been in the care and treatment of his son. Now that he is in power the NHS is anything but safe with crackpot and untested schemes about to roll out across England in the name of money-saving, by getting GPs to handle more paperwork and do all the work previously done by administrators (where they are supposed to find the extra time for this and still see patients is not clear). Wales and Scotland must be glad that their assembly and parliament and not Westminster have control of the NHS in their countries.
Anyway, as much as I would like to rant on about this issue that is probably best left to another blog entirely, what concerns me is another big lie Cameron told before he was elected. Remember how keen he was to present his green credentials? He even came to work on a bike to do this to show how keen he was to reduce carbon emissions (he was actually followed by a ministerial car carrying his briefcase, though, so it didn't really work that well in practice). He was keen to point out that the Tory party had changed and that the protection of the environment, rather than its exploitation for profit, was one of their top priorities, even to the extent where he changed the Tory's logo from a burning torch to a tree that looked like it had been drawn by one of his kids (“Oh well done Tarquin, is that meant to be a tree? Lets pop it on the fridge where everyone can see it. Hang on, I've just had a better idea...”). Add to that the potential for some “green taxes” to reduce the deficit that could easily be evaded by the rich then you had the assurance that if you cut David 'call me Dave' Cameron he would bleed nothing but green blood.
Well, guess what? Yes, that was all what is colloquially referred to as bullsh*t. Having been in power less than a year what does 'call me Dave' want to do? Sell off all of Britain's forests to property developers and privatise/ wind down the forestry commission. This makes little sense from an economic standpoint because, the forestry commission does make a profit from the growing of trees in rotation on its land and in the current financial situation the land will have to be sold off comparatively cheaply so it is not even a good idea for a short term financial fix. Also, once that land and source of income for the government is gone it will stay gone so once the money runs out from the sale of the land, that's it, wasted. From an ecological point of view it makes even less sense. On forestry commission land trees are grown in a sustainable manner often in a mosaic pattern meaning that it is easy for the wildlife from one felled area of woodland to move into a neighbouring established area of woodland that will not be felled for several years to come, with some parts of the forest not being felled at all. In a privately run enterprise things such as best environmental practices have to play second fiddle to making larger profits and pleasing shareholders. And that's assuming the forests are taken over by companies with silviculture in mind; most companies buying the land will be property developers hoping to build new houses on the land in the future, or speculators with little interest in land use hoping to sell the land off for a profit once the current financial situation eases; others may be after the land to clear fell the whole forest with a view to turning it into pasture or land for arable farming once they have creamed off the profits they will make from the sale of the wood.
Forests are incredibly important ecosystems and since the formation of the forestry commission, which was set up originally to ensure we would be self-sufficient in wood should we ever get blockaded again like in the second word war, the amount of forestry in the UK has increased substantially. The commission is also involved in community forests across the country like in Marston Vale where a historic forest has been replanted between Milton Keynes and Bedford to help repair an environment scarred by the remains of quarries, heavy industry and landfill. The forestry commission is also directly involved in the education of schoolchildren and others in silviculture and woodland ecology employing its own education officers and often having permanent education centres on site.
Finally, on a cryptozoological point, big cats have been spotted in at least 2 sites own by the forestry commission: in Delamere in the northwest of England (details of which can be found in Andy Robert's book Cat Flaps published by the CFZ press) and our own local big cat(s) here in North Devon.
I'm sure like me most of you will find the plans of David Cameron to put short term profits ahead of the environment and all of the good the forestry commission do for Britain disgusting and disturbing after making such a play about being green before the election; in which case you should write to your local Member of Parliament to express your concerns. Strongly worded but crucially polite (letters that are impolite or look like they have come from someone frothing at the mouth or with a chip on their shoulder are never even considered) letters to MPs really do work if they receive enough of them to realise it is a strongly enough held local concern that their jobs may be at risk at the next election and when you have enough MPs that hold that concern that is when hair-brained schemes like these fail to get passed by parliament due to a lack of support from MPs for the proposal. Make sure you also tell your friends to do the same. Remember, even if you didn't vote for your MP or don't agree with them politically they are meant to be your representative in parliament so you should try to use them in cases like this and any decent MP will probably broadly agree that the sale of Britain's forests to property developers is not a good idea when they look at the details.