On 26 January, the future of post-Brexit agricultural policy in England became clearer with the government’s announcement of six new standards under its Sustainable Farming Incentive.
Imagine a process in which food and farming policies were designed with social justice as the central tenet. What would such a process look like? Whose voices would be heard, and whose interests would be represented? What questions would need to be asked and how would we know that social justice had been addressed?
Critical to this change is securing the right support from Government to incentivise more farmers to grow more fruit and vegetables, using agroecological and regenerative practices, in a financially viable way. By doing this, it could be possible for the UK to produce affordable and healthy food that guarantees food security and looks after the environment.
What’s now needed to create an electable left populism is longer-term community-building of another kind, promoting locally shared spaces and resources, environmental care and economic autonomy that tries to build bridges among whoever’s locally in place. That strategy is also the one that’s needed to build a sustainable small farm future. So for me it’s clear at least where to focus political energy.
It’s clear to anyone who has been following British politics that the tectonic plates of British politics are shifting. But to attribute this shift to Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn is to confuse cause and effect. The roots of the stark choice facing British voters this week can be found in a trio of deep, interconnected crises.
At first sight it’s incomprehensible. Why risk everything for a no-deal Brexit? Breaking up their own party, losing their parliamentary majority, dismantling the UK, trashing the economy, triggering shortages of food and medicine: how could any objective, for the Conservative and Unionist party, be worth this? What good does it do them?
During the 2016 referendum campaign, #Brexiteers pretended that #Brexit was about ‘restoring the full sovereignty of Parliament’, which had allegedly been usurped by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Now, they’re happy to see their unelected PM suspend this same Parliament.
Put bluntly: yes, Britain is mired in a democratic crisis. But it is one that is older, wider and deeper than this week’s debacle over Brexit and parliamentary sovereignty, and it features across our everyday lives.
So despite the good intentions, now is not the time to be defending Britain’s broken democracy. Instead, we should be demanding a democratic revolution.
Although Turchin’s piece is full of comparisons between the UK and the US, which he sees as fellow travellers, certainly when compared to France, there are significant differences between Trumpism and Brexit.
We face a stark choice between endless austerity, the removal of rights, accelerating inequality, deepening environmental chaos and ever greater power to the few. Or ‘we the people’ seize the opportunity to re-write the rules by which we are governed and ensure that these place the ‘rights of nature’ at its very heart.
So when combined with probable future food and energy crisis, there’s a chance that we may yet wrest the phoenix of an outward-looking small farm future from the ashes of Brexit. But the stakes are high, and the obstacles many.