The re-emergence of the F&M virus that was negligently allowed to escape from the Pirbright facility at a farm near Egham in Surrey will profoundly depress yet again those whose livelihoods depend on the rural economy and all who hold the countryside dear.

I listened this morning to The Honourable Hilary Benn waffling his way through an interview. Sensibly he was asked about the failure timeously and effectively to have dealt with the four year disagreement about who was going to pay the £50,000 pinprick to repair and upgrade the drainage pipes that were, on a balance of probabilities, the source of the virus’ escape from the facility at Pirbright. As the true answer to this question can only reveal a disgraceful and shameful dereliction of duty on the part of somebody (on almost every side you care to think of), it will come as no surprise to learn that he swiftly ducked the question.

It beggars belief, does it not, that an argument about what is, in the context of the UK’s spending overall, an infinitesimal drop in the ocean, could be allowed to drift on for four years unresolved, particularly one upon which depended the prevention, in certain circumstances, of the escape of a virus that can cause billions of pounds of losses to the rural economy, as we saw in 2001?

Before this thing is done, we need to know who was responsible for failing to resolve this argument which has cost our farmers and the countryside so dear. And we need to know upon which Minister’s watch it took place so that we may know at whose door to lay this appalling and unforgiveable failure.

The question also arises of whether the lifting of all the various restrictions was premature, given that this is the same strain of the virus that was involved in the escape from Pirbright. Its reappearance suggests that the virus has, somewhere, continued to live on and has been transferred anew. Why, one might ask, were restrictions not kept on long enough for any possibility of reinfection to be avoided?

This new incident bears all the hallmarks of the rank incompetence we have come to associate with this Nincompoop government. And one suspects that the controls were lifted prematurely so that the decks could be cleared for a possible autumn election and so that Gordon Brown, liar and Prime Minister, could claim that it was down to Labour’s splendid handling of the crisis, in particular his own highly competent input, that the outbreak was brought to a speedy end.

This morning that tawdry claim lies in broken ruins at the gates of every farm in the land, a bright shining jewel of a lie.

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