Natural justice

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THE “new” politics of coalition government was supposed to bring better policy-making to the often haphazard processes of Westminster. This has now been seen over the question of selling off England’s forests, but only after flirting with an idea that instantly appeared to be a disaster.

At least the acceptance by Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, that the Government “got this one wrong” shows the candour so often missing from people in high office.

What is worrying, however, is that two parties which came to power pledging to listen to the concerns of the countryside could have devised such an ill-thought out plan to privatise England’s public woodlands. The money generated by a sell-off would barely have scratched the surface of Britain’s budget deficit, yet risked throwing away the historic right for people to enjoy their forests.

It is right that after Labour’s years of largesse, the coalition considers ways of re-building the nation’s finances, but it would be best served by stepping up its campaign against the top levels of council pay. There is nothing “new” about a firesale of Britain’s natural assets.