Aside from what they would have you think, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has been something of a convalescence home for Michael Gove since he took over as environment secretary in 2017. Following a series of embarrassments and controversies, from locking himself in the toilet on his first day as chief whip to his infamous eleventh hour betrayal of Boris Johnson in the 2016 leadership contest, Gove has been at pains to foment a collective amnesia among his Tory colleagues regarding his leadership credentials.
By keeping his head firmly below the Brexit parapet and indulging in ineffectual but headline-grabbing policies, he has won himself a certain amount of adulation. But when it comes to locking horns with the major environmental challenges of the day, Michael Gove has shied away from ambitious action time and time again, hiding behind endless promises of further consultation and always-to-be-delayed announcements.
Last year, it was the 25-year environment plan that offered up the un-squarable circle of leaving the environment in a better state for future generations without providing legally binding commitments or measurable targets. Now, in 2019, the Clean Air Strategy is the latest disappointment to flop out of Defra to the dejected grumbles of environmental campaigners.
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