‘Did they learn nothing from Hague visiting a pig farm in pin-stripe and slip-ons?’

BEFORE it set out to become a capitalist super-power by any other name, the Chinese government would send accountants and bankers back to the paddy fields for a month or two to remind them of what a real job could be like even under communism.

That was compulsory. In Scotland we do things differently. No compulsion, no pressure, but this summer more than 30 MSPs and Scottish MPs “volunteered” to visit farms, an idea suggested by the Scottish farmers’ union. Foster closer links between a segment of the society that does the work and those elected to try and help us make that work worthwhile, that sort of thing.

Now in a miserable summer that has brought a wet and catchy harvest and forecasts of farming gloom and disaster I can only imagine that many politicians on farms or trying hard to get off them thought it seemed a good idea at the time.

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As the originally splendid P G Wodehouse line about there never being any chance of confusing a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance has been done to death, I can only say that a grain grower in a wet harvest doesn’t laugh a lot. Why? Let’s see:

“Morning, I’m …”

“If you’re selling, I’m not buying. If you’re a grain buyer, I sold everything on forward contract at about half the price you’re going to offer and I’m taking anti-depressants. If you’ve got a winch and a wire rope, come this way. If you’re anything else, bugger off.”

“Er … I rather hoped you were expecting me. I’m the MSP here to help forge closer links between politicians and the farming community and to help strike a better balance between our agricultural, environmental, rural and sociological policies, which would help us to achieve a … er… whatever it is we’re trying to achieve within the broader aims of the European common agricultural policy and …”

“Ah. Morning. As we haven’t time to set up a committee of inquiry or even ask for an amendment, hold that.”

“ Er … well, I … excuse me, I seem to be sinking.”

“It’s called mud. That big yellow thing with a bit still showing is a £250,000 combine with very wide tyres that still managed to sink. The object of the exercise, unless you want time to refer it to a Holyrood committee or have it raised at First Minister’s question time, is to haul the bastard thing out so that we can cut some more wet oilseed before it rains again. And don’t worry about your shoes and suit – they’ve had it. Did you boys learn nothing from William Hague visiting a pig farm in pin-stripe and slip-ons years ago?”

“Well, I …”

“You’ll be fine. Just hold that and if you see the wire rope straightening and strands starting to ping, throw yourself flat.”

“ I…”

“ Ooh, that’s a pity. Well, he certainly learned something there. Wonder if they’ll send Alex Salmond next?”