Gareth Thomas is a Minister of State in the appalling Department for International Development, the enemy of Saint Helena, against whose interest it will happily spend far more money than would be the cost of doing the right thing by that community of British citizens living on British territory, and so not properly the province of that Department at all.
He is also the MP for Harrow West, which he probably thinks is in the countryside. And he is responsible for a scheme to pay supermarkets to import foreign food instead of using readily available domestic produce.
Of course I know that there is far more to the countryside than agriculture. But New Labour's dislocation from both is mind-boggling, and a sign of just how far removed from Labour's history it is. Far from being an atavistically urban phenomenon, Labour's earliest heartlands - in the Twenties, when it first became possible to speak of safe Labour seats - were very largely county divisions, in the Welsh valleys, in Nottinghamshire, in Derbyshire, in the West Riding, and here in County Durham. Yes, they contained a lot of mining. But they also contained a lot of farming. And, unlike with mining, they still do.
By contrast, Labour failed to hold a single Manchester or Sheffield seat at the 1931 Election. I am open to correction, but I think that Labour never had an MP in Birmingham until 1945 apart from Mosley's brief sojourn in the party, and I am practically certain that it never returned a Liverpool MP until 1945 either. There are other such examples. Inroads into urban areas were often, as here in the North East, on the back of existing strength in the surrounding countryside.
Real agriculture is a mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare, and a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the "free" market. Working farmers sat as Labour MPs between the Wars.
Farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others were once organised to secure radical reforms, including rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on. The Attlee Government created the Green Belt and the National Parks. But where is it all now? Where are today's successors of those who opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks? Who is fighting for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take account of rural needs?
And so on, and on, and on.
Instead, we have a Government which is determined to bankrupt the agricultural sector, at least, once and for all.