The Department for the Environment, Foor and Rural Affairs (Defra) under Margaret Beckett - now off fixing the Middle East as
Condoleeza Rice's bitch Britain's Foreign Secretary - has repeatedly cocked up farm subsidy payments through an ongoing mismanagement that could yet bugger up the struggling agricultural sector even more than did the same department's balls-ups over BSE, Foot and Mouth and Bovine TB.
Which makes me wonder how Britain has managed to get away with just €2.39 million in EU-imposed agricultural penalties - none for mismanagement or poor payment systems - when Greece has been told to pay back €6.46 million for "various weaknesses in the system for management", Ireland €0.17 million for "administrative deficiencies" and Spain €4.99 million for "non-respect of payment deadlines". This all part of the European Commission's attempt to reclaim subsidy money via a system of penalties for dodginess - 7 out of 25 EU member states being penalised.
The country with the largest penalties? Let's think - which country is likely to have abused the farm subsidy system the most? Which country can possibly be responsible for more than half of the €161.9 million the Commission is claiming in penalties?
Yep, step forward France! €87.97 million in total, of which €77.13 million is for giving subsidies out for "ineligible land". Yep, France has been claiming farming subsides for non-arable land.
This is where we've been going wrong - don't stick to the letter of EU law, hustle. Work it. Let's learn from our cousins over the water, and start scamming. Let's claim farm subsidies for Hyde Park. Hell - let's claim them for the Bluewater Shopping Centre's car park...
Of course, the only trouble is that as long as Defra's in charge of managing the things, they'll end up stuck in some kind of managerial limbo, only to emerge in some dim and distant future where all livestock and crops have died of bureaucratic oversight and mankind has devolved even further into some kind of feral rodent hybrid, subsisting purely on alcopops and knife fights, and incapable of movement without the aid of an undersized BMX powered solely by envy and rage.