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Morris dancers hit back at government minister
12:38pm Monday 28th October 2013 in Devon
Defra Secretary Owen Paterson’s pledge to introduce a “morris dancing filter” on European farm subsidies has landed him in trouble with those who see morris dancing as an integral part of British heritage.
At the Conservative Party conference earlier this year, Mr Paterson twice promised he would take a tough line on reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, saying he would make sure subsidies were spent on farmers rather than environmental projects.
Many farmers – especially big agri-businesses – are not happy about the possibility that some of their subsidy will be moved by the EU's CAP reforms from what is called Pillar One – which goes direct to farmers – to Pillar Two, which is for more generic rural development and environmental schemes that the Government or other bodies think are worth financing.
But now Julia Catovsky, the secretary of the Somerset-based Treacle Eater clog troupe, said Mr Paterson's choice of words devalued their hobby..
"Many of our members have been morris dancers for 30-plus years and we are saddened that you have used the term in this derogatory manner to imply wasting funds on inappropriate rural projects," she told him.
"The 10,000-plus morris dancers in this country of all ages and from a wide range of backgrounds, both rural and urban, receive no funding from either the UK Government or the EU subsidy in pursuance of our minority sport. We feel that morris dancing is an important part of our British heritage and that this term sheds a negative light on an activity which is enjoyed by a large number of people, causes no environmental damage and is often in support of charitable causes.
"Please would you find another term to promote your better use of UK Government/EU subsidy? An apology for what may at best have been a clumsy choice of words would seem appropriate," she added.
Jed Dunn, the Morris Ring representative for the south west and west, added: "Can Mr Paterson say exactly what he thinks a "morris dancing filter" is, and would he mind if we introduce a "Mr Paterson filter" into our dancing? I expect he thinks this was a throwaway line. Like so many politicians today, he speaks without any thought whatsoever."
And Ray King, a morris dancing veteran and past squire of the Morris Ring, said: "I'm quite appalled by the slur on morris dancers implied by Mr Paterson. Firstly, we receive no government or EU money whatsoever. Perhaps if some money were sent our way, we might have some fitter young people around. And secondly, how can he be so ignorant as not to recognise that the morris is part of Britain's culture and heritage."
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