Britology Watch: Deconstructing \’British Values\’

16 June 2009

Dairy Farmers of Britain: No government bail-out

Just in case you were in any doubt, the dairy-farmers’ co-operative organisation Dairy Farmers of Britain that went into receivership earlier this month operates in England and Wales only, not Scotland or Northern Ireland. You wouldn’t necessarily realise that from the news reports on TV and radio that are covering the story today, though. The one I caught on BBC1’s Breakfast show merely referred to the plight of some dairy farmers in ‘the UK’.

No wonder, then, that there’s been no bail-out for the organisation, whose debts must surely be infinitesimal compared with those of the Scottish banks! The statement on DFB’s collapse by the Secretary of State for the Environment (for England) Hilary Benn rather pathetically just accepted the organisation’s demise as inevitable. Nothing to be done. No action to keep the business going and maintain the thousands of livelihoods in England and Wales that depend on it, such as trying to get supermarkets to pay a decent wholesale price for English milk?

Mind you, the supermarkets I tend to shop in don’t sell ‘English milk’, in any case; just something they stick an insultingly huge Union Flag on and call ‘British’ – meaning that it must be English or Welsh, as you can’t imagine they’d dare to stick the same flag on Scottish produce and call it ‘British’! In fact, I’ve noticed that the Scotland-based Wiseman’s Dairy has been doing remarkably well recently; although, again, you wouldn’t necessarily know they’re Scottish unless you read the small print and notice the Glasgow postcode. No Union Flag on the bottles – the company’s Scottish, don’t you know, so we can’t have the British flag on there, can we? – but also no explicit Scottish markers, in case they put off the English consumers that now make up 66% of their market.

Having said that, it would be fair to observe that Wisemans also now sources much – perhaps even most – of its milk from English farmers. But again, we wouldn’t want to indicate that on the labels, would we? With this partly in mind, I tend to buy Wisemans milk or one of its other brands, ‘freshnlo’, when I can in preference to the Union Jack-stamped, ‘British’ (i.e. English) varieties, simply because of the insult of the flag and the censorship of the milk’s English origins. But how come Wisemans has done so well, particularly since devolution? Could it be that the Scottish milk industry and dairy farmers have enjoyed more support, grants and investment funding through the good offices of the Scottish Government? You can’t, after all, imagine the Scottish Government being quite as casual about the demise of a major Scottish milk producer as the British Government has been about Dairy Farmers of Britain England and Wales.

And I have to say that this organisation, for which I feel sympathy, made a big branding error in attaching the ‘Britain’ tag to its name. I can’t be the only one who would have gone out of my way to buy their milk if they’d called themselves ‘Dairy Farmers of England and Wales’, which would have been in complete contrast to the rest of the market, which falls over backwards to suppress any mention of ‘England’ from English produce.


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