up to 20 new sites across the UK (on top of the two confirmed infected areas), has resulted in a last-minute dash by the government to ban imported ash trees.
Too little, too late. The government had the opportunity to ban imports, but chose not to. It's easy to see why. A ban on businesses doing whatever they want is, in the eyes of the neo-liberal right, 'red tape' and a burden'. Better to risk a disease that will wipe out 30% of all trees in Britain than legislate or regulate. Increasingly the UK Tories are resembling their counterparts in the US, with all that entails for the environment, the countryside and peoples' health.
Often this reticence to regulation, even where the downsides of not doing so are clear to see, is cloaked in ideas of 'liberty' and 'freedom'. Of course, in reality, the neo-liberal right will extend this notion only to the rich and powerful. And where scientific evidence encroaches upon this mission to protect large corporations from regulation - witness climate change - the modern right will simply deny the facts... occasionally with amusing consequences.
The case of ash dieback - or "Cameron's Contagion" as George Monbiot put it - perfectly illustrates why the Tory Party can no longer claim to be the party of the countryside. And neither, as the same commentator argued, can it claim to be the party of ordinary people:
"In March, the government published its kill list of environmental regulations. Among those being downgraded are the rules controlling hazardous waste, air pollution, contaminated land, noise, light and the use of lead shot. Ministers describe this as the shrinking of the state. In reality it's the shrinking of democracy. Regulation is the means by which civilised societies resolve their conflicts. It prevents the selfish and the powerful from spoiling the lives of others".