Cheese Triumphant, Bees And Fish Not So Much: An(other) Open Letter to David Cameron

31/12/2012 09:32 | Updated 28 February 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

Well done! I must say, that was quick work! I will confess I was a bit worried because I hadn't heard from you, but you seem to have sorted out this whole cheese business in double quick time. And the genius of it, if I may say so, was that you didn't have to do anything at all - a masterstroke of modern political judo, getting parliament to follow its natural inclinations.

I found out - as you will have done as soon as you fired up your experts and so on - that MRSA isn't notably different in the context of cheese from ordinary staphylococcus, and the cheesemakers of the United Kingdom and Europe have that well under control. It has to do with science, something I know the Conservative party has a bit of trouble with, but apparently milk isn't the most hospitable environment for staph in the first place, and once you acidify it a bit it becomes positively hostile. Staph concetrations seem to peak around 2-3 days into the process and tail off. As long as everyone follows the established best practices - and cheesemakers are crash hot keen on best practices, because other practices produce horrible cheese as well as poisonous muck - it's pretty unlikely to be a problem. There are some stringent EU regulations in place, too - Europeans knowing a thing or two about cheese, too - so we're golden. Well, actually, not golden, which in this context is better because the 'A' in MRSA stands for 'aureus', which Boris Johnson will gladly translate for you next time he pops in to Downing Street to measure the place for new curtains. Mind you, if we get thrown out of the EU we'll have to make sure we have comparable rules in place, so you might want to rein in your loonies a bit. Well, quite a lot, actually.

But the point is that you sorted it out without lifting a finger - a major bonus in this cash-strapped climate. You've got momentum now! And something, if I may say so, of a reputation to maintain! This leaves you in a perfect position to carry on your brilliant campaign against the looming horrors in our food supply by tackling the other issues I mentioned in my first letter: the overuse of antibiotics, creating drug-resistant strains of bugs such as E. coli; the demise of the honey bee - which pollinates more than 100 crops and is vital to human food production and to billions of pounds of EU agribusiness - owing to a combination of factors probably including neonicotinoid insecticides; and the depletion of global fisheries to the point where the Atlantic had its greatest annual harvest in the 1970s and is now in what in a human patient would be called a death spiral. (Well, not by anyone in the post-Blair NHS, I grant you. But still.) I realise that these, being actual problems rather than the sudden Boxing Day nightmare of a drunken fabulist, may need a bit more effort, but on the other hand they're problems which could actual kill people and cause economic disaster, so they have to be worth a bit of effort. And look: you fixed the cheese crisis without even breaking a sweat!

I suppose that in order to do something about the items on this new list you'd need to face down - respectively - pharmaceutical companies and our culture of immaculate shiny surfaces, farming and chemical giants, and fishing. Oh, and supermarkets. But surely that sort of thing is why you wanted the big chair? And once again, this must be something we can all get behind, right? Access to food is hardly a party political issue, not like global climate change, which I don't think anyone actually expects our system to get any sort of a grip on before Parliament Square is under seven feet of water.

You know, the more I talk to you, prime minister, the more I feel we're developing a rapport. I think we should do this more often, not just at holidays. Do let me know if you ever want to drop round and have a cup of tea (with or without milk - your choice, but it's perfectly safe). I know you're very busy, but I think we can really help one another out. And don't worry if you can't make it - I'll drop you a line whenever one of these killer wheezes occurs to me. Think of me as an earnest member of Hufflepuff, letting all you clever fellows in Gryffindor and Slytherin and so on know when something's up. I look forward to chatting some more. It's great fun.

All the best,

(And please don't forget to save the bees and the fish and so on, you could even make it a New Year's Resolution),

Nick Harkaway

PS a lot of very clever people helped me come to an understanding about cheese; I can put you in touch with them if you crave reassurance, as I did, but in any case you should probably think about some OBEs for them to say 'thank you'. It's only polite.