Wednesday, December 16, 1998 Published at 18:36 GMT
Minister without a friend
BBC Environment Correspondent Richard Wilson looks back on the troubled two years in office of former Minister for Agriculture Douglas Hogg.
From the day he was appointed Minister for Agriculture in 1995, Douglas Hogg was under fire. It started with the rumour that he was second choice to David Maclean who had turned down the post.
As his term progressed, he was criticised in private by many of his senior colleagues. In public he was the target of the press, consumers and farmers.
Some described him as a decent man ill-suited to the role he was cast in. Others said he only survived in the job because no one else was prepared to commit political suicide.
Fellow ministers could be snide and much of the press seemed unremitting in its contempt. By the time BSE swept onto the front pages in 1996 Douglas Hogg was also hated by farmers as the architect of the crisis.
His name also provided an easy butt of jokes. Hogg Roast, declared Sunday Times at the head of one of its attacks.
Most of the Broadsheets gloried in non-attributable quotes from senior cabinet colleagues that further twisted the gossip's knife.
And Mr Hogg did not help himself much by his own, often clumsy public performances.
On 30 April, 42,000 British beef cattle were ordered to be slaughtered, the beef ban remained but Mr Hogg was undaunted.
"We have broken through by a combination of science, logic and tough talking," he said. The usual flurry of newspaper ridicule and speculation followed.
And if this was not enough, there was his fondness for the Fedora hat - a grand gesture which seemed to dwarf the wearer and delight the headline writers.
Yet the families of the victims of new-variant CJD will have noticed that in the days leading up to the beef ban on 20 March 1996, it was Douglas Hogg who wanted the government to set up a judicial inquiry.
Yet the job he was asked to do was undoubtedly a poisoned chalice.
And though there were plenty of people willing to criticise him, none would ever have wanted to take over as Minister of Agriculture at the height of the BSE crisis.
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