Labour's "Rural Renewal"

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Labour's "Rural Renewal"

Shortly before he was elected as leader of the Labour party Jeremy Corbyn published a rural policy paper, 'Rural Renewal', which resulted from a short open consultation. Respondents highlighted many of the concerns the Countryside Alliance campaigns on and it was no surprise to see housing, transport and communications infrastructure, and support for the farming and fishing industries at the top of the list of issues raised.

The policy response was, understandably, not detailed but it did show that Mr Corbyn was fully engaged with the problems, for instance, faced by dairy farmers dealing with supermarkets and rural businesses struggling with sub-standard broadband. He was the only candidate for the Labour leadership to address rural issues directly and was keen to note his upbringing in rural Shropshire and Wiltshire.
His election should therefore have heralded an opportunity for Labour to start to rebuild relationships with the rural community, especially in the 100 or more constituencies with a significant rural population which in recent history have returned Labour MPs but no longer do so.

Unfortunately, however, the increasing engagement of the Labour party with the animal rights movement, illustrated by the unfortunate 'Animal Welfare' manifesto published before the last election, has created a significant barrier to any rural renewal as Mr Corbyn has chosen as his shadow Defra spokesman a militant vegan and animal rights campaigner, Kerry McCarthy MP. 

Ms McCarthy is patron of the Vegan society which believes “animal farming is no longer sustainable and severely damaging to the environment” and is “against all shooting sports”.

Veganism, or vegetarianism, should be no barriers to the role in itself, but someone who has voiced strong opinions against the livestock farming industry, many aspects of wildlife management and other rural activities will struggle to gain the trust with those who rely on them.

Given Mr Corbyn's engagement with rural issues prior to his election we can only hope that Kerry McCarthy's appointment was not meant to be provocative, although many people will see it as just that. What it does highlight is the increasing acceptance of an animal rights agenda inside the Labour party and the complete failure to understand that issues like livestock farming and shooting cannot be separated out from the rest of rural life. If Jeremy Corbyn really wants to see a rural revival for Labour he should start by shelving the negative politics of animal rights and instead focus on a positive vision for the countryside.   

Tim Bonner
Chief Executive
Follow on Twitter @CA_TimB

See you at the Midland Game Fair at Weston Park this weekend

Crime survey reveals £800m cost to rural areas

The National Rural Crime Network’s survey of over 17,000 people living and working in rural areas throughout England and Wales suggests the true cost of crime in rural areas could exceed £800m. This figure is 21 times higher than previous figures, dwarfing earlier estimates. 

The survey, released this week, also indicates that farmers and hard-pressed young families are the most frequent victims of crime, with the average cost of those crimes to a household being over £2,500 and for a business over £4,000. Read more here.

A new Chief Executive and Board Members at the AGM

This week Sir Barney White-Spunner stood down as Executive Chairman of the Countryside Alliance and Tim Bonner took up his post as Chief Executive. These formalities took place at the Countryside Alliance's AGM which was held on Tuesday at Saddlers' Hall in the City of London. Members will be able to read more about Tim's gratitude to Barney, as well as his plans for the Alliance, in our new membership magazine which will be sent to members next week.

The following three members were voted onto the board of the Alliance:

  • Former Alliance director and businessman, Johnny Arkwright
  • Devon-based solicitor-advocate, James Foster (follow on Twitter @1jamiefoster)
  • East Anglian farmer and joint-master of the Puckeridge hunt, Tim Vestey

The Fishing 4 Schools Kent Shield

A great day was had at Hadlow on Tuesday 15th September for the Fishing 4 Schools Open day match. Pupils from five Kent schools fished for the “Fishing 4 Schools Kent Shield.”

Originally we planned to allow four schools to compete on the day, but because of the high demand we allowed five. The schools that entered were Bower Grove and Maplesden Noakes from Maidstone,  Meadowfield from Sittingbourne,  Thamesview  from Gravesend and Rowhill from Dartford. Read more here.

The 2015 "Rural Oscars" are open for business - nominate your favourites now!

The 11th annual Countryside Alliance Awards, aka the Rural Oscars, are open for business, so please nominate your favourites today

The Awards are THE rural business awards to win and give a voice and a platform to the best of our produce, enterprise, heritage and communities. The Awards recognise and honour those who routinely go the extra mile for their community – they are about people as well as produce.


Nominate here.

New for 2015 is a tourism category to recognise the contribution tourism makes not just to the rural economy but to the protection and promotion of our rural heritage. Public nominations are open from now until 2nd November, with judging then taking place. A Welsh final will be held at Cardiff Bay in February and a grand final at Parliament in Westminster in Spring 2016.

Categories are:

  • Local food and drink
  • Village Shop/ Post Office
  • Butcher
  • Tourism enterprise

Please note that Scottish businesses are honoured in a separate scheme administered by the Scottish Countryside Alliance. They will open to nominations later this month.

The Countryside Alliance at the Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Conference season gets underway with the Liberal Democrats in Bournemouth from 19 – 23 September. At the conference the Countryside Alliance will be hosting an event entitled: "How can the Lib Dems win again in the Countryside?" The event will be an opportunity to discuss the main issues facing rural communities and the Liberal Democrat vision for rural Britain and will take place in Bayview 1 at the Bournemouth International Centre on Monday 21st September, 13:00-14:00. Joining the discussion will be:
  • Mark Williams MP: Member of Parliament for Ceredigion and Member of the Federal Policy Committee with responsibility for rural issues
  • Councillor Tim Pickstone: Chief Executive of the Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors and Spokesperson for Grassroot Campaigns
  • Nick Tyrone: Executive Director of the CentreForum think tank

Buy your "Still here, still hunting" badge to mark 10 years of the Hunting Act. Badges cost £5 each and are available here.
Enter our Morgan prize draw - click here
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