Saturday, 4 April 2015

Concerning the Countryside Alliance

The Countryside Alliance was formed to defend the countryside and, in particular, to stop parliament from making foxhunting illegal. In this election it’s presented candidates with a manifesto which it summarises as follows:
  • Digital Communications: Full digital connectivity for rural communities to ensure they can compete economically and socially.
  • Food and Farming: A fair market for British farmers and producers through proper country of origin labelling.
  • Rural Communities: Fair government funding for rural areas; local affordable housing; and reduced VAT on domestic repair, maintenance and improvement work.
  • Rural Services: Protection for rural services, in particular local post offices and the Royal Mail’s Universal Service Obligation (USO).
  • Wildlife Management: Proper engagement by government and its agencies with those who actually manage the countryside; wildlife management to be based on principle and evidence, and repeal of the Hunting Act.

In the manifesto itself the Hunting Act occupies less than one page out of 6. Perhaps the CA has accepted the inevitable?

Since it’s my policy to reply to all letters I read the manifesto. Now Enfield North is a largely urban constituency so it has limited relevance to – though we do include farms, parks and riding stables. But all greens should care about the countryside, above all because it provides much of our food – and may have to provide more in future. 

I therefore replied to the Executive Chairman, Sir Barney White-Spunner, as follows:

Sir Barney,
….  I'm pleased to say that as a Green Party PPC I'm very sympathetic to most of the points you raise. For instance digital connectivity, food labelling, more affordable housing and support for Post Offices all seem consistent with our policies.

Issues of government funding are difficult. My own constituency faces rising numbers, increasing house prices and serious poverty in some parts. I don't generally agree with the government but in this case we are 'all in this together'. In my view these problems cannot be solved without fundamental social change – change we shall not get from the mainstream parties. 

There's one issue on which we will not agree. I welcomed the Hunting Act and would not vote for repeal.

Though most Britons live in cities we would not live at all without the work of farmers and growers. Greens understand the value of the countryside both for food and for recreation. We need a prosperous, healthy countryside.

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