How the Lib Dem / Tory government is failing rural communities

Andy Newman, Labour Party in Corsham High Street, ChippenhamTristan Cork’s recent article in the Western Daily Press emphasized growing disquiet from the leaders of the Countryside Alliance about the failure of the Conservative / Lib Dem government to hold a vote to repeal the 2004 Hunting Act, which was promised in the coalition agreement.

The Hunting Act remains politically controversial, and many feel that the current law is sometimes illogical and perverse, for example it is legal to flush a fox from below ground if it is threatening game birds, but not legal to use the same method if the fox is killing lambs.

Tim Bonner, head of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance argues, “Many living in the countryside feel the Government is more interested in urban issues and that their votes are being taken for granted”

Indeed, there was some acknowledgement of this view in Tony Blair’s 2010 book  A Journey, where the former Labour Prime minister says that he regretted the legislation.

However, the Countryside Alliance is wrong to overemphasize what they call the “totemic issue” of hunting with dogs. Indeed 69% of even the rural population support the 2004 Hunting Act, and there is a broad consensus in support of the ban, whatever the failings of the current law, it does reflect the majority view. Any move to repeal and amend the Hunting Act would bog parliament down over an issue of secondary importance.

There are far more significant failures of the coalition government towards rural communities, for example the slow roll out of fast broadband, which is why Labour has promised to divert £75 million to rural areas for improving Internet access, that will boost the economy and grow jobs.

The coalition has scrapped the Agricultural Wages Boards that protected the poorest rural workers, it has failed to address the growing crisis of affordable housing in our rural communities, and the privatization of Royal Mail potentially threatens both the universal service commitment, and the uniform tariff that underpin so  many small and medium size businesses in country areas and small towns. The coalition government’s economic policy is tilted towards London and the south east of England, and the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies further jeopardizes our rural economy.

The cost of living crisis that threatens to engulf so many families is worse in rural areas, where energy and fuel costs are higher.

While feelings are strong on both sides of the hunting debate, and the current legislation is flawed, what our rural communities really need is a one nation government that seeks to bridge the divide between urban and rural communities.

Published and promoted by Chippenham Labour Party on behalf of Andy Newman, both of 5 Elm Hayes, Corsham, SN13 9JW

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