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Archive for September, 2015

Corbyn’s countryside

A Labour MP who had been invited to this year’s CLA Game Fair said words to the effect that if Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the party she would be out of her front bench position, Labour would lose the next general election and the Hunting Act would probably be repealed. Well, for now the first prediction has come true.

I suspect she, along with most people at that time, never really thought that he would actually manage it – but he has, and now we are in a truly extraordinary political period. Though some liken the Labour party under Jeremy Corbyn to that of Michael Foot’s in the early eighties, there are important differences. I don’t recall experienced Labour politicians on the Right of the party refusing in such numbers to sit on the opposition front bench. So not only do we have a leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition who has never held any ministerial office, but it appears that only a few of those who have accepted his invitation to be in the shadow Cabinet have such experience. If the Westminster rumours are correct, Jeremy Corbyn was scrabbling around virtually begging MPs to join him. You don’t have to be an avid viewer of the BBC’s Daily Politics to know that it’s usually the other way round.IMG_1192

So it should come as no surprise that the new Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is Kerry McCarthy, an anti-hunting, anti-badger cull vegan and a vice president of the League Against Cruel Sports. Now, I speak as a vegetarian of many years and I certainly do not criticise people who wish to abstain from eating meat, but I also appreciate that just opposing everything you don’t like doesn’t necessarily result in good outcomes.

For my part, I want British farming to flourish and I want to see high standards when it comes to animal welfare. I want people who shoot for the pot and avoid the extremes of factory farming to be praised, not criticised. I want to see a diverse countryside in which those who create that diversity are congratulated, not condemned or banned. I want diseases in wildlife, especially those that affect humans and other species, to be brought under control as much as possible. I want politicians who are prepared to stand up to the social media bullies and make the correct decisions, even if it means implementing unpopular measures. In short, I want wildlife to be properly, sensitively and humanely managed by various methods and that includes using the unique qualities of dogs.

Does Kerry McCarthy see things that way and does her appointment inspire the countryside lobby? I doubt it somehow, yet the various organisations representing the differing aspects of country life will meet with the new shadow minister and, as usual, be courteous and accommodating. But will they really take her seriously? Just as importantly, will she be swayed more by the tweets of celebrities and will her policies be influenced more by pressure groups rather than the realities of country life? It’s worth noting that at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, the newly-appointed shadow DEFRA minister could not find time to attend a fringe meeting organised by the National Farmers Union, but could find space in her diary to speak at the RSPCA and LACS fringes. Of course there is never enough time to do all the meetings at these conferences, but to some commentators her priorities appear to be a little skewed.

Labours long-standing opposition to hunting with dogs has never had a scientific basis.

Labour’s long-standing opposition to hunting with dogs has never had a scientific basis.

Labour’s new leader has said that he wants to introduce a new kind of politics and that he will listen to all views on a wide range of issues. Clearly he already faces challenges on a variety of views even within his own cabinet, let alone the Labour Party as a whole and saying that everything is up for review may be a useful tactic to avoid giving a straight answer, but what he seems to be forgetting is that, after considering and reviewing all these opinions, at some point decisions have to be made. That is, after all, the role of a leader.

As everything in the Labour party now appears to be up for a review, isn’t it reasonable to include the Hunting Act?  It’s a law that has been criticised not only by hunting people, but also many unconnected to hunting such as judges, veterinarians, police, senior civil servants, legal experts and even Tony Blair (though including him in the list may have the reverse effect, given that Jeremy Corbyn voted against virtually everything Blair tried to do)

Some years ago, before the Hunting Act was passed, Jeremy Corbyn came to a ‘drop-in’ session in parliament to discuss hunting with dogs. Former anti-hunt people were present to explain that a simple ban would not be beneficial to wildlife and certainly not improve welfare. He listened intently, but made no real comment, yet since then Jeremy Corbyn has consistently voted against hunting with dogs and supported a hunting ban. Was there any evidence ever produced to justify the Hunting Act? Could the fact that Jeremy Corbyn was a member of the League Against Cruel Sports in his native Shropshire have clouded his judgement? Will he, as his record shows, continue to just go along with the Left’s perception of what nasty Conservatives do to animals.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn  addresses the 2015 conference.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
addresses the 2015 conference.

It’s worth remembering that during his leadership election campaign, Jeremy Corbyn used the slogan “straight-talking, honest politics”. Let’s see if that holds true in a Corbyn-led Labour party… or in a Corbyn government if ever it came about.
We hear so much about what campaign groups dislike, but we rarely hear what they accept. They’re very good at issuing demands from on high, expecting those on the ground to simply comply as if we all see things in a similar way. Just what is Labour’s vision for the countryside, its wildlife and its management? This question should be put to the new Labour leader and his new shadow DEFRA secretary in as many meetings and forums as possible, because, as seems to be the case, if the Labour party would prefer to take a lead from the LACS instead of the NFU then we really should fear for our countryside.

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