A New Rural Manifesto for Labour: we call for your support


9:01 am - September 10th 2013

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by Jack Eddy

It is uncontroversial to say that Labour lacks rural appeal. Labour’s voice in the British countryside has been inadequate for decades, but has hit a low-ebb in recent years. Even in the suburban and rural areas where Labour was able to gain some traction from 1997 onwards, the last General Election saw a massive swing to the Tories.

And yet, the Labour Party in the past has successfully gone out to the British countryside to court the rural vote and build the foundations of support. Such accomplishments can come again, but we need renewed endeavour and new direction. If this does not change – and we do not instigate that change – some rural communities may not survive these difficult times.

This is why we at South Norfolk CLP call upon all rural CLPs, as well as other interested affiliates, to support us in our call for a new Rural Manifesto – as specified in the proposal officially endorsed by South Norfolk CLP; a Rural Manifesto made in rural Britain, for rural Britain.

Priority should be given to framing policy to reflect the impact on rural communities, on a number of different issues:

Public transport and other infrastructure improvements, as well as rural unemployment and businesses will be an important subject. In the entirety of Norfolk, the 3rd largest county, there is only one late evening bus service. This is not uncommon for rural areas, with negative consequences to regional economies and rural life in general.

Additional aid to the young and unemployed for the purpose of making them as geographically mobile as possible will be hugely helpful to finding employment. A possible solution could be found in providing travel cards to rural unemployed (allowing travel for free or at a reduced rate), who live at least 2 miles from the nearest major centre of employment – valid for use 1 month after finding permanent work.

The NHS is important to us all, but many rural communities are seeing their NHS services disappear as cuts and privatisation begin to take hold, and they are fighting to stop it. One solution to help meet increasing demand, and go some way to solving the unique issues around isolation from services in rural areas, could be to focus on increasing the number of smaller, satellite hospitals that are strategically located around existing central hubs in rural locations. ‘Satellite Hospitals’ would focus on anticipatory care, diagnostic services, as well as urgent accident and emergency admissions, leaving the central hospitals to focus on the more complex and specialised treatments. By dividing up local populations into different catchment areas, it would enhance the experience of patients by offering a smaller, community feel, as well as provide more jobs.

Naturally, properly dealing with Europe and immigration in rural policy is a must. We must explain how businesses, services and local economies in rural Britain depend on Europe and immigration. Many rural businesses rely on European immigrants and the EU enables farmers and horticultural businesses to trade easily with the mainland (in either goods, equipment or expertise). Many rural businesses could not survive without immigration or the EU in general. Labour needs to illustrate how jobs held by British workers would cease to exist if Britain exited the EU.

However, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what needs to be covered in a Rural Manifesto – and it is up to us all to decide what must be covered.

To do this, we need you to get our Motion passed in your CLP and submitted for the upcoming Labour Party Conference by 12 noon on Thursday 12th September. We also invite you to contact all whom you feel will be interested, so that we can reach everybody that can help us succeed in this enterprise.


If you are interested and have the time, please contact me at jack.eddy@btinternet.com and I will send you the proposal for the Rural Manifesto and South Norfolk’s Motion to the Conference.

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Story Filed Under: a) Section ,Environment ,Fight the cuts ,Labour party ,The Left ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Promise to ban shale gas mining.

The suggestion that Labour might start looking to represent a rural constituency is very welcome. Rural poverty is different from urban poverty: I have friends who struggle to find their monthly rent but who distrust welfare so much that they augment the food they grow with poaching and road kill just to help make ends meet.

There is also the regulatory industry that charges nearly £1000 and demands a week at training so that experienced chainsaw users can carry on with their work, for example. The ever-encroaching business of tickets for everything destroys small businesses that should be encouraged to develop and expand.

Looking at the countryside as a working place where people live, rather than as a recreation and tourism sector with occasional frightening people in it, would be a start.

3. Paul peter Smith

Rural communities haven’t forgotten Labours handling of the foot and mouth outbreak, calling this a ‘hard sell’ is an understatement.
On the other hand, with the housing/benefit cap underway quite a few cities other than London will see an exodus to suburbia and beyond. Maybe Labour are anticipating a demographic shift in the Shires?

Cherub @ 2:

“There is also the regulatory industry that charges nearly £1000 and demands a week at training so that experienced chainsaw users can carry on with their work, for example. The ever-encroaching business of tickets for everything destroys small businesses that should be encouraged to develop and expand.”

Yup! Welcome to the real world, where regulation costs jobs and livelihoods! Meanwhile, the Labour Party and the EU Commission will plough on regardless, churning out proposals for ever further regulation….What else do you do when your salary depends on it?

@3. Paul peter Smith: “Rural communities haven’t forgotten Labours handling of the foot and mouth outbreak…”

Thank you for raising that point. Mishandling of the foot and mouth outbreak demonstrated that the civil servants responsible for managing such calamities had no understanding of rural economics. At a political level, we learned that government ministers were equally clueless.

@2. Cherub: “Looking at the countryside as a working place where people live, rather than as a recreation and tourism sector with occasional frightening people in it, would be a start.”

Rural economics demands that the countryside operates as a tourist or recreational destination. Bed and breakfast, pub grub etc bring in more dosh than a fallow field.

Regarding expensive training to use violent equipment: Like you, I would not wish ill-advised people to work with chain saws or similar, so training is important. Technical training is not difficult, but somehow it is formalised: a certificate following a course of study. Exams and certificates do not prove proficiency. Life proves it.

So if it costs £1,000 for a chainsaw licence, make it cheaper.

@4. TONE: “Yup! Welcome to the real world, where regulation costs jobs and livelihoods!”

It’s mostly about interpretation. The French and Italians interpret rules in order to support local causes.

UK legislators act literally; they do not understand what it means to be European. Whatever that might be.

2. and 5.
Farming Connect (Wales) provides 80% funding for courses such as chainsaw use. I’ve no idea about other regions in the UK but there ought to be financial help available indirectly from the EU.
4.
Yur, they’ll be demanding driving tests next.

8. Richard Carey

@ 6 Charlieman,

“UK legislators act literally; they do not understand what it means to be European. Whatever that might be.”

I suspect that means that UK legislators and their clipboard-wielding minions act with the fanatical zeal of bloodthirsty Jacobins, eagerly dragging rural businesses off to the regulatory Guillotine, rather than employing the more appropriate Gallic shrug.

“Public transport and other infrastructure improvements”

Cutting the obscenely high duty on petrol and diesel would be more effective.

“We must explain how businesses, services and local economies in rural Britain depend on Europe and immigration.”

Alternatively you could actually try to listen to the people rather than proselytise your happy-clappy message.

10. Paul peter Smith

The optimistic reference in the OP to a time when labour had any serious presence in rural constituencies must refer to the time when mining communities still existed and I dont see how that might be useful today. or can anyone else think of a time when that was remotely true?

Thanks for your responses about my gripe about tickets for everything. Of course it’s not just a rural issue, I’ve got friends who are sparkies who have to re-ticket every other year. It’s a whole industry now, with its own momentum.

I’d question the benefit of such an industry. “Failed builders become building inspectors” is another gripe I’ve heard. The point is, accidents happen in all systems, is the current system stifling new business more than helping protect personnel? When a guy who’s been a tree surgeon for 15 years and a wireman for the electric company ten years before that has to take a week out and pay a four-figure sum to get his ticket for felling a tree top down then I think there’s something wrong.

12. Richard Carey

@ 12 Cherub,

” It’s a whole industry now, with its own momentum”.

You’re right. It’s a parasitic rip-off, and it encourages common sense to be replaced with following procedures, with everyone making sure their arse is covered, rather than preventing bad things happening. That’s not to say there is no worth in any of it, but it’s gone way too far, and it’s exploitative and creates barriers to people getting jobs, especially changing careers IMO.

13. Paul peter Smith

@Richard Carey/Cherub
Your probably familiar with PCV/CPC scam being perpetrated on drivers at the moment. As I understand it anyone driving HGV or passenger vehicles needs upto 5 ‘tickets’ which need to be renewed yearly in most cases. The argument that it improves safety is weaker than the argument for prosecuting haulage companies for willful negligence or pressuring drivers to work illegal shifts, but we cant stifle business. Just tax farm everyone else!

there is a newspaper called the country standard i just found website country-standard.blogspot.co.uk.
i got a copy at a festival once it is aimed at left wing people who live in the country side and i would be a good idea to promote it and try and submit content and talk to its readers.

In reply to number 8.
I have friends and family over in Europe, they openly laugh at the UK because they say the Brits are the only who slavishly follow all the rules.

15.
More often than not, they laugh at the scare stories published by anti-EU newspapers in Britain.
http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK/euromyths-a-z-index/

17. Derek Hattons Tailor

This thread demonstrates the metro liberals conception of the country as “what happens when London stops”

Fill it with pubs, B&Bs and “infrastructure” and it is no longer the country, it is a suburb. If you want roads, regular buses and trains then live in the city. People go to the country for peace and quiet. Some of the most fertile land in the world and its best use is as a weekend playground for townies ?

18. Derek Hattons Tailor

@16 How many Europeans do you actually know ? They laugh at our reverence for rules which they ignore if inconvenient.

Derek. Thank you for your interest. I’m fine but you seem a little lacklustre.

The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have already cut rural incomes and services with something resembling derangement or dementia. Most recently, the Agricultural Wages Board has been abolished. The disappearance of everything from libraries to bus services has been, and remains, horrific. And now, the Royal Mail is to be privatised.

There was no need for a Commons vote on Syria, but when such a division was held, the result was electrifying, with MPs from all 10 of the parties whose MPs take their seats, as well as the one Independent, voting decisively against action, led by every Labour MP, themselves led by Ed Miliband. The alliance of Labour and the broader Left with traditional Tories, with rural and Radical Liberals, and with Unionists, is no less obvious and necessary in this case.

If Ed Miliband were to announce that the next Labour Government would reverse this privatisation, then not only would he sweep the countryside that both Coalition parties have abandoned, but he would also stop that privatisation itself, since no potential buyer would take the risk. The priority would then be to ensure the right Labour candidates in rural seats. No section of society is more excluded from the national conversation than the rural working class. Let that wrong begin to be righted.

Let Labour declare that in the most rural third of constituencies both in the country and in each of the 10 mainland regions outside London, unless one of its own MPs were seeking re-election, the Labour candidate would be drawn from a household in the social groups C2DE within the constituency, and at least preferably within the more rural half of wards. Labour would then undertake to spend to the limit in order to capture every such seat. What are unions for?

When safe Labour seats first emerged in the 1920s, they were mostly in rural areas. The solid Labour vote here in County Durham, while Tyneside and Teesside were much harder nuts to crack, has always had several parallels around the country. The Conservatives and what are now the Liberal Democrats have never had their imagined ancestral right to represent the countryside in Parliament. But even if they had, they would now have lost any such claim.

“The NHS is important to us all, but many rural communities are seeing their NHS services disappear as cuts and privatisation begin to take hold, and they are fighting to stop it”

Unfortunately this process took place under labour – although labour passed the buck for it following the election of Dr Richard Taylor who had campaigned against the removal of services from his local hospital. Which shows just how far back this goes.

And it’s nothing to do with cuts or privatization. It’s to do with a shortage of doctors and the belief that doctors need to see a minimum number of patients per year to maintain/improve their skills to become consultants. It’s also a process likely to continue under the tories with around 20% of A+E’s under threat. It’s unpopular, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it’s financially motivated or that labour would reverse it

In other words, you would have no chance whatsoever of reversing the policy. You simply are not going to be able to sustain an A+E and Maternity unit in a small town of 20,000. If you’re lucky you’ll have a minor injury unit with an X-ray machine and a competent GP and ambulance service.

From the article

To do this, we need you to get our Motion passed in your CLP and submitted for the upcoming Labour Party Conference by 12 noon on Thursday 12th September.

So, you post it on here 2 days before the deadline and expect Constituency Labour Party members to respond in time?


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