BY CSM EDITORIAL
On June 13th Emma Bean wrote a piece on LabourList (the equivalent of Conservative Home) suggesting that the Labour Party should focus its efforts on Scotland, on Jewish Britain and on the Countryside, where it performed weakly at the General Election on the 8th.
Let us put Ruth Davidson and Labour Antisemitism aside for one moment.
Regards the Countryside, this is what Bean wrote:
“Labour is never going to win majority support from farmers, and nor is it necessary for us to win an election. However, we should look at why we had to battle to hang on in places like Bishop Auckland – a seat we have held since the end of the first world war, barring one odd election when the National Liberals got in.
A claim was made in 1997 that Labour was the party of the countryside. It was a bold claim but one withstood scrutiny 20 years ago. Cumbrian seats like Barrow, Copeland and Workington were – in order – held narrowly, not regained and held narrowly, and this difficulty repeats itself across the countryside.
It might be argued that Barrow is a special case. It is hard to quantify if John Woodcock’s bold move to disassociate himself from Corbyn’s leadership helped or hindered him. But what is clear is that Labour’s offer to Britain is more appealing in Croydon than Copeland. We must ask why.
The Fabians have been working on Labour’s countryside problem, with their research due to conclude at the end of the summer, and the party needs to work on this area. There are poor people in the country, and as Cat Smith said to me in this campaign – austerity is felt even more keenly in rural areas. We need to make the party more than just a voice for the cities.”
There are some points worth drawing out from this piece about rural Britain and Labour:
- Labour has written off farmers.
- Labour doesn’t see the rural vote as “necessary to win an election”
- If a rural seat is in the balance, like Bishop Auckland, then Labour will bother investing resource and time in that seat.
- Labour genuinely believed itself when in 1997 it claimed it was the “party of the countryside” before it attacked the countryside with the Hunting Act changes and other onslaughts.
- Labour’s offer to Britain is appealing in Croydon but not in the countryside.
- Labour understand there are poor people in rural areas.
The reality is that Labour is seriously disliked across the width and breadth of the British countryside. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown Labour decimated agriculture and farming, while destroying the traditions of centuries which bound countryside folk together.
Yes, there are poor in rural areas but they are nowhere near job centres and prefer to get on rather than depend on benefits as Labour would hope they might in exchange for their votes.
The Fabian Society can do all the research it wants about how to make Labour attractive to rural voters. But the reality is that the countryside sees through welfare dependency, doesn’t trust Labour on the economy or farming, and the haughtiness displayed by Labour’s Emma Bean to dismiss farmers and rural Britain as irrelevant in terms of a Labour victory at the polls just goes to show why, after boundary changes and ID presentation at the polls come in over the course of this parliament, Labour is spent as a political force.
Ms Bean, Labour is disliked in the countryside because of people like you.