It is depressing that only 30 percent of people think the Tories understand rural Britain. A recent poll sponsored by the Countryside Alliance found in addition that only 8.5% of people thought rural life had improved under the Tories. The key question that follows is does this mean that voting patterns could change in the countryside? Traditionally rural seats have backed the Conservative Party but is it possible that the feeling of alienation in rural Britain could change this?
The excellent boss of the Countryside Alliance, Tim Bonner, certainly thinks that the rural vote is not a certainty for the Tories. The problem with this theory is that the other parties offer nothing to the countryside either. Labour certainly doesn’t connect with rural Britain. The SNP are rewilding reds. The Lib Dems are a Remain party where the countryside is predominantly Leave. The Brexit Party doesn’t have any rural policies, and UKIP seems in political decline. It would seem hard to imagine which party could hoover up the rural votes that have traditionally gone to the Tories.
This aside, it is important that the Tories find a way to repay their traditional rural supporters who have been left behind over recent years. The feeling of alienation from countryside residents is a real and enduring sensation. The Tories need to set out a plan to help rural Britain feel caught up with its urban counterparts. This must include spending commitments to ensure that opportunities in the countryside catch up with urban Britain and free votes on country sports that don’t look like they have been rigged by LACS.
Whoever the next Prime Minister chooses as Minister to represent the British countryside should be someone who understands that the rural community feels forgotten, is annoyed that promises on broadband and second homes have not been met, and recognises that the Tories are running a popularity deficit in most rural areas. It’s an uphill task for whoever he chooses.
The Conservative Party should be the obvious choice for rural communities. The countryside runs through Tories’ veins. If the Brexit vote was not enough of a shot across CCHQ’s bows then perhaps there is some other brutal way of bursting the Westminster bubble and forcing some genuine rural focus. Enough platitudes – we’re getting fed up.