Of course a body of “Blue Foxes” on the Conservative benches has put a stop to any attempt to repeal the hunting ban. When in office, even as only the larger partner in a Coalition, that party must be largely suburban and urban in order to have made it that far. Only the skillful use of parliamentary procedure prevented a hunting ban in the Major years, when there was a clear Commons majority in favour of one.
Insofar as people in the countryside really do “all vote Tory”, they do so only because they are only offered no alternative, a situation which is one of many consequences of the endemic assumption that British history has proceeded as if Marxism had gone according to plan. In fact, though, nothing could be further from the case.
One of the great myths of Labour is that it has always been an irredeemably urban party. It was a rural one when it started. Pit villages really were villages, and farm labourers had a long history as among the most militant in the country. The urban working class resisted the rise of Labour for a very long time, and largely did so for as long as either could properly be said to exist.
But where today are those who have resisted enclosure, clearances, exorbitant rents, absentee landlordism, and a whole host of other abuses of the rural population down to the present day? Those who organised farm labourers, smallholders, crofters and others in order to secure radical reforms? Those who obtained, and who continue to defend, rural amenities such as schools, medical facilities, Post Offices, and so on?
Whatever happened to the county divisions that predominated among safe Labour seats when such first became identifiable in the 1920s? To the working farmers who sat as Labour MPs between the Wars and subsequently? To the Attlee Government’s creation of the Green Belt and the National Parks? To those who opposed the destruction of the national rail and bus networks, and who continue to demand that those services be reinstated? To those who have seen, and who still see, real agriculture as the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food) as against “factory farming”, and as a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market?
Where are those who have fought, and who continue to fight, for affordable housing in the countryside, and for planning laws and procedures that take proper account of rural needs? Those who object in principle to government without the clear electoral mandate of rural as well as of urban and suburban areas? Those who have been and who are concerned that any electoral reform be sensitive to the need for effective rural representation? Distributism and the related tendencies? Those who are conservationist rather than environmentalist?
That said, the Presidency of the Countryside Alliance is held by a Labour peer and its Chairmanship by a Labour MP, Kate Hoey. But even so.