Hear the coun­try­side

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear. The Gen­eral elec­tion re­sult high­lighted a na­tion­wide fail­ure of politi­cians to lis­ten, but if any­thing is to be taken away from this desta­bil­is­ing fall­out, it’s that we all need to start lis­ten­ing to and re­spect­ing each other.

Last year’s Brexit vote was end­lessly termed ‘the will of the peo­ple’ and the los­ing side’s dis­tress over a bruis­ing ref­er­en­dum dis­missed as griz­zling, yet the re­al­ity was that there were only about one mil­lion votes in it. Jeremy Cor­byn’s old-fash­ioned, ide­o­log­i­cal ap­proach was scoffed at, his Pied Piper abil­i­ties un­der­es­ti­mated. Ni­cola stur­geon dis­played a tin ear about scot­land’s flag­ging en­thu­si­asm for in­de­pen­dence; the Tories hoped a surg­ing youth vote would un­der­stand about tu­ition fees and pen­sion­ers about the loss of their win­ter fuel bonus; the Lib Dems could have been the party of com­pro­mise, but were ob­sessed by the no­tion that fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties were dy­ing to tear each other apart all over again about Brexit.

Theresa May’s ad­vi­sors might have lis­tened more care­fully to her con­stituents, who see her as warm, ac­ces­si­ble and hard­work­ing not a re­mote, power-dress­ing hand­bag­ger. And Mrs May her­self should have clocked a big clue from weary Brenda of Bris­tol that not all vot­ers were fo­cused on her Brexit man­date when they’ve got se­ri­ous is­sues closer to home.

The cam­paign was mer­ci­fully short, but in­sults and puerile point-scor­ing rather than con­struc­tive, work­able ideas be­came the stock in trade and mo­men­tum was, un­der­stand­ably, lost due to two aw­ful tragedies that put life into per­spec­tive. A hu­mil­i­ated Con­ser­va­tive Party may find it hard to re­sist in­ter­nal re­crim­i­na­tion and pre­vi­ously restive Labour MPS will be sheep­ish about the ex­tent to which they re­lied on Mr Cor­byn’s ap­peal to win their seats. Both par­ties will have to heed more the de­sires and needs of scot­land, Wales and North­ern Ire­land, which will hold the bal­ance of power in fu­ture leg­is­la­tion.

The real win­ner may, how­ever, be the coun­try­side, for whose sup­port the Govern­ment should be des­per­ately grate­ful; the new elec­toral map shows that the vote share— a re­spectable 44%—came over­whelm­ingly from ru­ral, not ur­ban, con­stituen­cies, from the Welsh moun­tains up to the Northum­brian bor­ders and back down to the hamp­shire Downs and the south-west’s moors. This was the sec­tor that re­mained ‘strong and sta­ble’, not the towns.

The coun­try­side hasn’t al­ways been well served by Govern­ment, fobbed off with a di­min­ished depart­ment (De­fra), ar­chaic tech­nol­ogy and stuck at the back of the queue for ser­vices. Last Fri­day, a newly col­lected Mrs May promised to share pros­per­ity across the UK. she and her min­is­ters need to share their ears as well.

‘We all need to start lis­ten­ing to and re­spect­ing each other

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