Despite a “bonfire of the quangos”, many still exist, peopled by the unelected. But could country sports use them to our advantage?
Why do we allow the conservation establishment to be dominated by leftish “group-think”? Look at any nongovernmental statutory organisation — call them quangos — with a conservation role and it will be staffed mainly by earnest folk who tend not to spend their leisure time shooting or fishing. They believe the countryside needs to be “saved” from the depredations of fieldsports and farming. This can only be done, they think, by overriding private property rights as part of the wider subjugation of the individual to society at large.
Am I guilty of stereotyping? Probably. But I believe that the majority of publicly funded officials with a rural remit has little real appreciation of shooting sports. These unelected officials hold sway over us in so many ways. Elected politicians come and go, but senior quangocrats outlive the ebb and flow of political tides. They become the establishment and as such are wonderfully adept at self-preservation.
In 2010, a Tory minister promised a “bonfire of the quangos”, which then numbered about 1,000. Today, most of those quangos still exist in some shape or form. And they tend to be run by a certain type of person. Five years ago, the Taxpayers’ Alliance reported that “in the last year, five times more Labour people were appointed to public bodies than Tories”. It was held that this was largely because Conservatives simply didn’t bother applying for such appointments, precisely because they were seen as being the preserve of leftish group-think. So the bias is self-perpetuating.
More recently, a blog site called Conservative Home has been publishing a weekly update of vacancies for senior public appointments, hoping to encourage suitably qualified applicants. Is this something that could be replicated for appointments to those public bodies which have a remit that impinges on fieldsports?
The vacancies are typically for board members, usually part-time. Relevant public bodies might include those concerned with protected landscapes, the environment, food production, wildlife, public access, education… take your pick. Some of them, overseen by appointed boards, have the power to influence the future of shooting.
I wonder if it might be feasible for the fieldsports community to circulate a regular list of relevant public appointment vacancies? To clarify, I am not talking about party political entryism here — in any case, these bodies are supposed to be apolitical. It’s about redressing the current imbalance of knowledge and experience.
Why should we allow leftish group-think to hold sway over matters that are dear to us? Do Guardian readers have a monopoly on wisdom when it comes to conservation and the environment? Don’t we have an even greater stake in the countryside?
If we avoid certain types of public appointment because “it’s not for us” that will indeed be the case. If we allow people to marginalise us, we have only ourselves to blame. I am not saying these people are inherently nasty. Most are perfectly sincere and might be willing to listen to other points of view. But they seldom get the chance, seeing us as visiting lobbyists, rather than an integral part of mainstream thinking. Why do we allow this to continue?
“Politicians come and go, but senior quangocrats outlive the ebb and flow of political tides”