Sharp­shooter

De­spite a “bon­fire of the quan­gos”, many still ex­ist, peo­pled by the un­elected. But could coun­try sports use them to our ad­van­tage?

Shooting Times & Country Magazine - - CLASSIFIED -

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”

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