I’m not a Political animal, with a capital ‘P’ yet (like all who enjoy country-sports and the countryside), I have a vested interest in the pending General Election and what it might mean to my beloved British countryside and it’s rural economy. I’m the typical marginal voter that needs to be courted by candidates and convinced that their manifesto will protect interests meaningful to me or repair issues that anger, offend or disenfranchise not just me … but my peers too. I have to say that as things stand, the whole sorry pantomime cast of Party leadership doesn’t look worthy of my vote. Yet I learned many years ago (and I hope my son does too) that a vote not cast leaves you with the sour taste of indifference in your mouth. So my decisions are usually informed by evidence of solid groundwork by local MP’s. Not vote-lobbying PR stunts and front-page posing but genuine, sleeves-rolled-up support for local issues and local people.
Last time around, I walked into the polling booth with determination and put my cross where my heart was most moved at the time. As a hunter, a hunting author and part-time shooting journalist I was persuaded that a Tory return would result in a repeal of the Hunting Act. A nonsensical piece of legislation which Britain should be ashamed of. A dog can chase a rat but not a squirrel? It can chase a rabbit but not a hare? I spent hours showing my lurcher pictures of rats, squirrels, rabbits and hares in attempts to re-educate him. Foxes? It had nothing to do that at all. It had everything to do with a class warfare attack on the rural, landed folk who allow people like me to shoot and hunt on their land. But guess what? The promised ‘repeal’ wasn’t delivered. So why should I trust the Tories to deliver this over another term? A tiny issue for many voters … but a huge one for me, a country hunter (and not of foxes). Now there’s the rub. I can’t trust Cameron on anything. Yet having watched Liz Truss from a distance rise from a local MP to Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and commit to this repeal, I’m tempted. Not just because she is a hell of a lot more attractive that Cameron!
My day job, as a senior manager in the waste sector, conflicts completely with my extra-curricular activities in terms of the electoral process. Over the past ten years I have seen my sector (and much of British industry) swamped in EU directives which border on ridiculous. Waste Directives, Health & Safety Directives, Transport Directives et al, et al. Let me cut through the crap and give you a simple story which demonstrates my frustration. My commercial waste trucks (under EU & UK rules) operate under strict drivers ‘hours’ rules ensuring drivers get sufficient rest. We have to meet stringent vehicle service and presentation standards. Fair play. Our customers have to pre-segregate waste and put them in different bins. We collect several different waste & recycling streams (general waste, recyclables, food, glass etc). UK Local Authorities are ordered to offer household recycling options! EU rules? Go and sit outside a restaurant in Greece and watch what happens when the refuse truck turns up. A beaten-up old heap with bald tyres, a couple of operatives with no PPE or hi-vis empty all the bins into the truck (recycling and waste) to tip in a hole in the ground somewhere up in the mountains, while the driver sits smoking in his cab (banned by EU directives). So, all of a sudden, UKIP looks very appealing to me. I would love to shoot the hypocrisy of EU legislation into the back of one of my trucks and crush it.
I read Nigel Farage’s piece on the Countryside Alliance website tonight. It was appealing in it’s return to self sufficiency but I need help with this? This is the only party I have seen that seems to have a genuine concern about the open-border policy on immigration in the UK. Based in the East (I live in Norwich, work in Great Yarmouth) I have seen the region swamped with European immigrants over the past five years. Into an area where there are few jobs and even less spare housing. Driving out of Yarmouth to my home in Norwich today I was stuck in a traffic queue at road-works and passed an encampment just inside some woods. A small tent-city … in a Norfolk wood?
Have I mentioned Labour yet? Well, they lost me years ago. Well before the Hunting Act. Recently they have made some spectacular manifesto promises such as ‘stopping cruelty on hunting estates’ which confirmed to me that they don’t know what the definition of ‘cruelty’ is and assume that the death of any animal is ‘cruel’? I hope Ed Milliband stares long and hard at tomorrows bacon roll or Sundays roast beef.
So who do I vote for? Well, there is a long run-in yet and I’m open to any suggestions.
©Ian Barnett, Wildscribbler, March 2015