There are lots major things happening this year. We are now in July, the month of the CLA Game fair, the Olympics, the Jubilee celebrations have just finished and it’s hard to believe that game shooting will start again next month! Lots of events that make you proud to be an inhabitant of these islands, or so I thought.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to talk on a panel about “Britishness” with the Observer newspaper. They wanted a group of people with different backgrounds and opinions to talk about the subject. The session was to be recorded at the head offices of the Guardian in London.
What I could bring to the table I wasn’t sure. The other participants were from very diverse backgrounds. There was a Green Party activist, an entrepreneur, a business woman and a labour party campaigner. I struggled to understand where I fitted into all this. I had hoped that I was representing the people of the countryside, traditional British pastimes and values.
The debate stated with a series of questions to the participant, some were anti monarchy; others didn’t like the idea of having a national identity. I argued that by just doing what we do provides our national identity. We spoken about many things and then got onto the most British of things: class. Then came the question, but not one I was expecting, and it was directed straight to me: “You represent the ruling classes”. I was shocked, am didn’t quite know what to say. Who exactly, are the “ruling classes” and why do I represent them? No one told me. But then the penny dropped , its because I represent fieldsports.
This simple misconception highlights a problem we face with the press - stereotyping. It is automatically assumed, especially by the left leaning press, that as soon as you pick up a gun or sit on a horse you must be upper class, a gypsy or a criminal. This mentality probably stems from that fact the when the founders of their philosophy were theorising, it was easy to categorise the “upper classes” by what they did. Unfortunately, this type of negative stereotyping has stuck whilst society has moved on.
This simple tactic builds up resentment towards those participating in fieldsports, as the feeling of “well if I can’t do it, why should they” attitude creeps in. We all know that is very different In the countryside. In the country and countryside events, I see every class socialising with each other. Not just in the shooting field, but in the hunting field, cricket pitch and village shop. Class is no barrier, but the mentality of class is, the “us and them”, it is only those who perceive it to be a barrier that have a problem with this.
I made this point, and everyone seemed to agree. But deep down I felt they didn’t. The people on the left came from London, were born and bred there. They seemed concerned about us being open to multiculturalism. I argued that country people are by their very nature have a different culture to those in towns, and that should be accepted, just as other cultures from other countries should be accepted. I am not one to try and change someone’s political views. But we have to understand that groups are different. Tolerating society – that also includes tolerating those who share this island too.
Despite this stereotyping, which is something we can work on, it shows promise that those that an area of the media that once hated all fieldsports are now willing to speak to us. Although there is much work to be done, it shows that at least, in terms of the media, we are getting somewhere.
This article first appeared in The Countryman’s Weekly