As over 250 hunts prepare to meet on Boxing Day, new research warns that Labour’s failure to address real rural concerns could cost it dearly at the next General Election.

A survey carried out by ORB for the Countryside Alliance found that 58% of people, rising to 65% who identified themselves as rural voters, thought that rural constituencies would be worse off under a Jeremy Corbyn led Labour Government.

When Labour published its environment policy “The Green Transformation” this year it promised to “strengthen” the Hunting Act and also to set up an inquiry into banning grouse shooting.

Labour must win in rural constituencies if it is to win a majority at the next election, but as reports such as Maria Eagles “Labour’s Rural Problem” and the Fabian Society’s “Labour Country” have highlighted, the party continues to struggle to connect with rural voters. The Fabian report noted that Labour had given the impression that rural issues could be reduced to animal welfare issues, and proposed an alternative policy agenda with initiatives on local industry, rural transport, affordable housing and farming.

Maria Eagle’s 2015 paper noted that: “The route map to Number 1 runs through rural Britain”, and identified 28 rural seats that Labour must target. Her paper indicated that Labour must take 20 of these seats in order to achieve a majority. Labour gained only five of these seats in 2017, with the Tories increasing their majority in nine of them.

Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “These findings are no surprise when the Labour Party continues to focus on a narrow animal rights agenda, rather than issues that really matter to rural people. Labour’s obsessive pursuit of hunting, and now shooting, looks increasingly bizarre to people in the countryside, as well as to those in towns and cities.

“Politicians who prioritise issues that do not matter to the vast majority of the electorate are very likely to be perceived as out of touch and ignorant of people’s real concerns.

“This research should be a wake-up call to sensible Labour politicians that it needs to engage with the real issues that matter to voters in rural constituencies.”

ENDS

Notes for editors:

The survey conducted by ORB International was conducted among a nationally representative sample of 2087 adults between 19-20 December. Fieldwork was carried out online: www.orb-international.com

The Fabian Report ‘Labour Country’ can be found here

To read ‘The Green Transformation: Labour’s Environment Policy’ please click here

Over 250 hunts will be meeting on Boxing Day on the biggest day of the hunting year. Since the Hunting Act came into force in February 2005, UK hunts have taken part in approximately 250,000 days hunting with many packs hunting several times per week. During this time trail-hunting and other forms of legal hunting have been carried out in compliance with the Hunting Act 2004.

Read the Countryside Alliance’s guide to trail-hunting here

The 28 target rural seats identified in Maria Eagle’s 2015 paper:
1) Corby
2) Gower (Labour gain 2017)
3) Vale of Clwyd (Labour gain 2017)
4) Keighley (Labour gain 2017)
5) North Warwickshire
6) Stroud (Labour gain 2017)
7) Calder Valley
8) Sherwood
9) High Peak (Labour Gain 2017)
10) Cannock Chase
11) Preseli Pembrokeshire
12) Dover
13) Scarborough and Whitby
14) Aberconwy
15) Afron (Plaid)
16) Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Plaid)
17) Elmet and Rothwell
18) Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire
19) Camborne and Redruth
20) Cleethorpes
21) North West Leicestershire
22) Forest of Dean
23) South Derbyshire
24) Monmouth
25) Beverley and Holderness
26) The Wrekin
27) Staffordshire Moorlands
28) York Outer