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Our analysis of the Labour party manifesto

Labour Party Manifesto 2024

With all polls pointing to a substantial Labour majority government resulting from the general election, the launch of its manifesto has been a keenly anticipated event. Yet for the countryside, it has turned out to be something of a damp squib. Cities and towns receive multiple mentions but at no point does the document acknowledge the specific challenges rural areas face within broader areas of policy, such as transport and public services. Indeed, the word ‘rural’ does not appear in the manifesto once. 

To the frustration of the Countryside Alliance and against the advice of some of its wisest old heads, the manifesto confirms Labour’s plan to ban trail hunting and, ignoring all the evidence, proposes to ban humane cable restraints that play a vital role in conserving wildlife. Otherwise, the document is surprisingly light on other animal-related policies. It simply states:  

“Stronger animal welfare 

 “Labour will improve animal welfare. We will ban trail hunting and the import of hunting trophies. We will end puppy smuggling and farming, along with the use of snare traps. And we will partner with scientists, industry, and civil society as we work towards the phasing out of animal testing.” 

The party also pledges to introduce full cost recovery of firearms licensing, despite concerns over wide disparities between the cost-efficiency delivered by forces’ licensing teams. It claims this measure will be used to fund measures to reduce youth violence, which seems a bizarrely incongruous connection to make.

As little attention as the document pays to countryside matters, the following proposals may impact rural communities especially. 

Crime and Policing: Labour pledges to enforce measures where fly-tippers and vandals clean up their own mess, enhancing accountability and cleanliness. 

Net Zero/Climate Change: A significant focus is on local power generation to ease grid pressure and involve rural communities directly. Through the Local Power Plan, Labour will partner with local authorities and energy companies to deploy clean energy projects, including wind, solar, and hydropower, inviting communities to propose initiatives for local benefit. 

Natural Environment: Labour promises robust actions to meet Environment Act targets, creating new National River Walks and National Forests, expanding nature-rich habitats, and restoring wetlands, peat bogs and forests. Notably the manifesto does not pledge to introduce a universal ‘right to roam’. 

Food and Farming: Recognising food security as national security, Labour pledges to support British farming while safeguarding the environment. Like the Conservatives, the manifesto sets a target for half of public sector food to be locally produced or meet high environmental standards. Labour plans to work with farmers on sustainable land-use and measures to eradicate Bovine TB, ending ineffective badger culling. 

Animal Welfare: As outlined above, Labour’s policies include banning trail hunting, hunting trophy imports and the use of snare traps. It aims to end puppy smuggling and farming, partnering with various stakeholders to phase out animal testing. 

Housing: Labour intends to revise the National Policy Planning Framework, enforcing mandatory housing targets and ensuring planning authorities have up-to-date Local Plans. The emphasis is on sustainable development and addressing modern economic needs. 

Communities and Local Government: Labour will push for full gigabit and national 5G coverage by 2030, maintain the Royal Mail’s universal service obligation, and support the Post Office network with new business models like banking hubs. Plans include upgrading national transmission infrastructure and promoting a Neighbourhood Health Service to deliver more local healthcare. 

Transport: Labour commits to maintaining and renewing the road network, fixing one million potholes annually, and accelerating electric vehicle infrastructure. It plans to restore the 2030 end-date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, a policy where consideration of rural challenges would have been especially relevant. Railways will be reformed and brought into public ownership, while local leaders will gain new powers to franchise bus services with the current ban on municipal ownership lifted. 

The Countryside Alliance will review and communicate the rural impacts of all major parties’ manifestos, setting the agenda on rural policy through the general election and beyond. To support our work, please consider joining the Countryside Alliance today. 

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