Now the General Election is out of the way and we know that we will not face some of the incredibly damaging policies being promoted in some quarters, we must not become complacent. The next five years is an opportunity to be proactive and put rural interests on the front foot, ensuring a proper understanding of our issues by parliamentarians and at all levels of government. We can also start to take forward our campaigns. The countryside faces many challenges, as well as opportunities, and there is no time to lose in winning the support of MPs from all parties for an agenda that reflects the issues that matter to you - our members and supporters. We also need to ensure the Government delivers on its election promises.
Thanks to the help of thousands of you in lobbying candidates during the election, we have already accumulated a lot of information about our MPs, both new and old, and how they view our key campaigns and objectives. All this information allows us to build a picture of an MP’s individual interests, concerns and activity. Knowing who is supportive, who is open to being supportive, and who is not supportive, allows us to tailor our approach to the different groups within Parliament, as well as MPs individually.
Based on our understanding of the individual MPs, we will be writing to all of them to congratulate them on their election and, as appropriate, set out what the Alliance is, who we represent and our key asks. Similarly, we will be writing to relevant new ministers and renewing our engagement with departments as the Government moves forward with its agenda. We will not just be reacting to Government policy, but also seeking to shape it and set an agenda that advances the interests of rural communities whether in terms of new environmental laws, police funding or the delivery of digital connectivity, so vital to the future of the rural economy.
The Alliance will continue to ensure that MPs are fully briefed on relevant issues, legislation and consultations, beginning with a comprehensive briefing on the Government’s legislative programme as set out in the Queen’s Speech. This will ensure all MPs and peers are fully aware of what our position and view is on each respective piece of legislation impacting rural Britain. It is also an opportunity to highlight what the Government is not doing and to galvanise support among parliamentarians.
We are fortunate that a number of MPs are also Countryside Alliance members and we will be seeking an early meeting with them. Despite the Government’s commitment not to change the Hunting Act, we know that across a whole range of issues we face an increasingly powerful, well-funded and vociferous animal rights movement. Their agenda now goes far beyond hunting to direct attacks against game shooting, farming and wildlife management. It is important that we have friends who understand the importance of these activities, so we are not alone in standing up to the extremist agenda that threatens our way of life.
We will also be implementing an ongoing programme of engagement, including individual meetings with MPs, briefings and other events in Parliament, such as a Spring reception to welcome MPs and outline our work. We must ensure that the Alliance continues to be seen as the voice of the countryside, and a much-valued resource for parliamentarians, for which we are known, especially among MPs representing rural areas.
Leaving the European Union on 31 January, and negotiations for our future relationship with Europe will remain a dominant theme in the coming months and the Alliance will continue to ensure the interests of the rural community are not forgotten as a raft of legislation makes its way through Parliament, requiring as it will the drafting of amendments, briefing of MPs and committees and engagement with ministers. There is also the 2020 budget, not to mention an expected major reshuffle next year. None of this work would be possible without your support in terms of numbers, finance and critically your engagement at the local level. MPs are most influenced by their constituents and we cannot achieve here what we need to achieve, without your help.