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His Majesty’s new-look Government

While many junior roles are yet to be filled and ministerial portfolios to be confirmed, the Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, lost no time in appointing his initial cabinet with all the major roles now filled.  

As expected, the result was almost as close to a carbon-copy of his last Shadow Cabinet as the vagaries of electoral fortune would permit. Former Shadow Culture Secretary Thangam Debbonaire lost her seat of Bristol West to the Green Party’s Carla Denyer, and former Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornbury was jettisoned in favour of Richard Hermer, a KC who will be made a life peer. The top jobs, however, and those connected to rural affairs, have all gone to their former shadows. 

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is Steve Reed OBE MP, whom we welcomed to the shadow portfolio in September 2023. Now representing the new constituency of Streatham and Croydon North, Mr Reed has a professional background in publication and a political pedigree as the former Leader of Lambeth Council. Although not of a rural background, Mr Reed addressed the Countryside Alliance-supported Future Countryside in June, winning plaudits for his pledge to force fly-tippers into cleanup squads. He also declared: 

“People from urban areas – like me – will not tell people who live and work in the countryside how they should live their lives.” 

Hopefully he will remember that when considering whether and when to act on the ill-advised manifesto pledge to ban trail hunting. Mr Reed is joined at Defra by Daniel Zeichner MP, the former Shadow and now Minister of State who has been a stalwart of Countryside Alliance events at the Labour Party Conference for several years. 

Hugely significant to rural communities too, given its functions related to policing and the licensing of firearms, the role of Home Secretary has also gone to it former shadow, Yvette Cooper MP. A frontbench survivor from the days of Brown and even Blair, Ms Cooper has held government or opposition roles since 1999 excepting only the Corbyn leadership, most of which she spent as Chair of the Home Affairs Committee. Ms Cooper has previously declared an intent to “end the police subsidy of gun licences”, presaging Labour’s 2024 manifesto commitment. It will be for the Alliance, working with partners in the rural sector, to press the case that too many licensing bodies are run too inefficiently, so to price them based on the poorest performers’ costs would be a reward for failure. 

Virtually all cabinet positions touch on rural affairs to some extent, but the last we will highlight here is Labour’s former leader Ed Miliband MP, who reprises his old role of Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, now renamed to Energy Security and Net Zero. Mr Miliband’s first appointment was swiftly followed by the passage of the Climate Change Act 2008, which established carbon emissions reduction in law. He is also the driver behind Labour’s pledge of a ‘Green New Deal’, a massive proposed investment in the decarbonation of the UK’s energy supply. We will maintain our case that rural communities must not be required to bear a disproportionate share of the burdens involved, and a ‘just transition’ must mean exactly that. 

As the new government continues to take shape the Countryside Alliance will monitor appointments and seek early discussions with key players, to ensure that the rural voice is heard from the start. To support our work, please consider joining the Countryside Alliance today. 

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