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Our Chairman, Simon Hart MP, who has served the Alliance in nearly every imaginable role over the last 20 years, has been appointed as a Minister in the Cabinet Office. This means he has had to resign from the Countryside Alliance as the Ministerial Code requires him to give up all outside interests.
There are few jobs in the Alliance that Simon has not filled over the last two decades and we would simply not be the force we are were it not for him. From his leadership through turbulent years of political battle over the hunting ban, to guiding the Alliance through a period of profound change in the countryside, to steering a route through the current political turmoil he has shaped the organisation and served our members tirelessly.
I first met Simon seventeen years ago when I turned up at Countryside Alliance HQ to help out for a few weeks before the Liberty and Livelihood March, which turned out to be the largest civil liberties protest in modern British history. He was Director of the Campaign for Hunting and was then appointed Chief Executive in 2003. In 2010 he stood down when he was elected as MP for his home constituency of Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, but returned to the Board and was selected as Chairman in 2015.
I hope I speak for all of you in thanking Simon for everything he has done for the Alliance and all those we represent over the last two decades. It has been an extraordinary period, and he has played an extraordinary role in some extraordinary political battles. Without his leadership hunting would not have survived the ban as successfully as it has, and the animal rights agenda would have moved on to shooting, farming and any number of other activities.
He will be a great loss to us but we understand that taking up the challenge of his new role at such a time was irresistible. The Board has started the difficult process of identifying his successor.