One of the things that I have discovered since moving from inner London to a small, rural village in a quiet corner of the English shires is that much that I took for granted about politics doesn’t apply terribly well once you escape the major conurbations. You might now expect me to grumble about the unfairness of it all, and you would be right. But not for the reasons you might expect…
William Langland wrote of “a fair field, full of folk”, and whilst the modern countryside would be unrecognisable to him, he would appreciate that rural communities remain fragile things founded on interdependence and institutions. And with the changes in society, the movement of people from villages to towns, increased participation in democracy and mechanisation of farming with its consequential decline in employment significance, the prominence of rural communities in the eyes of policy makers has declined.
There are, naturally, perfectly logical explanations for this. Much of the British population live in towns and cities, in satellite communities located for their convenience to major transport routes, including most senior civil servants, lobbyists and politicians. You cannot then blame them for having a mindset that is heavily influenced by their day to day experiences. So I won’t.
The areas away from such places have a pigeon-hole in their consciousness though. Food comes from the countryside, and it’s a pretty place, so in thinking about the environment, it seems obvious to combine these things under one umbrella, especially as we now think of farmers as not only producers of food but stewards of the countryside. And there must obviously be other issues, so lumping them together under the phrase ‘rural affairs’, and adding them on the other two, you have a tidy Departmental structure.
The problem is that ‘rural affairs’ are not separate from the rest of the government agenda, they are heavily impacted by it. Take the four core elements of a thriving rural community;
• shop/post office
Now, I live in a village with only one of these, St Peter’s Church, pictured above, but tomorrow, I’m going to look at some of the effects of Government policy on these pillars of our small, but perfectly formed villages…
* Mark Valladares lives in a small village in mid-Suffolk called Creeting St Peter. It has nine street lights, but the one near his house hasn’t worked for nine months. That’s probably his fault, as he’s responsible for the Parish Council’s finances…