We need a strong Rural Voice!


I’ve just returned from the Rural Conference, organised by the Rural Services Network.

It was good couple of days, talking about broadband, housing,  council funding and elderly care. Our subjects in other words, and not areas where this Tory government is showing much competence. Here’s the programme.

There were three Lib Dem delegates at the conference.

That’s right, only three of us among a sea of Tories.

The day after the conference I spent time with Tim Farron, our MP, at our local agricultural show. It was a very busy day with questions, opinions and encouragement coming thick and fast. Our petition supporting local dairy farmers, printed on a cow shaped piece of card, was especially welcomed.

We used to be the party that stood up for rural issues. I think we suffered over the coalition period, and many can speculate as to why this may have been , but it’s now time that we asserted that we are the true voice of the countryside.

Let’s start by making sure that the Rural Services Network isn’t simply a Tory stronghold.

Check here to see if your Council is a member and work at getting yourself nominated as a rep.

There are many voters in the countryside who don’t feel that either Labour or the Conservatives truly represent how they feel and that space is there to be filled by Lib Dems.

I look forward to seeing many more of you at next year’s conference and will even volunteer to organise a night out for us at a suitable local hostelry!

* Cllr Peter Thornton is a member of the Federal Policy Committee and Deputy Leader of Cumbria County Council and lead member for Finance. He is also a South Lakeland District Councillor. He chaired the Housing Policy Working Group whose paper is being debated at Autumn Conference 2023.

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  • Michael Chappell 14th Sep '15 - 2:47pm

    I’ve been thinking for a little while now that it would be worthwhile establishing a Rural Affairs SAO within the party. Rural issues are legion and maybe a specific policy and advocacy group would help us start redefining as a party for rural people.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Sep '15 - 3:47pm

    Buses could be smaller and more frequent. Double-deckers provide better views upstairs at the front.

  • Good to see Peter (a successor of mine as Councillor for Kirkby Stephen) speaking up on rural matters here.

    The fact is that rural life is fragile and complicated. Above all it requires intervention of the social liberal kind rather than being left to the vagaries of market economics. Yes, by all means support self help, mutuals and co-operatives, but local government ought to be the guarantor of sustainable rural communities.

    The Tories have decimated local government finance (sadly in the last five years winked at by us). The consequence is the cycle of decline of rural schools, transport , housing (often with the issue of second homes) and social care for the elderly and disabled stretched to and beyond the limit. Non intervention means the collapse of rural communities. We end up with ghettoes of the rich without any kind of balanced community.

    This ought to be natural territory for us – so many of our former seats demonstrate all these issues. Appointing a well briefed Rural Communities spokesman in the Commons (backed up by an innovative research group) ought to be a priority.

  • peter tyzack 15th Sep '15 - 11:48am

    Go for it, Michael Chappell, great idea.

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