“Your most precious possession is not your financial assets. You most precious possession is the people you have working there, and what they carry around in their heads, and their ability to work together”

These words by Robert Reich help explain the purpose of the Rural Manifesto: to maximise the potential of the Labour movements most untapped resource – rural Labour – and so enable the Labour Party to reach out to the rural vote in a way that they have not attempted since 1945. What prompted the writing of the proposal for the manifesto was a combination of despair and a knowledge of History. As a resident of a safe Conservative seat, it is a constant frustration to know that Labour has, in the past, purposefully and successfully gone out to the countryside to appeal to the rural voter. My own constituency, South Norfolk, was the first rural area to vote Labour in 1920. And one of the outstanding achievements of the great Attlee administration was the enormous rural swing to Labour in 1945.

However, progress in the countryside has rarely been built upon over the long-term and Labour has relinquished most of rural Britain to our opponents. By 2010, even in the rural and semi-rural areas where we had acquired votes in 1997, Labour’s rural support had all but evaporated. Sadly, it is easy to see why. Labour’s 2010 ‘Rural Manifesto’ is a lesson on how NOT to win the rural vote… which is why its existence is all but forgotten.

This is why a proposal for an inclusive, adaptable and thoroughly comprehensive ‘Rural Manifesto’ – one that would entail the input and organisational reform of all rural CLPs – was written. This document is not perfect: it is a little light on environmental issues, doesn’t go far enough on Europe and, at 25 pages, is a little inaccessible, to point out just a few criticisms. Nonetheless, I truly believe that with a Rural Manifesto of this nature we can start to build Labour support in rural areas and appeal to new voters, making a significant contribution to Labour victory in 2015.

Most of all, by taking the long view, setting up realistic targets to be attained over the short, medium and long-term, we can establish the solid foundations of Labour support in all areas of the countryside. In time, we may even be able to challenge and win in places we never thought possible.

If you are interested in reading the proposal for the Rural Manifesto, please contact me at: jack.eddy@btinternet.com

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