Farmer Jim Callaghan: A Missed Opportunity to Get the Rural Vote?

One of the pieces of news that came up on the internet news feed last week was that bug-eyed Liz Truss had been empty-chaired by farmers at a political meeting. Truss had either been due to speak or had been invited to speak at a rural hustings and had not appeared. So the farmers had their revenge by having her represented by an empty chair. Well, it could have been worse. When Roy Hattersley didn’t show as promised for an edition of Have I Got News For You in the ’90s, they simply replaced him with a tub of lard. Now what could have replaced Truss, I wonder? Possibly a lump of all that cheese she’s told us we’re going to sell to the Japanese, the majority of whom are lactose intolerant.

Most of England’s rural constituencies seem to be dominated either by the Tories or the Lib Dems, but I think Labour has missed an opportunity there. Firstly, one of the books I was reading about the origins of the welfare state said that the system of subsidies Attlee’s government introduced to support the farmers after the War actually saved them from bankruptcy, thus allowing them to pay their subscriptions to the Conservatives. Which sounds unkind, but is probably true. But it also shows that the Labour party isn’t just an urban party hostile to the countryside, as some have claimed.

Former MP Jim Callaghan is an example. Although he represented an urban constituency, he liked the countryside. He became a partner in a farm, finally taking full ownership. When he wasn’t in parliament or active in his constituency he was down working on his farm. This is in the book I got through the post the other day on the former Prime Minister. The writer of that particular chapter lamented that this enthusiasm for the countryside didn’t allow Labour to challenge the Conservatives on the image of the countryside as a rural idyll. Perhaps it didn’t. But I also feel that there was a lost opportunity to challenge the Tories in the countryside. Having a prime minister who actually worked as a farmer could have shown rural voters that far from removed, indifferent or hostile to rural Britain, Labour was actively involved out there and understand the concerns of farmers and the countryside. Of course, Callaghan had other issues on his plate, not least industrial unrest and the Winter of Discontent that finally brought him down. The Swedish socialist party were able to get the support of their country’s peasant farmers by taking their side during an agricultural crisis in the ’30s. They would turn up en masse to protest against farm repossessions. Perhaps this is a tactic Labour over here should consider when our farmers start going bankrupt thanks to the Brexit deal Johnson and his cronies have pushed through, which will damage our agriculture.

Oh no, that’s it! We’ve no need to worry, ’cause Truss has negotiated the cheese deal with Japan, and a pork deal with China.

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2 Responses to “Farmer Jim Callaghan: A Missed Opportunity to Get the Rural Vote?”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    Unfortunately, I cannot see rural areas voting Labour any time soon. I imagine plenty of now-Tory rural constituencies (esp. in the West and SW of England) will go LibDem at the next GE, but not to Labour.

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