26 February 1998
Scale of countryside support shocks MPs

THE scale of support for Sundays countryside rally has taken Westminster by surprise, leaving political parties scrambling to assert their rural credentials.

Organisers say nearly 2,000 coaches will ferry protesters to London. The crowd is expected to be double that at last years July rally, when 120,000 turned up.

The scope of the march has widened from a protest against draft legislation to ban fox-hunting to other countryside issues such as a strong Pound, the beef-on-the-bone ban, the loss of rural amenities and the “dire straits” in which farmers have found themselves because of the BSE crisis.

The Liberal Democrats – in a bid to tap into rural sentiment – have called for a Royal Commission into rural policy. Lib-Dems say both major political parties have ignored countryside issues in recent years.

The Daily Telegraph examines the scale of the operation to light up 5,000 beacons across the UK to herald the start of Sundays protest.

The Independent claims the United States shooting and hunting lobby has been bankrolling this weekends march.

  • Financial Times 26/02/98 page 10
  • The Times 26/02/98 page 1
  • The Guardian 26/02/98 page 18 (Comment)
  • The Independent 26/02/98 page 1
  • The Daily Telegraph 26/02/98 page 4