David Richardson: I’m already sick of the election

Matt, The Daily Telegraph cartoonist, accurately captured the nation’s mood last week. A husband sits reading a newspaper showing the headline “Election”. His wife, standing beside him, asks: “Is it me or does 6 May seem to be getting further away?”

I know just how she feels. And so, I suspect, does a significant proportion of the population. We ordinary mortals can only take so much of the cliché-ridden pronouncements emitted by candidates of all parties before we switch off and turn to other concerns, such as the weather, over which we feel we have more control.

We understand very well that any promises made, any policies promoted, any priorities postulated have one purpose – to attract as many votes as possible and put the party represented into power. And if they are successful, if past experience is any guide, many of those commitments disappear. Or am I just being cynical?

Well yes, of course I am. And there are a few exceptions. But recent parliamentary behaviour does not encourage confidence. And the financial crisis into which we taxpayers have been led and for which we will ultimately have to pay over goodness knows how many years, makes us suspicious of anyone wearing a rosette.

But despite my negativity, I still regard it as a duty to vote, even if it’s for what I believe is the lesser of a number of evils. Accordingly I have been reading the manifestos to see what they say about food, farming and the countryside. The truth is, not a lot, and certainly nothing new.

Labour says it will find ways to safeguard food security while enriching the environment. It will create a low-carbon economy, plant more trees and designate more protected landscape areas.

It will appoint a supermarket ombudsman, ensure clearer country of origin labelling on food, and promote a sustainable and profitable farming industry. It will roll out super-fast broadband and encourage and support imaginative solutions to rural problems. In other words, more of what we’ve been hearing from Hilary Benn for several months.

The Conservatives say they would prioritise conserving eco-systems and biodiversity. They would protect fertile land from development and renegotiate the CAP to provide better value for money while supporting farmers and tackling food security and global poverty.

They would not allow the commercial planting of GM crops unless and until they have been assessed as safe for people and the environment. But they would introduce a science-led policy of culling badgers. Like Labour, they would also create legislation to ensure honest labelling and appoint an ombudsman. Shades of Zac Goldsmith and Jim Paice in that list, I think.

The Liberal Democrats would push for reform of the CAP and the subsidy system to provide more support for conservation and hill farmers, to help fund bio-gas digesters, create farm apprenticeships and secure food supplies. They would increase countryside access and stop the loss of biodiversity.

They would ensure food was clearly labelled and expand the market for fair-trade products. They would increase council tax on second homes, introduce a scheme for affordable houses and keep rural post offices open. All of which must be taken seriously in case of a hung parliament.

There are, of course, several other parties and many other policies. And if those above don’t turn you on, you may have to refer to them to decide which way to vote.

But remember, whatever candidates might tell you, at less than 2% of the population, farmers’ vote’s count for little.

Read more from David Richardson on his blog.

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Futures markets and commodity risk management online course:

  • Risk management strategies for a more predictable financial performance
  • Educated conversations when collaborating with your advisors
  • Negotiate better prices with your grain merchants

View course

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