Matthew Naylor: Farmers are all Tories

I hope that you didn’t stay up all last night watching the election coverage – you’ll be very grumpy by lunchtime. Hang on, you’re a farmer, you’re grumpy anyway so it probably doesn’t matter.

Although I haven’t enjoyed the campaign this time around, I always look forward to election night. I can remember being 10 years old and sitting with my maternal grandfather watching the 1983 election. With the innocent impertinence of a child, I asked him for whom he had voted. “That’s between me and the ballot box,” he replied. He even tapped his nose for added intrigue. I still couldn’t tell you which way he voted and it fascinates me even now.

I never had to ask Granddad Naylor, of course. He was a farmer. All farmers are Tories, right? Ipso Facto. No further questions, your honour. Case dismissed.

Certainly the constituency here of South Holland and the Deepings is a very safe Conservative seat. The candidates from the other parties always contest the seat with so little conviction that it is comparable to living under a dictatorship.

Like many NFU branches, our local office always invites all the candidates to come and discuss the matters of the day. I have been on the panel which meets them for the past few elections and, since agriculture is the main employer in our area, the response from the candidates was disappointing.

Our branch secretary contacted the Liberal Democrat candidate three times without a response. The Labour representative was a 25-year-old who had never lived in the area. He was so nervous that his cup and saucer rattled when he held it, it was almost merciful when he spilt it over himself. I wouldn’t have let him answer my phone, never mind represent me in the Houses of Parliament.

The UKIP candidate sported a handlebar moustache and an enormous, purple, comedy UKIP rosette. I couldn’t work out if he was going to squirt our branch chairman with water from it or whether he had just come third in a gymkhana. If only his policies had been half as substantial as his rosette.

This only left John Hayes, the standing MP. Unfortunately he still hadn’t arrived for the meeting 45 minutes after he was due to see us and we decided that our time would be better spent back at work – we all walked out in a feeble protest.

The farming industry must learn a few lessons from this election. Everywhere that I have travelled in the past few weeks, I have seen Conservative posters in fields. Why? It’s farmland. It’s owned by a farmer. Even if you’re not, everyone thinks that you’re a Tory anyway. This is why the farming industry has no political influence.

The Tories take the farming vote for granted and the other parties see it as a lost cause. We are not getting action from any of the main parties. In some countries, America and France are particularly good examples, the farming vote can determine the outcome of an election. Their politicians go to great lengths to hear farmers’ concerns and to meet their needs.

If our industry can be seen to be more politically diverse in future, it will get a better response. We should follow my grandfather’s coy strategy.

So which way did I vote in the end? Well, I shall just tap my nose and say: “That’s between me and the ballot box”