Postal votes in Somerset NFU election

27 August 1999

Postal votes in Somerset NFU election

By John Burns

SOMERSET NFU members are to choose the delegates who will represent them on NFU council next year by a postal vote – a system rejected by union council earlier this year when it agreed changes to the unions constitution.

Although council agreed to introduce a one-member-one-vote system for electing London delegates, it rejected the postal vote option. Instead, the new rules say that meetings should be convened, open to all members, for voting to take place.

In Somerset, however, the postal vote concession was won this week by the four dairy farmers who ignored NFU advice and presented Carla Lanes Sussex animal sanctuary with 43 Holstein bull calves three weeks ago.

They had then threatened to call an extraordinary meeting of Somerset NFU at which the resignations of two key county officeholders would be sought.

Postal votes

To avoid that, union south-west regional director Anthony Gibson offered Somerset members the postal vote – and gave them a written guarantee that it would take place.

That was welcomed by local dairy farmer Derek Mead who said a postal vote would ensure the right people went to London and that if they did not do what members wanted they could be replaced.

At an on-farm meeting at Sparkford on Tuesday evening, Mr Gibson also congratulated the four members on "the Carla Lane business".

"They were right and I was wrong. I thought they were playing with fire," he said, adding that the event had been more effective than anything else in bringing to public attention the problems caused by the ban on exports of UK cattle under six months old, or meat from them.

He confirmed his promise of a postal vote and said: "If we are told (by HQ) we cant do it, we will still do it."

Public endorsement

Mr Gibson also publicly endorsed direct action, provided it was aimed at those who could change things and that it did not alienate the public.

"With a situation as bad as it is at present, direct action has got to play a part," he said, although it was better if the NFU was not directly involved.

His suggested action list included nationwide resistance to the proposed £7 fee for every cattle passport. An effective protest could be made if everyone applying for passports submitted applications without including any payment.

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