Luke with Keir
Luke with Keir

In a landmark speech to the National Farmers’ Union’s annual conference, Labour leader Keir Starmer announced a new review in Labour’s rural policy, led by Plymouth MP Luke Pollard.

In his speech today, Keir Starmer promised to bring the Labour Party closer to rural and farming communities in the first Labour leader’s speech to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference since 2008.

Starmer said that Labour’s next manifesto should offer the hope and opportunities to rural communities as those who live in towns and cities. He also called on the Government to take measures to back British farming, including:

  • Encourage people to buy more British food – including looking at whether more of the £2.4bn public spending on catering could be spent with British farmers and producers.
  • Address the serious and growing problems with farm payments – with three quarters of farmers worried that the Government’s new schemes won’t keep them afloat.
  • Invest in agricultural skills – with a wage subsidy to create new apprenticeships in farming and other industries this year.

Starmer said that ten years of Conservative austerity has weakened the foundations of rural communities, hollowing out services and failing to invest in infrastructure. He said Labour’s proposed British Recovery Bond would allow longer-term investment to tackle the “permanent insecurity” faced by businesses, farmers and landowners and used an example of how it could support recovery in flood-hit communities.

Committing to a new relationship with British farming and rural communities, the Labour leader said that “Labour’s history owes as much to the countryside as it does to the city.”

Starmer also announced that he has tasked Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Plymouth MP Luke Pollard, to lead a review of Labour’s rural policy in the coming months. He praised the NFU’s Back British Farming campaign and highlighted Labour’s drive to protect Britain’s high food and farming standards.

Luke Pollard MP said:

“I’m delighted Keir has launched this review into Labour’s rural policy. For too long the Conservatives have taken rural communities for granted, but Labour has often failed to turn up. The people of Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset deserve better than this. Labour will be listening to their concerns and acting on them. I’m excited to get to work!”

Speaking to the NFU Conference, Labour leader Keir Starmer said:

“I know there’s a much wider story that Labour needs to if we’re to build a new relationship with British farmers and rural communities. And I know that for too long, all you’ve heard from Labour is what we don’t want the countryside to do, not what we can achieve together. But I’m determined to change that: that’s why I’ve asked Luke Pollard, Labour’s Shadow DEFRA Secretary, to lead a review of Labour’s rural policy in the coming months.”

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