It’s not just the opening of the pheasant-shooting season. New political party Rural Reaction launches on 1 October 2023. An event will take place near the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Rural Reaction aims to take on the Tories in their rural heartlands. After Boris Johnson’s 2019 manifesto abandoned the countryside, voters who live beyond the streetlights now have a party that represents them. Add to that the creation of new rural super-constituencies by the 2023 Boundary Commission changes, such as Tiverton & Minehead in the West Country, and the party has a chance of gaining local balances of power.
“It’s going to be a real surprise for the Conservative Party,” says founder Ian Gregory. “They are not expecting to see opposition developing from the countryside to their policies.”
Ian points to recent lobbying successes on foxhunting, dog e-collars and overseas trophy hunting as examples of where, with leverage, politicians have changed their minds away from dogma delivered by the conservation industry.
Ian comments: “The Conservative Party and the countryside – their marriage has been deteriorating for about 20 years – they have completely ignored the countryside – and, as any wronged spouse feels eventually, the countryside has had enough.
“It now has another suitor. It’s called Rural Reaction, and there is deep strategy behind this, which is to force the Conservative Party and the Labour Party to start to think about what the views of the countryside are.”
Rural Reaction plans to stand up to 40 candidates in the expected 2024 general election. Organisers are confident that recent Tory by-election losses in seats where they had five-figure majorities puts them in a strong position to bring a rural agenda back to UK politics.
Ian denies that Rural Reaction will fold up before the election in order to deliver votes to a desperate Conservative Party. Instead, he characterises Rural Reaction as a ‘perpetual sword of Damocles’ for the Conservatives, Labour and SNP. “We will be supremely tactical about saying where the interests of the countryside are in terms of where we stand candidates. If the Tories don’t want them to be stood up in their marginals, we can stand candidates in Lewisham and Hackney instead.”
If you are in the Manchester area on Sunday 1 October 2023 and you would like to go to the launch of Rural Reaction, email firstname.lastname@example.org