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Labour aiming to win rural vote with ‘respectful attitude’ towards countryside

Labour is aiming to win over the rural vote by promising farmers and landowners access to cheap, clean energy, fewer food imports and a veterinary agreement with the EU.

Shadow environment secretary Steve Reed will make his pitch at the Country Land and Business Association conference in central London on Thursday.

He will say that Labour now has a “respectful attitude” towards rural communities in contrast with the years since 2001 when the party last secured a majority of rural seats in Parliament.

The MP for Croydon North will say: “In 1997 and 2001 Labour won a majority of rural seats in Parliament. But since then, we became too detached from the aspirations and concerns of our rural communities.

Empty shelves
Mr Reed said he wants to address the issue of food security (Michael McHugh/PA)

“No more. Under Keir Starmer’s leadership, Labour now has a respectful attitude towards our rural communities.

“And that means people from urban areas – like me – not telling people who live and work in the countryside how they should live their lives.

“That is why Labour will deliver the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people in all parts of the country. We want rural communities to control their own futures.

“Choosing how their local buses should be run. Selecting the skills, childcare and training that suit the needs of their local economy.

“People who live in the countryside know what’s best for the countryside.”

Labour’s flagship energy policy, establishing a publicly-owned company called Great British Energy, will channel public and private investment into developing clean power projects in the countryside, Mr Reed is to say.

Onshore wind
Labour wants to double the amount of onshore wind by the end of the decade, raising money through GB Energy (Danny Lawson/PA)

The party has set 2030 as the deadline for when it wants UK electricity production to be fully renewable and Mr Reed said it wants to help rural landowners by speeding up the planning process “from years to months” for connecting clean energy projects to the grid.

Some are facing delays of 10 years or more, a significant obstacle to the UK’s energy transition, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announcing planning reforms last week in an effort to speed up connections.

Mr Reed also wants to “cut the red tape” between the UK and the EU to smooth the exportation of food while reducing reliance on imports, the cost of which Labour said has risen by 21% between 2010 and 2022.

“Skyrocketing food inflation, empty shelves and working people queuing outside food banks all tell us one thing: food security is national security,” Mr Reed will tell over 600 rural businesses and landowners.

“Labour knows we need a Government that will back our farmers, to reduce our reliance on insecure imports, deliver high quality, local produce for consumers and end the shameful new reality of empty supermarket shelves.

“We need a new deal for farmers to cut the red tape and costs at our borders. Labour will seek a veterinary agreement with the European Union that will get our great British food exports moving again.”