Roger Scruton says that it’s time for rural residents to protect the land they love by clubbing together and buying it
If you look at an electoral map of England, you will discover that most of it is blue, the occasional pockets of red corresponding to the large conurbations. Rural England is Tory and always has been. It is not surprising, therefore, if our present government has little affection for the countryside, or if it is always looking for new ways either to punish rural voters or to destroy the idyll that nourishes their dissent. No character in politics more clearly embodies this anti-rural sentiment than John Prescott, whose plans to Balkanise England, to centralise planning and to jettison the green belt have caused alarm and despondency in the shires. But it is clear that Mr Prescott’s policies belong to a general movement of ideas and attitudes which has spread through many of the institutions that have the countryside as their ostensible cause — including the Countryside Commission, Defra and many environmental lobby groups.
Town and country were once clearly demarcated from each other, with industry occurring in the first and agriculture in the second. Around agriculture were gathered the small trades and support networks required by family farming, and around those networks in turn there congregated the incomers and retired people whose dreams were nurtured by the thought and the sight of old-fashioned husbandry. The decline of farming and its gradual replacement by agribusiness imply that those employed to think about the countryside must look for new uses for the land; and their guiding principles are those of New Labour: innovation, diversity and the breakdown of the old forms of social privilege, including the privilege of a rural view. Hence wind power, the right to roam, the ban on hunting and the decision to break into the idyll wherever possible with houses, roads and business parks.