Monday, April 12, 2004

Fields of dreams

Embarrassingly I compromised Russ’ political sensibilities on Saturday by naively assuming point-to-point racing was a charming countryside pursuit. I didn’t realise it’s organised by the same people who run fox hunting. Russ doesn’t like the merciless murder of foxes so he isn’t really into funding the hunt.

The first page of the race card said, “If the hunt it is made illegal this will be the last point to point meeting”. Whilst it has no obvious form of income, point-to-point racing has the entry fee, the betting, food and drink, sponsorship, and the other stalls. You suspect if it were the racing that was made illegal, the hunt wouldn’t survive, not the other way around.

If I were about to be pushed off a cliff for not having a view on fox hunting I’d say that I was against it. Pro-hunt arguments don’t seem sustainable; it’s a labour intensive way of ‘maintaining a happy and stable fox community’. However in the main, it doesn’t affect me on a day-to-day basis. For a good day out at the point to point, I’m prepared to turn a blind eye.

There was a heavy presence of the Countryside Alliance at the event. The CA is the largest pressure group dedicated to countryside living. This is not difficult when you have the ambiguous manifesto and over-simplified worldview they have.

The Alliance is an umbrella organisation supporting all country pursuits, this means 250,000 people joined its protest march a couple of years ago; pro and anti fox hunting groups, walkers and mountain bikers, farmers and city commuters.

So, how does the CA maintain any coherence? Well, their main thrust is that country people should be able to decide their own fate and city people should keep their noses out of business they don’t understand. They have created a conveniently polarised view that the world is made up of city people and country people – and never the twain shall meet.

Short of ring fencing cities and creating countryside border controls it is impossible to clearly define these two groups of people. The symbiotic relationship between the country and the city is conveniently ignored.

Because of the ambiguity, the CA is run by people tailoring the overtly quaint ‘countryside living’ manifesto to their own more radical one. They are also backed by people who support the quaint agenda without realising they are also supporting the radicals. The vast majority of people, who have more liberal yet complex views on the countryside, have no mechanism to voice their opinion.

We live four miles from Kimble, from the countryside, but we live in a rather large town. I work in a large town and regularly commute into London. My time is spent in mostly towns, but part of the appeal of the area is its proximity to open fields. Our friends live in cities, and on farms, and in villages and in large towns. I’m not a welly wearing country dweller, I’m not a world weary city slicker. I am, like most people, a person who lives in a country who doesn’t have a conveniently linear view of countryside living.

The Countryside Alliance conveniently ignores the complexity, choosing to propagate an ambiguous political agenda. As such they enjoy an unprecedented level of support, publicity and inevitably influence that they barely deserve.


Newer Post Older Post Home