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Blairism and the countryside: the legacy of modernisation in rural policy

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Neil Ward, Professor Philip Lowe



When New Labour came to power in May 1997, the Party’s General Election manifesto had little to say about the countryside and rural policy, beyond a proposal to allow a free vote to ban hunting with dogs and a commitment to establish a right to roam. These were essentially ‘Old Labour’ issues and largely symbolic. However, in its early years the Blair Government became drawn more heavily into rural policy reform and increasingly came to see rural issues as a territory on which its grand project of national renewal and modernisation could be played out. A bold Rural White Paper and a set of radical decisions on how to implement the CAP at the end of 2000 marked the high point of Blairite rural reform. After that, Labour’s rural policy was blown off course by the Foot and Mouth Disease crisis of 2001 and has since fallen apart with rural issues marginalised within the government machine. The culmination of Labour’s rural policy modernisation has been the ignomy of the Rural Payments Agency affair in which new computers systems for farm subsidy payments catastrophically failed, which could end up costing the Government [and] farmers up to half a billion pounds.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Ward N, Lowe PD

Publication type: Report

Publication status: Unpublished

Series Title: Discussion Paper Series

Year: 2007

Pages: 14

Print publication date: 01/06/2007

Source Publication Date: June 2007

Report Number: 14

Institution: Centre for Rural Economy, Newcastle University

Place Published: Newcastle upon Tyne