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Tom's political blog: All change in rural Britain  

8th Jul 2024 / By Tom Haynes

While the overall outcome of this election was rarely in any doubt, the real questions centred on how bad a night it was going to be for Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives, and where the big changes would fall.

Tom Haynes NPAAs the dust settles on the drama of Thursday night it is clear that there has been a lot of change in rural Britain, historically the stomping ground of the Conservatives. We have taken a snapshot look at these changes and who will be championing the British countryside going forward.  

Defra Ministers

There were dramatic loses across the current and former Defra ministerial teams, with two of the incumbent ministerial team losing their seats in Sir Mark Spencer and Rebecca Pow. Sir Mark has been ousted in Sherwood Forest by Labour, with Pow losing to the Liberal Democrats in Taunton and Wellington, a common theme in the Southwest.

Other high profile loses include Liz Truss, Thérèse Coffey, Ranil Jayawardena and Victoria Prentis as well as the former seats of George Eustice and Jo Churchill being lost for the Conservatives.  

More broadly across the East of England, Duncan Baker in North Norfolk, Lucy Frazer in Ely and East Cambridgeshire, and Anthony Browne’s former seat of South Cambridgeshire have all changed hands to the Liberal Democrats.

The other big change of note in the area, and of significance to many of our members, is the success of the Green Party in Waveney Valley. The new MP, Adrian Ramsay, won with a majority of over 5.5k compared to the second-place conservative candidate. George Freeman in Mid Norfolk was one of the few Conservatives in the region to hold on to his seat.  

The Liberal Democrat success story continued in much of the Southwest, with high profile former Conservative MPs like Michelle Donelan in Melksham and Devizes, Chris Loder in West Dorset and the newly drawn constituency of Frome and East Somerset all returning Lib Dem MPs.  

It was less dramatic in Yorkshire, another significant pig farming part of the country, with Rishi Sunak, Kevin Hollinrake, Sir Alec Shelbrooke, Graham Stuart, and Sir David Davis all retaining their seats. However, it was not without some change, with York Outer returning a new Labour MP in Luke Charters. There have, however, been similar Labour gains a little further north with Anne-Marie Trevelyan in North Northumberland, Guy Opperman in Hexham, and John Stevenson in Carlise all losing their seats.  

There is a lot to take in with these results, but the long and short of it is that there are a lot of new faces representing our most rural seats. The NPA team will now spend the coming weeks and months writing to and meeting with as many of these new MPs as possible, in particular those which are key to our members.

There is so much work to be done to support British agriculture over this Parliament and it is going to be vital that we can build a cross-party coalition of MPs who can champion the pig sector.  

The appointment of the Prime Minister’s ministerial team didn’t present many surprises, with Cabinet appointments already declared we now await the announcement of junior ministers.

The next big event will take place on 17 July with the State Opening of Parliament and the King’s Speech. This will set out the government’s agenda for the year ahead and will give us the best indication to date of Labour’s immediate plans for the government. Watch this space.  

Finally, but by no means least, it would be remiss of me to not draw a quick light on the electoral success of my predecessor at the NPA, Charlie Dewhirst, the new MP for Bridlington and The Wolds. Many congratulations Charlie and I look forward to working with you in your new role.