Following a turbulent year, CLA Senior Public Affairs Manager Eleanor Wood discusses the need for a calmer and quieter year in politics to ensure that proper focus is given to emerging legislation.
After a tumultuous 12 months in politics, I don’t think anyone can blame me for hoping 2023 is quieter and we get back to ‘boring’ politics. Boring does have its merits, though, because it means the machinery of government is operating correctly and there are opportunities to improve things for our members. The stagnation of 2022 left many policy areas in limbo due to the lack of information on agricultural reform in England and a shake-up of the planning system in the Levelling Up Bill. The lack of clarity regarding the Environmental Land Management schemes has left many members frustrated and resulted in reduced uptake in the schemes because people don’t know what is involved in them.
This year will be an important one for Rishi Sunak to make his mark if the Conservative Party has any hope of retaining power in the next general election, whether it happens this year or in 2024. So far, the prime minister has yet to display any policy direction that could be identified as ‘Sunak-ite’. However, this has largely been on purpose, as it was the big policy ideas in Liz Truss’s political agenda that eventually led to her downfall.
However, setting policy direction is not only reliant on the prime minister – the Conservative Party needs to find consensus this year and move on from 2022, which was populated with public arguments and rebellion from within the party. Competence will likely win the next general election, and is what Keir Starmer and Labour will be hoping to project to the electorate. While the polls point towards a Labour win at the next election, it will depend on Sir Keir’s ability to convince people to move their votes to Labour, rather than simply be dissatisfied with the status quo. The CLA will continue to work with Labour, both in the rural affairs team and across other shadow departments, to make sure it is fully briefed on rural issues.
Priorities for 2023
The CLA lobbying team will focus its attention on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Rural Business and Rural Powerhouse’s latest inquiry, which will publish a second report looking at the impact of the cost of living crisis on rural communities.
We will continue to work with CLA Cymru, which is looking to launch a parallel inquiry in the Welsh Parliament on barriers to Wales’s rural economy and productivity. The Private Renters Bill will come to the House of Commons in spring, along with a budget that many hope will not leave the economy facing as many shocks as it did last year as we move towards recovery.