Revitalising the UK’s Rural Economy: A Call to Action for Political Parties

In the heart of Britain’s countryside, a silent revolution brews, not of the agrarian sort, but of political awakening. The latest findings from a Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and Survation poll reveal a dramatic shift in rural electoral dynamics, with the Conservative Party witnessing a significant erosion of support in its traditional rural strongholds. This seismic shift signals an urgent call for political parties to prioritise the rural economy—a vital engine for future growth.

The poll’s stark revelation that Labour is now leading in England’s most rural constituencies—with a 37% share of the vote, up 17 points since the 2019 general election—underscores a growing disillusionment with the status quo. The Tories, now trailing at 34%, face the prospect of losing more than half of their rural seats. This may highlight not just a political shift but a need for economic rejuvenation and respect for rural communities.

With 10 million residents, England’s rural population represents a significant, yet untapped, economic and electoral force. The largest group of respondents remains undecided on which party is most trusted to stimulate economic growth—35% saying “don’t know”—indicates a widespread sense of political homelessness among rural voters. This sentiment of disconnection from central government policies and priorities amplifies the urgency for a strategic and dedicated focus on rural economic development.

We need investment in future of food production, we need to prioritise environmental stewardship, and  we need to recognise that if we don’t fix the problem, young people will pack up and go to the cities.  

Political parties must articulate a clear, ambitious vision for the rural economy—one that transcends traditional agricultural policies to encompass affordable housing, rural crime reduction, and comprehensive economic development. Last week, the Rural Economy Research Group met in Parliament to make recommendations to Parliamentarians – one thing was clear – housing is the challenge that must be overcome if young people are to thrive in rural England.

The general election presents an opportunity for political parties to champion the cause of the rural economy. The message from rural England is clear: the time for treating the countryside as a museum piece is over. Instead, let us reimagine and reinvest in the rural landscape as a vibrant, innovative economic frontier that holds the key to the nation’s prosperity. In doing so, political parties can not only reclaim lost ground but also forge a new social contract with rural communities, grounded in mutual respect, support, and shared ambition for a prosperous, sustainable future.

Kieran Bergholcs, leads JBP’s Westminster public affairs team and has 9 years’ experience in politics and policymaking. He currently advises clients on the rollout of digital infrastructure in rural areas, the rural economy and financial services reform, by regularly engaging with parliamentarians and decision-makers across both the House of Commons and Lords. He spent three years in the House of Commons working for Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park and Mark Garnier MP. Prior to that, Kieran was an Advisor to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull covering immigration policy, agriculture and disaster recovery.  

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