We are told that the next election will be fought on urban turf. The traditional vision of the Conservatives being a party of rolling acres, Dibley-style villages and tweed and corduroy will be replaced with something more cosmopolitan.
But what does all that mean? The bedrock of Conservative values is that we resist social distinctions. The urban/rural divide is as unattractive to proper conservatives as the north/south one. We respect cultures, even traditional ones, and recognise that because Britain is not one size, a one size solution is no solution at all.
The problems facing Britain today are universal – it’s about jobs; about the private sector picking up where the public sector left off, promoting core values and about sticking up for strivers. People who work hard, play hard, save money, bring their kids up properly and save a bit for old age. Rural Britain is no different. The buzzwords of our urban malaise are deprivation, poverty, education, high fuel prices, travel costs, available housing and uneven health care. Talk to someone in mid Wales, Cumbria and the West Country and they will say “tell me about it”. In some rural cases it can be even worse.
There may not be the density of population, nor the media interest, and yes, crime is lower and the landscape more conducive to a healthy lifestyle. But case by case the story is much the same. When this was debated recently in parliament several things struck home. MPs had similar stories the length and breadth of Britain; everyone could cite overlapping issues, and if you remove the word ‘rural’ then we could have been talking about any of our cities in 21st century Britain.