Labour leader Keir Starmer spotlights food, farmers, and the countryside

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·2-min read
Keir Starmer is calling on the UK government to take measures to back British farming. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Reuters
Keir Starmer is calling on the UK government to take measures to back British farming. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/Pool via Reuters

Labour leader Keir Starmer is set to deliver the first leader’s speech to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference since 2008.

He will promise to bring the party closer to rural and farming communities, calling on the UK government to take measures to back British farming as “labour’s history owes as much to the countryside as it does to the city”.

“No party can claim to represent the country, if we don’t represent the countryside,” he will say.

His speech will encourage people to buy more British food, including looking at whether more of the £2.4bn ($3.38bn) public spending on catering could be spent with British farmers and producers.

Starmer will also address concerns with farm payments – as three quarters of farmers have voiced concern that the government’s new schemes will not keep them afloat.

The speech will further outline investment in agricultural skills, with a wage subsidy to create new apprenticeships in farming and other industries this year.

He will also unveil that he has tasked Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Luke Pollard, to lead a review of Labour’s rural policy in the coming months.

READ MORE: UK government unveils post-Brexit reforms for English farmers

“Keir Hardie, my namesake and the first Labour leader, was the son of a farm worker,” he will say. “The post-war Attlee Government introduced the Agricultural Wages Board and passed the 1947 Agriculture Act that shaped farming for decades to come.”

“And it’s a little-known fact that my first holiday job, at the age of 14, was on one of the local farms near where I lived. Farming matters, to Labour, to the British people, and to the families and communities that make farming possible.”

Starmer will add that a government “willing to invest in the long-term” will help bring about the needed changes.

“This kind of investment: long-term, green, targeted at areas starved of government funding for a decade, and designed to build security, resilience and prosperity for the future, is exactly what I have in mind when I say that Recovery Bonds could be used to build the infrastructure Britain will need in the decades to come.

“And it’s what I mean when I say this has to be a recovery that works for all parts of the economy and all parts of our country.”

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