Listening to the National Farmers’ Union, the Countryside Alliance and the Country Land and Business Association, you could be forgiven for believing that the only people who live in the countryside are farmers and landowners.
In fact, there are 9.8 million people living in rural England (defined as settlements with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants). Of these, 140,000 are farmers, or the business partners, directors and spouses of farmers. In other words, they constitute 1.4% of the rural population (and 0.3% of the total population).
Yet rural policy seems to be tailored largely to their needs. It’s not enough that (in the UK as a whole), taxpayers give farmers and landowners – among whom are the wealthiest people in Britain – £3.6bn a year in the form of agricultural subsidies. Under the Cameron government the landowners must also be permitted to decide how and for whom the countryside is run. 99% of rural people, and 99.7% of the nation as a whole, are marginalised from decision-making in the countryside.