Keir Starmer aims to bring the Labour Party back to the countryside in first leader’s speech to NFU conference since 2008

Keir Starmer will today promise to bring the Labour Party closer to rural and farming communities in the first Labour leader’s speech to the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) conference since 2008.

Starmer will say that Labour’s next manifesto will offer hope and optimism to rural communities. He will also call on the Government to take measures to back British farming, including:

-          Encourage people to buy more British food – including looking at whether more of the £2.4bn public spending on catering could be spent with British farmers and producers.

-          Invest in agricultural skills – with a wage subsidy to create new apprenticeships in farming and other industries this year.

Starmer will go on to argue that ten years of Conservative ideology has weakened the foundations of rural communities, hollowing out services and failing to invest in infrastructure. He will say Labour’s proposed British Recovery Bond would allow longer-term investment to tackle the “permanent insecurity” faced by businesses, farmers and landowners in flood-hit communities.

Committing to a new relationship with British farming and rural communities, the Labour leader will say that “Labour’s history owes as much to the countryside as it does to the city.”

Starmer will also announce 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. He will praise the NFU’s Back British Farming campaign and highlight Labour’s drive to protect Britain’s high food and farming standards.

Setting out Labour’s commitment to return to farming and rural communities, Keir Starmer will say: “This is the first time a Labour Leader has addressed the NFU conference since 2008. Thirteen years ago. And I think that’s indicative of the perceived distance that’s grown up between Labour and the countryside.

“It’s more perception than reality, because in the last year Labour stood with British farming and stood up for rural communities, from fighting for high food standards, to protecting family farms.

“But it’s a perception that we can’t ignore any longer. And we won’t ignore any longer.”

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