Road to 2015: time to hear from UKIP

CPRE often hears from external speakers on the day of its AGM. Last year it was Nick Boles the Planning Minister, who gave a rather thoughtful speech. A couple of years before, we had Oliver Letwin. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas have all delivered the CPRE lecture, and I am pleased that Hilary Benn will be delivering this year’s lecture, in London on 11 September. So engaging with politicians is nothing new.

The speaker immediately before this year’s AGM will be Nigel Farage, and as the invitation has proved controversial I thought I would set out why we made it, and why I am pleased he has accepted.

UKIP has just won a national election, the first time neither the Conservatives nor Labour have won for over a hundred years. It won 27.5% of the vote in the European Elections across Great Britain, more in England. UKIP also did very well in the local elections, which it fought partly on CPRE’s issues.

One of the four headlines in UKIP’s local election manifesto is ‘Opposing Over-Development’, and it goes on to mention ‘green spaces under attack’, ‘developers concreting over the countryside’, and government becoming too remote. They also talk about wind farms, HS2, regenerating town centres, incentivising brownfield development, and decentralising power to local communities.

These are issues that concern CPRE, but UKIP’s policies and analysis are not ours. We are much more ‘nuanced’, a favourite CPRE word. And we certainly do not blame all the ills of the countryside on Romanians, which seems to be the subtext of the manifesto. To my liberal sensibilities there is a nastiness about quite a lot of UKIP’s rhetoric.

But however much any of us may disagree with UKIP, it is now a mainstream political party. Nigel Farage was invited to debate with the Deputy Prime Minister and is a regular guest on radio and TV. CPRE is certainly not giving UKIP a credibility or respectability it currently lacks. And it has won significant support not just because of its views on immigration or the EU, but because many voters feel angry about their powerlessness in the face of developments that are rapidly changing the face of the countryside and many towns. UKIP excels at what John Harris in the Guardian calls “instinctive, emotional politics”, and on planning and development it taps into a widespread anxiety that other parties seem to ignore.

To be fair, a growing number of Conservative MPs are aware of the groundswell of concern in rural England – I have lost count of the number of Parliamentary debates on planning in the last year or two – but if the Prime Minister knows what is going on and how it is being received, he has decided not to do very much about it. His overriding priority is to ‘get Britain building’ and ‘win the global race’, seemingly regardless of the environmental consequences, and the other main parties echo this agenda. So UKIP flourishes.

It will be interesting to hear what Nigel Farage has to say. He clearly has a genuine love and understanding of the countryside. He and his party have heard the rage that people feel about what is happening to it, and that is very welcome. The question then is what to do about the challenges the country faces. Nigel Farage has agreed to a discussion after his speech and he will hear views that question UKIP’s assumptions. There are many areas for debate, but the two most obvious areas where CPRE and UKIP have very different approaches are immigration and climate change.

Professor Danny Dorling is right to say that if you put housing and immigration together, ‘you get a toxic mix in almost any policy forum’. CPRE’s focus is not on immigration but on how to accommodate development sustainably. You can combine economic and population growth with first rate environmental policies (exemplary design, more accessible green space, strong local food webs, nature restoration). Alternatively, you can have a falling population and lousy environmental policies, as many countries have shown. CPRE acknowledges the significance of population growth, but it really is not the main issue.

On energy policy, Nigel Farage objects to wind turbines partly because ‘a lot of very rich people are becoming richer, especially land owners, and we are spoiling our landscape’. An increasing number of people agree, but if you believe that man-made climate change is a hugely serious environmental threat, as CPRE does, you may have to accept some impact on landscapes and seascapes in the wider environmental interest. Much more must be done to conserve energy and manage demand, and CPRE opposes wind and solar farms that have a disproportionate impact on the landscape. But we also support well-sited schemes, particularly where they are community owned.

Some of our members have been offended by the invitation to Nigel Farage to speak, and I sincerely regret that. But UKIP has significant political support and its leader speaks for many who hate what is happening to the countryside and feel that the main parties are ignoring them.

So I am pleased that he has accepted our invitation and am I am keen to hear what he has to say. But I am also looking forward to hearing CPRE’s President, Sir Andrew Motion. His speech closing the AGM will argue that ‘traditional values like our pride in the countryside exist in a wonderful big melting pot of Englishness, together with our pride in absorbing new cultures, and our … refusal to make Englishness an issue of race or birthplace’. It will highlight the fact that Satish Kumar, Benjamin Zephaniah and Marina Lewycka and Anish Kapoor – among many others – have supported CPRE’s Charter to save our countryside, and ask why more politicians of all parties are not prepared to stand up for the countryside. It is a good question.

29 Responses to “Road to 2015: time to hear from UKIP”

  1. 1 Katy Harwood-Lane June 13, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I’m sorry but I am going to have to cease my membership of CPRE. I do not want to support any association that entertains UKIP in any arena.

    • 2 sspiers June 14, 2014 at 6:34 am

      Katy, I’m really sorry to hear that. A large part of CPRE’s purpose is to influence decisions that have an impact on the countryside. UKIP has many Councillors, three peers and won the European elections. It speaks for many people who (presumably) feel their voice has not been heard by the three main parties. I don’t think at CPRE we either can or should simply turn our noses up and say we’ll have nothing to do to them.

      I would not follow this logic if, say, the BNP had won similar electoral success, but a) I don’t think that would happen, and b), however much you may dislike them, UKIP are a long way from an avowedly racist party like the BNP. I hope you will reconsider.

      Shaun Spiers

  2. 3 Michael Monk June 13, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Indeed it is a controversial choice, but it is inevitable that a campaigning group like CPRE will find, from time to time, that it has to engage with all sorts of organisations – and that may well include political parties. I am NOT a UKIP supporter (by any means), but here in Cambridgeshire as in other parts of rural England (especially here in the east) they are already a political force influencing decisions in local government. Although they do not control any district or county councils, they do, in places, hold the balance of power. It remains to be seen how they use that power.I look forward to hearing what Mr Farage has to say!

  3. 4 Alex Hills June 13, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I fully support inviting him even though I think they hold very nasty dangerous views. To those who object I say ” know your enemy”. The more you understand about someone/ organisation/ political party the easier it is to defeat them. Like it or not UKIP is a political force. CPRE is non political and to achieve our aims we need contact with all major political parties no matter how objections we find their views

  4. 5 Edward Dawson June 14, 2014 at 10:26 am

    I was at a CPRE event last evening, and most people I spoke to thought it was a great coup to have got Nigel Farage to speak. CPRE has no party political views because it is a charity. Charities speak to all parties that have significant following, and UKIP has that support, with elected councillors and others. It will be very interesting to hear what he has to say, and I am looking forward to it!

  5. 6 CPRE Local Supporter June 15, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Obviously the opportunity to get Nigel Farage was there to be seized. It is probably better to have him at the AGM than at a less well publicised event such as the November volunteers’ conference. Last year Nick Boles the highly-unpopular Planning Minister was invited and given a tough time (well, it could have been tougher in fact). So it is good that the leader of UKIP is coming.
    Unfortunately, when Mr Farage asks CPRE what its proposals are for reforming the planning system and halting its decline, he will not receive get a clear answer.
    The CPRE National Office position is muddled and you won’t find a simple set of points on what reform is needed. As Shaun Spiers writes above, CPRE’s positions are “much more ‘nuanced’, a favourite CPRE word”
    If ‘nuanced’ is a favourite CPRE word it shows what is wrong with CPRE. It means a lack of clarity and an avoidance of a clear position.
    This may change once CPRE has a new Chairman – due at the AGM at the end of June- and a new Chief Executive. The first job of the new Chairman will be to arrange a change as the present Chief Executive has been in his post for 10 years now, which is too long. No previous Director of CPRE National Office (as they were more sensibly called) served more than 6-7 years.
    CPRE Branches – at least, those with enough resources to be active – have rather different views from National Office about the planning system. They generally do know what changes are needed. But they aren’t being listened to by National Office, at least , not yet. NIgel Farage would do better to ask CPRE’s Branches what they recommend for a set policies on planning, land-use, transport and the countryside for UKIP.

  6. 7 Alice Crampin June 21, 2014 at 6:00 am

    I’m sorry, but I am with Katy Harwood-Lane. I can only wish the rest of you very long spoons.

  7. 8 Jacqui Johnson June 22, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    One of the UKIP policies everyone should be aware of is that they are against the European Landfill Tax. Living near landfills I know what a blessing this tax has been.
    In the nineties people knew reuse, reduce, recycle was right but in practice recycling rates were low and there was a panic about running out of landfill..
    I was CPRE rep on the North West Waste Forum that took part in the E iP into RPG13 and it was hard work arguing against more landfill.
    As the tax increased more people were “converted” to waste diversion, and the existing sites filled up more slowly and less were needed
    Some people will only do the right thing when it hits their pockets be they individuals Local Authorities or businesses.
    Its certainly not a perfect situation now but it would be a nightmare without the Tax.

    • 9 sspiers June 23, 2014 at 9:26 am

      Jacqui, I agree. More generally, UKIP have campaigned against a number of sound environmental policies. I hope Nigel Farage will face some tough questions on these aspects of UKIP’s policies.
      Shaun Spiers

  8. 10 Stephen Green June 24, 2014 at 11:14 am

    And I, personally, am appalled to read either the comments, or proposed comments, by your president Andrew Motion:

    “traditional values like our pride in the countryside exist in a wonderful big melting pot of Englishness, together with our pride in absorbing new cultures, and our … refusal to make Englishness an issue of race or birthplace”

    To discuss the factors impacting on the countryside are one thing, likely to receive a wide degree of agreement and very important.

    To move from this policy arena to make positive value judgements towards what is by any measure population replacement, cultural assault and to pontificate on the open-doored inclusive nature of Englishness as an identity at the expense of its historical meaning and its common usage is both deeply offensive and strategically in error, likely to be very divisive and therefore disruptive of the goals of the organisation.

    • 11 oldbrock2014 June 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm

      I read Andrews comments as saying we should not get involved in the debate about what is it to be English. Which is a stupid debate give we have always be a mixed race/ culture country. What is more important is that our population is double its sustainable level and according to Cambridge university today we are running out of agricultural land. As we import 40-50% of our food from places where future supply is far from certain.

      • 12 Stephen Green July 1, 2014 at 2:58 pm

        Clearly the comments take a position on what it is to be English (an ethnic term) at a time when immigration (and the wide range of issues arising from population density) are very high on the public agenda. It is quite obviously intended to reject those perspective which take an opposing, actually more widely held view.

    • 13 Robert Flunder June 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

      I agree with Stephen’s sentiments.
      I think Motion’s attempt to conflate different subjects is shallow, sneaky, and ham fisted.

      • 14 sspiers June 29, 2014 at 7:40 pm

        Again, this OTT rhetoric is making me think that I must introduce some rules on responses to this blog. For what it is worth, as an Englishman with German, Dutch, Jewish, Irish and no doubt other ancestry, I’m with Andrew: Englishness always has been a melting pot.

      • 15 Stephen Green July 1, 2014 at 3:07 pm

        I’m sorry Shaun, but historically, genealogically and genetically, Englishness has always been something that is very easy to determine.

        The oft-quoted ‘mongrel’ phraseology of those who wish to suggest differently, which itself is coined to offend, relates to very small historical infusions over long periods of time over a vastly greater population. Of course, even these have been minute between the years after 1066 and 1948.

        It’s not a controversial perspective, in fact most recently being covered by the founder of Prospect Magazine and Demos head and thereby left-leaning writer Goodhart, but otherwise by many, many writers.

        All this would be by-the-by and tangential being secondary to the CPRE’s purpose, were it not for those comments of your president outlined above.

  9. 16 Robert Flunder June 29, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    People offended because of a UKIP invitation, tantrums and resignations.
    Such attempts to prevent legitimate political debate are Facist.

    • 17 sspiers June 29, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      Robert, most civilised people regard racism as unacceptable, and some people regard UKIP’s rhetoric – in particular its finger-pointing at immigrants from particular national groups, the Romanians and Bulgarians – as racist. It is therefore perfectly acceptable for them to argue that CPRE should not give a platform to UKIP. I happen to disagree, and I very much regret that anyone has resigned over the issue. But it is over the top and unnecessarily offensive to describe their behaviour as ‘fascist’.
      Shaun Spiers

  10. 18 Robert Flunder June 30, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Unfortunately there are those that regard any discussion on immigration as racist, and think anyone suggesting reducing immigration are racists.

    Fortunately there have been a small number of well known and fair minded individuals with known left leading political views who have met Nigel Farage and have concluded he is not a racist.

    As regards some people thinking UKIP are nasty I would say take a closer look at the others, take a peak under the lid of the Labour, Tory, & Lib-Dem parties and you will find some very unpleasant individuals.

    I am not a UKIP member.

  11. 19 Robert Flunder June 30, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Sean, the fact of your agreement with Andrew Motion on ‘Englishness’ is hardly the central issue.

    CPRE is an environmental issue organisation, but AM clearly feels free, under the CPRE banner, to introduce and laud his own political sentiments on an anthropological and cultural issue that clearly lies outside the scope of CPRE’s remit, and then to intermix these personal sentiments with the corporate CPRE environmental message.

    CPRE is supposed to be non-political, and yet this is so clearly designed to be the CPRE President publicly rebuking Nigel Farage, and presumably arrangements will be made to ensure the media don’t miss it.

    I don’t think you would be anywhere near so sanguine about the matter if AM had turned out to have different sentiments and had decided to make a very public Presidential point at the AGM suggesting that limiting immigration would help protect the environment

    • 20 sspiers June 30, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Robert, I think Sir Andrew’s statement was a bit more subtle than a public rebuke of Nigel Farage. An organisation’s President has greater latitude than an employee or trustee. That’s normal. CPRE doesn’t have policies on poetry, but Andrew often talks about poetry in his speeches. In this case, I think he represented CPRE’s view, encapsulated in our 2026 vision, that the countryside is for everyone and that we are (broadly speaking) a progressive organisation, concerned about people as well as landscapes, for people who live in cities (regardless of their origin) as well as those who live in the countryside. As for my the suggestion that I would be uncomfortable if a CPRE President expressed different sentiments, I worked alongside Sir Max Hastings for several years. Max was hardly politically correct and missed few opportunities to attack those in the then Labour government whom he regarded as endangering the countryside. Max was an excellent President and I never tried to gag him. CPRE is, and always has been, a broad church – and I am aware that not all our members like our 2026 Vision and what follows from it in terms of concern about climate change, affordable housing and so on.

  12. 21 edwardjdawson June 30, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    I would like to say how good Nigel Farage’s speech to the AGM actually was, and the decision to invite him was correct. He began by saying that most politicians who had spoken to CPRE previously, had simply appeased our concerns, and said ‘what we wanted to hear’. He stated his clear opposition to green field development, support for nuclear power as well as shale gas fracking.

    In reply to questions, he said the UK did not need EU environmental legislation, as it had pioneered clean air laws long before. The CAP needed big reforms, as did the fisheries policy, to avoid so much throwing back of perfectly edible fish. Other politicians will now be scanning what Nigel Farage says.

  13. 22 Nigel Keene July 1, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I didn’t manage to make Nigel Farage’s speech, but even so, I would still applaud CPRE for allowing him to speak. Whatever the other policies he may or may not stand for, as an organisation we need to hear what all political parties have to say regarding the countryside. I do not see, in fact I think it’s preposterous, to imply that by doing so, CPRE was in any way endorsing Nigel Farage or UKIP.

    If, as it seems at the start of this thread, we have lost a member as a result of the decision to let Farage speak, then please email me their subscription amount and I will pay it.

  14. 23 Maryelizabeth Mann July 5, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Surely we need to listen to all main parties in the interest of democracy..

    CPRE comment. On energy policy, Nigel Farage objects to wind turbines partly because ‘a lot of very rich people are becoming richer, especially land owners, and we are spoiling our landscape’. An increasing number of people agree, but if you believe that man-made climate change is a hugely serious environmental threat, as CPRE does, you may have to accept some impact on landscapes and seascapes in the wider environmental interest. Much more must be done to conserve energy and manage demand, and CPRE opposes wind and solar farms that have a disproportionate impact on the landscape. But we also support well-sited schemes, particularly where they are community owned

    Abstracts from CPRE policy.
    1) we also support well-sited schemes,
    2) particularly where they are community owned
    3) but if you believe that man-made climate change is a hugely serious environmental threat, as CPRE does, you may have to accept some impact on landscapes and seascapes in the wider environmental interest.

    Some comments on CPRE policy
    1) Barningham Teesdale wind farm proposal 98 ,the largest then in England, CPRE Durham Branch considered it well sited. Total rubbish, but they had only the developer’s misleading information and no manpower to make a site visit. I joined them and provided the TRUTH later inviting them to join the Coalition formed for the Public Inquiry.
    This was the third proposal

    2) Community owned does not always give the full picture and it has involved pressure to support a nearby wind farm. Bribery?

    3) Whether you do or not believe it is man-made and those who don’t are flat earthers (according to Guardian report) we must look at the ways we may be able to counter the impact by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. This entails checking ROCs from OFGEM website and compiling the load factors to see if wind turbines are reducing emissions as promised when planning permission was given. I did this monthly for years and found those in the NE were not.

    The above needs addressing.

  15. 24 Roger Barnes July 9, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    In all the arguments for and against the invitation of Nigel Fararge the one main threat to this country and the world as a whole is mentioned by one contributor – OVERPOPULATION. This country is overpopulated and we can’t feed ourselves without imports. The world as a whole is overpopulated with countless millions living in poverty.This is the main threat facing all of us today, climate change, wars and practically any other problem are just symptoms of this overpopulation. None of the politicians in power in this country or the rest of the world seem willing to concentrate on this (There are no votes in it!!) Unless this problem is tackled which appears highly unlikely the world faces catastrophe later this century.

  16. 25 Arnold Sumner July 13, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Reading Shaun Spiers introduction,he should be the main speaker.

  17. 26 Robert Flunder May 16, 2015 at 9:36 am

    I see the man who sought to redefine ‘Englishness’ (Andrew Motion) is leaving to live and work in America, because he doesn’t enjoy living in England any more.

    • 27 sspiers May 16, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Robert, I think that’s rather unfair. The report on the BBC website quotes Andrew as saying: ‘I’m 62, I love England, so I’m not going in a snarly way at all.’
      Andrew’s been a first class CPRE President and he’ll be talking at our AGM in June.

      • 28 R FLUNDER May 16, 2015 at 6:17 pm

        Hello Shaun, I took my information from the BBC’s teletext service ‘Entertainment’ section. It just gave the reasons he was leaving and to say he wasn’t enjoying living in England is a wholly reasonable conclusion to reach from the reasons quoted by the BBC teletext service. But being extremely concise, the teletext service made no mention of the quote “I love England, so I’m not going in a snarly way at all” that I understand is quoted on the BBC website which I haven’t looked at. But if he does actually love life in England he could choose to stay. Robert

      • 29 sspiers May 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm

        He could, but he’s got a very good job at Johns Hopkins University!

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