I’ll say one thing for Wildlife And Countryside Link, the umbrella organisation for conservation charities which last week produced a report claiming that the British countryside is embedded with ‘racist and colonial legacies’. It makes rural life sound a lot more exciting than it actually is.
To read it, you would think that village greens are lit up by chapters of the Ku Klux Klan waving flaming torches. The reality is more of over-60s practising pilates in the village hall, or the parish council meeting to discuss potholes.
If, as the report claims, ‘green spaces are dominated by white people’ there is a good reason for that. The UK population is, after all, 80 per cent white, and Britain’s ethnic population is – for all kinds of historic reasons – concentrated in large cities. So yes, you don’t see as many black people tramping the bridleways of the Chilterns as you do walking the streets of Islington. But that hardly makes rural people racist. You might as well go to a village outside Nairobi and complain there are too many black faces.
It is barely worth dwelling on this standard, woke drivel. It is a word soup of the kind pumped out by Left-wing academics, among whom it has become a fashion to blame all the world’s ills on ‘colonialism’. It goes on to blame climate change, too, on ‘racist colonial legacies’.
Wildlife And Countryside Link’s report claims, ‘green spaces are dominated by white people’ (stock photo)
Others, such as the National Trust, have undergone their own, Left-wing colonisation in recent years
But the most interesting thing is what the report tells us about where power lies in modern Britain. Notionally we have had a Conservative, or Conservative-dominated government for the past 14 years. You might think, therefore, that the public are being dished up the right-of-centre policies they keep voting for. Yet, as the example of Wildlife And Countryside Link shows, below our increasingly irrelevant elected government lies an infrastructure of quangos, charities and other institutions which push a Left-wing agenda.
The chief executive of Wildlife And Countryside Link is Richard Benwell, who has previously worked as an adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as enjoying stints at the RSPB and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. In the 2019 General Election he stood for the Lib Dems in the Oxfordshire constituency of Wantage. But he is also an environmental activist.
Last September he spoke at a protest against government policy on the environment outside the Defra offices – where he used to work as an adviser, remember – organised by Chris Packham and attended by Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion. His words will have come as music to their ears, saying that in order to serve the interests of nature ‘we’ve got to change the way we behave in every corner of society and every inch of the economy’.
He went on to demand that the finance industry, water and agri-food ‘start paying in the billions now for nature’. In other words he seems to want massive extra taxes on industry along the lines of Labour’s windfall taxes. As for the 79 organisations listed as members of Link, some, like Greenpeace, have openly Left-wing agendas. Greenpeace has been promoting the ‘countryside is racist’ idea for a while. ‘For black people, a walk in the countryside can be a powerful act of protest,’ it says on its website.
Others, such as the National Trust, have undergone their own, Left-wing colonisation in recent years, forcing volunteers to wear Pride badges and carrying out a ‘colonisation and slavery’ report which led to the removal of some treasures from historic houses, as well as visitors being lectured on the evils of colonialism. Others seem to have a more radical agenda than their name might suggest.
Last week the Bat Conservation Trust, which has Packham as its president, unveiled ‘anti-oppression training’ for its staff. The report on rural racism was commissioned by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Race and Community, which is chaired by Labour MP Clive Lewis. While it bills itself ‘all-party’, it is not exactly balanced – it has six Labour MPs and one Labour peer, two Conservative MPs and two from the SNP. Unsurprisingly, it has a somewhat loaded political agenda. The report is part of what the APPG calls an investigation into ‘Racism and the Environmental Emergency’. There would be no point in linking those issues unless you had already made up your mind: yes, it is white people who are trashing the environment and other groups who are suffering as a result.
Its investigation was launched last September at an event addressed by War On Want, a charity which seems to have evolved into more of a political campaigning group. ‘War On Want has no political purpose,’ it states on its website, before declaring ‘poverty is political’ and launching into the standard complaints of the Left, such that big business ‘monopolises land and global resources’. Look down the list of members of its ‘Council of Management’ and you can see where it is coming from: it is run by several trade union activists, a member of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, a former CND activist and the international editor of the Morning Star.
Charities directly supporting the report include the League Against Cruel Sports and The Countryside Charity, formerly called the Council for Preservation of Rural England (stock photo)
The report also stated: ‘Racist colonial legacies continue to frame nature in the UK as a ”white space” and people of colour as ”out of place” in these spaces and environmental sector’ (stock photo)
The groups report said ‘our policy recommendations ensure that all people have the right to a healthy natural environment – all people must have access to nature’ (stock photo)
The September event was also addressed by the Runnymede Trust, another charity-cum-campaigning group which has recently published its own report into ‘racism and the climate emergency’, stating: ‘We’ve partnered with Greenpeace UK to remind the world of something that should be glaringly obvious: the climate crisis is rooted in systemic racism.’ Really? I thought it was supposed to be rooted in carbon emissions.
The Runnymede Trust also recently published a report preposterously claiming that immigration was not a matter of public concern but only seems that way because ‘politicians and the media’ have used ‘partial and misleading polling data’ to make it look as if people care about net migration of more than 700,000 a year, and such matters as finding their local hotels taken over to house asylum-seekers.
That is just the background to one APPG and its attempt to pass off Left-wing balderdash as the product of a cross-party initiative. But the leadership of our public sector as a whole leans heavily to the Left. The Commissioner for Public Appointments keeps a record of the political affiliations of people appointed by government to senior public sector positions. During the Labour years, as you might imagine, there was a heavy bias towards Labour people – in every single year from 2003/04 to 2009/10 they outnumbered the small smattering of those affiliated in some way to the Conservatives. But what is remarkable is that even after a change of government, public appointments continued to be dominated by Labour. In the 12 years to 2022/23 Labour outnumbered Conservative appointees in seven of them. Tories outnumbered Labour people in three and there were equal numbers of appointments in the other two.
The Left jealously guards its grip on the quangocracy by feigning outrage when conservatives are appointed to prominent positions. No one seemed to bat an eyelid when, say, Tony Blair’s former policy wonk, Matthew Taylor – who started his career in health policy but has no medical experience – was sent to run the NHS Confederation, or when Lord Smith of Finsbury, who has no engineering experience, was appointed to oversee the nation’s flood defences as chair of the Environment Agency. Yet when Toby Young, who had set up a chain of free schools, was appointed to the board of the Office for Students in 2018, he was out in days after activists claimed he had no experience and trawled through his Twitter feed to find something offensive.
There was similar outrage when the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities appointed by Boris Johnson when Prime Minister failed to conform with Left-wing dogma and concluded that Britain is not rife with institutional racism. The University of Nottingham disgracefully withdrew an offer of an honorary degree for the head of the commission, Tony Sewell.
If Britain chooses to vote for a Labour government then fine, we expect Left-wing policies. But it is disturbing that voting for a Tory government for four Elections makes little difference – the Left carried on populating the quangos and agencies which really run the country.