The dust has finally settled on perhaps the most climactic election in recent memory, with the Conservatives securing a majority of 78 seats – the largest since 1987.
While the future now seems clearer on key issues like Brexit, there is still a lot of uncertainty for rural communities and the future of England’s moors. Boris Johnson’s manifesto promised to "raise the standards" on animal welfare, agriculture, and the environment, but there is little tangible indication of how this will be achieved.
The Conservatives on the whole seem confident in their ability to protect rural communities, emphasising in their election pledge that “conservation is and always has been at the heart of conservatism”. They promise better policing, more bus routes, and faster internet for rural constituencies, as well as a pledge to make no changes to the Hunting Act.
But are these promises reflected in the 109 new Tory MPs? We round up the new MPs in England’s moorland seats to see how their priorities stack up with the needs of rural communities.
Sara Britcliffe, Hyndburn
The youngest MP in the house, Sara Britcliffe was elected to represent the Lancashire constituency of Hyndburn at just 24 years old. Her seat includes the stunning Oswaldtwistle Moor.
Though light on policy affecting moorland communities specifically, Sara touts herself as a champion of small businesses. She seems to toe the party line of ensuring that regulation is sensible and proportionate and that rates remain low – a necessity for any rural economy.
The ‘baby of the house’ will undoubtedly be a source of pride for her constituents, not least her father, who tried to win the same seat twice in 1997 and 2001.
Miriam Cates, Penistone and Stocksbridge
A former teacher turned tech entrepreneur, Miriam Cates seems to recognise the importance of unique moorland trades to the local economy. She pledges to stand up for "businesses, farming and trades that are vital to our local economy, providing jobs and opportunities”.
Miriam also reiterates the party promise of providing rural communities with necessary improvements to schools, public transport, and healthcare.
Mark Eastwood, Dewsbury
Representing the West Yorkshire seat of Dewsbury, Mark Eastwood promises to fight “on behalf of local residents for the protection of unspoilt countryside in the area”. His exact position on moorland conservation is unclear but he backs a common sense approach to housing, in order to avoid spoiling the natural beauty of his constituency.
Richard Holden, North West Durham
A former aide to transport secretary Chris Grayling, Richard Holden claimed victory for the Conservatives in the formerly ‘no hope’ seat of North West Durham. His Twitter campaign focussed mainly on the twin Tory mantras of defeating Jeremy Corbyn and getting Brexit done, with little insight into how this might benefit his rural constituency.
Neil Hudson, Penrith and The Border
Stepping into the shoes of would-be-PM Rory Stewart, Mark Jenkinson now represents the Pennine moors of Penrith and The Border. His priorities include increased flood protection and providing ample jobs to encourage young people to stay in the area. Hopefully this will involve recognising the enormous benefits brought to the local economy by game shooting, but no word on this yet.
Robert Largan, High Peak
This Derbyshire constituency, which incorporates a number of vibrant Peak District moors, was wrestled from Labour’s Ruth George by a slim 590 votes. George is notable as an avid critic of grouse shooting, who took the opportunity of a recent reading of the Environment Bill to spell out her disdain for heather burning and other moorland management practices. Her erroneous claims were swiftly rebuked by the Peak District Moorland Group on Facebook.
The new incumbent, Robert Largan, is damning of his former opponent’s track record, and has all the makings of a strong advocate for rural communities. He tweeted today that “supporting pubs and other local businesses is a key priority of mine” and lists “protecting our beautiful countryside” as in the top ten reasons to vote for him.
Jason McCartney, Colne Valley
The new MP for Colne Valley will likely have a hard time balancing the interests of his rural constituents on the edge of the Wessenden Moor with those of his more urban voters around Huddersfield. Jason’s campaign promised to back HS2 ‘fully’, a policy which Boris Johnson has said needs serious review. His local campaigns include supporting library services and keeping an adult education centre in Holmfirth open, but make no mention of specific moorland issues.
Robbie Moore, Keighley
The aptly named Robbie Moore represents the West Yorkshire constituency of Keighley and its attendant moorland. Growing up in a family of farmers, Robbie recognises the importance of green spaces but advocates for a housing policy that allows for new developments without disturbing the area’s natural beauty.
Robbie "wholeheartedly" backs British farming and sat down for a meeting recently with NFU president Minette Batters. He is also a strong proponent of small businesses, taking time on the campaign trail for a photo op at C & L Herd Butchers in Ingrow.
All in all there is perhaps cause for quiet optimism about the new recruits. However, it is still startling that many in government fail to recognise the unique problems affecting moorland communities within their constituencies, or address concerns over the future of these unique landscapes. The government at present has set no agenda for the protection of these communities and so it remains the prerogative of those living in England’s moors to ensure their conservation and prosperity.