New Chancellor Rishi Sunak and his support for moorland communities
Although Boris Johnson's cabinet reshuffle has been a big talking point this week, the big headlines were all about Sajid Javid's decision to quit as Chancellor. After a row over a forced sacking of his spads, Javid resigned from his job, stating that no "self-respecting minister" would have given in to the demands. The person who is stepping into his shoes is Rishi Sunak, previously Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and a person well-known in Yorkshire as the MP for Richmond – the seat formerly held by William Hague.
He has also been a staunch supporter of Yorkshire's moorland communities. In 2016, Sunak spoke in a parliamentary debate in response to a petition to ban driven grouse shooting. Of any proposed ban, he explained:
"The real victims of a ban are not caricatures; they are ordinary working people in constituencies such as mine in North Yorkshire – the farmer’s wife who goes beating at the weekend so that her family can make ends meet through difficult times; the young man able to earn a living in the community he loves as an apprentice to a gamekeeper; the local publican welcoming shooting parties with cold ales and hot pies. Those who support a ban on grouse shooting must be prepared to look those people in the eye and explain to them why their livelihoods are worth sacrificing."
Sunak has always had an interest in economics, studying PPE (politics, philosophy and economics) at Oxford, before working for both investment banks and hedge funds. It's fair to say that he "gets" the economy, and on this topic he had lots to say about shooting.
"The truth is that the benefits created by grouse shooting go far beyond the direct employment it creates", he said. "The ripples of employment that grouse shooting creates reach every corner of our country."
And of course, there is also the investment that moor owners put into conservation.
"Heather moorland is rarer than rainforest and 75 per cent of it is found here in Britain", explained Sunak. "It is a national treasure and part of our cultural heritage. Without the £1m of private income spent by moor owners on land management every single week, that proud heritage would come to an end."
To sum up, he said:
"Banning grouse shooting would not only leave many families poorer, but leave our landscape and wildlife poorer too. It would be a policy with no winners. Instead, only by working together, can we ensure a bright future for the rural Britain that we all care so deeply about."
With Brexit negotiations ongoing, many people running rural business are – perhaps understandably – worried about what might come next. To have chancellor who is determined to support Britain's rural economy is a huge asset.