Political

Outgoing NFU Deputy President joins Lib Dems

A Liberal Democrat press release brings the news:

  • Former Conservative Councillor and outgoing NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts becomes member of the Liberal Democrats and will help write the party’s new farming policies.
  • Stuart joins Ed Davey on farming visit in Hampshire ahead of the local elections.
  • New analysis reveals farming income in the South dropped by £61 million, the lowest in four years.

The outgoing Deputy President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has announced he has joined the Liberal Democrats.

Stuart Roberts recently finished his high profile role at the NFU to become politically active. He will join Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey today visiting an agriculture college in Hampshire. Well-known vet and Liberal Democrat candidate for Winchester Danny Chambers will also join them.

Stuart, who owns and manages a farm in Hertfordshire, has held numerous senior positions in the NFU and the food and farming industry.

He was previously a Conservative Councillor in Hertfordshire but has joined a growing number of farmers who are no longer supporting the Conservative party.

Today’s announcement follows last year’s political earthquake in North Shropshire where local farming communities voted Liberal Democrat for the first time. Ed Davey is visiting farms in Southern “Blue Wall” constituencies as rural areas switch from Conservative to Liberal Democrats.

It comes as new analysis by the Liberal Democrats reveals farming income in the South of England has fallen by £61 million in just one year. In Hampshire alone farming income has dropped by £22 million . The Government’s new overseas trade deals have been partly blamed for the hit to the region’s farming industry and farmers are now coping with spiralling costs.

Stuart Roberts commented on his decision to join the Liberal Democrats:

It is time politicians spoke up for rural communities who urgently need help and support.

The Liberal Democrats have proved they want to listen and engage with farmers who have been taken for granted by the Conservative party. What I have heard from Ed Davey and rural Lib Dem MPs such as Tim Farron is a party determined to campaign for policies which support the farming industry. I will be delighted to help the party’s newly formed Food and Farming Working Group in developing the right policies for farmers and consumers across the country.

British farmers and food producers are amongst the best in the world and they are ready to deliver high quality, sustainable food produced in harmony with the environment and animal welfare. Yet time and time again this Conservative Government has badly let down farmers and rural communities.

This is a pivotal moment for farmers with food security never a more important issue than today.

Ahead of the visit Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat Leader said:

Stuart is a stalwart of the farming community and I am enormously proud he has joined the Liberal Democrats. He is a champion for British farming and animal welfare. The Government should start listening to farmers like him.

The Tories simply don’t understand farmers – they have taken them for granted for too long. The Government’s trade deals aren’t worth the paper they are written on and a betrayal of rural communities.

In recent months I have visited farms and rural communities across the country and heard real anger at this Government. What I heard from farmers in North Shropshire is what I hear in places such as Hertfordshire and Hampshire in the South.

You can read more about his reasons for joining the Lib Dems in Stuart Roberts’s Twitter thread here.

Related to this, the Liberal Democrats have also called for more help with the cost of living in rural areas in another press release:

The Liberal Democrats have demanded a rural cost of living rescue package, including a cap on heating oil prices to help struggling families off the gas grid. The party warned that the Conservatives are leaving rural communities “out in the cold” by refusing to help with soaring bills.

Rural communities are bearing the brunt of the cost of living crisis with soaring heating bills, petrol prices and food costs all hitting struggling families.

The rural cost of living rescue package would include a cap on heating oil costs to support the estimated 1.5 million homes off the gas grid, and bringing in an emergency tax cut slashing VAT from 20% to 17.5%, saving families an average of £600 each. The VAT cut would save a motorist £48 a year on filling up their car.

The Liberal Democrats are also calling for a Community Ambulance Fund, to help reverse station closures in rural areas and cut ambulance wait times.

The Conservative government has refused to cap prices for heating oil, leaving consumers vulnerable to soaring prices. In response to a recent parliamentary question, a Conservative minister said: “A price cap is not necessary as consumers can shop around and switch suppliers more easily than for gas and electricity.”

Prices of heating oil have more than doubled to around 95p a litre, compared to 45p in August 2021. It means the cost of heating oil for the average household is expected to soar by between £700 to £1,700 this year.

Former Energy Secretary and Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey is calling for an energy price cap for heating oil to help families in rural areas struggling to get by. Under the party’s proposals, the government would step in to cover the cost if oil goes above the set price, protecting families from soaring prices and preventing small business suppliers from going bust.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed the top 25 areas most reliant on heating oil. Mid Suffolk has the highest proportion, where just under 30% of homes use heating oil, followed by Eden in Cumbria (25%) and North Norfolk (24%). Other hard hit areas include Shropshire (15%), South Cambridgeshire (13%) and South Somerset (12%).

It comes as the outgoing Deputy President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and ex-Conser Stuart Robert announced he has joined the Liberal Democrats, warning that the Conservatives are letting down farmers and rural communities.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This Conservative government is leaving rural communities out in the cold through their stubborn refusal to help those facing soaring heating bills.

People are being plunged into fuel poverty but instead of helping, the Conservatives are raising unfair taxes again and again.

The Liberal Democrats are demanding a rescue package for rural areas, through a cap on heating oil prices and an emergency tax cut to save struggling families six hundred pounds. We would set up an Ambulance Community Fund, so that if you have to call nine nine nine you know they will be there.

Next week’s local elections are a chance to send Boris Johnson a message that people in rural areas are fed up of being taken for granted. Every vote for the Liberal Democrats will help elect a strong local champion who will fight for a fair deal for their community.

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