Countryside crisis 'caused by city elite'

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Indy Politics

The divide between town and country is now as deep as that between the "two nations" of rich and poor, William Hague will declare today.

The divide between town and country is now as deep as that between the "two nations" of rich and poor, William Hague will declare today.

Speaking at a countryside fair at the Conservative Party's Bournemouth conference, Mr Hague will attack Tony Blair's Labour Government as a "metropolitan elite" and say it has caused the biggest crisis Britain's farming industry has ever seen.

The Tory leader will say: "The truth is that New Labour is dominated by a metropolitan elite, has no understanding of farming and the rural way of life, and cares even less about the people who live there.

"It is a metropolitan elite that arrogantly dismisses the views of rural Britain, or, in the words of John Prescott last week, 'the contorted faces' of the countryside.

"It is a metropolitan elite that sees the countryside as one great theme park, a kind of rural version of the Dome, rather than a place where real people live and work."

Mr Hague will promise that a Tory government would seek radical reform of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, an overhaul of European fishery regulations to re-establish British control over its waters and honesty in labelling to ensure that all foodstuffs marketed as British were actually produced in Britain.

He will tell the rally: "The reality is that farming, the countryside and our entire rural way of life is under threat as never before. Put bluntly, the future for the countryside is both bleak and uncertain."

Referring to Benjamin Disraeli's description of the "two nations" of rich and poor, Mr Hague will say: "Today, we see another two nations - the town and the countryside. And it will fall to the next Conservative government to begin to heal the divisions between them that this Government has allowed to open up."

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