As the campaign to elect a new Prime Minister gathers pace Christopher Graffius takes a closer look at each of the candidates and what it means for shooting.
BASC is resolutely non-party political. We must be, because our objective is to maintain support for shooting across all parties and we work with all of them. You, as BASC members, don’t all support just one party, but you vote, as you wish, across the party spectrum. That’s democracy and a good thing.
BASC seeks to help you cast an informed vote, we don’t tell you how to vote. That’s why, during general elections, we urge you to question candidates and we post their positions on shooting and conservation on the BASC website. This enables you to know where your candidates stand, and you can vote accordingly.
Which brings us to the Conservative leadership election. There will be BASC members who are members of the party, and they will have the right to vote to decide who our next Prime Minister will be. If a candidate’s position on shooting is important for them, then this is what they need to know.
To take the candidates alphabetically; Rishi Sunak is the MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire. It’s shooting country and he has 959 BASC members in his constituency. He was first elected in 2015.
As a backbencher, he joined and attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Shooting and Conservation for which BASC provides the secretariat. In 2016 he spoke up for grouse shooting and shooting in general, against a proposed ban. You can see his speech, which gives his views, here.
He was a government minister, which restricts his ability to speak publicly on issues outside his remit, from 2014 to his recent resignation from the post of Chancellor of the Exchequer.
We know he’s spoken up for shooting behind the scenes in government. In 2019, when Natural England withdrew the General Licences for pest control, with other rural MPs, he lobbied for their immediate replacement.
He has also been supportive of the marketing of game and shoot assurance. Oh, and in July last year he acquired a fox-red Labrador puppy described by the press as a gundog. This leads us to the rumour that Rishi shoots, but I can’t confirm that.
Liz Truss is the MP for South West Norfolk, which includes Thetford Forest and is also shooting country. There are 679 BASC members in her constituency. She was first elected in 2010 and is now Foreign Secretary.
From 2014 to 2016 she was Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and supportive of shooting.
In 2014 she spoke at BASC’s rural reception at the Conservative Conference and told us: “I can assure you that a Conservative-majority Government will be fully supportive of shooting, of fishing, of angling – and we will make sure that any potential threats to those industries are very speedily rebutted.”
In 2015 she accepted a brace of pheasants from BASC saying that “Game is an important product of shooting and the role the sport plays in supporting the appearance, health and economy of our countryside is invaluable”.
In 2016 it was Truss who decided that the government would not place restrictions on lead ammunition because the evidence at the time did not yet warrant it. She cooks and enjoys game, tweeting a picture in 2018 of her take on roast partridge as “Norfolk’s bounty”.
So there you are. Two candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party and the country who are both supportive of shooting and conservation. Which one would be best as Prime Minister? That’s your call.