Village communities are the heart of the South Hams; they have suffered under Labour. The need to protect rural England is one of my core concerns and so it was a great pleasure to spend a day trying to meet as many people as possible and listen to concerns.
At a public meeting in Ashprington I was questioned about many issues from local to national; issues like hunting, taxation, antisocial behaviour and trust in politics, to list a few. Over the course of the day many people talked about the problems facing farmers and their fears over food security. We now import so much of our food that we are in serious danger if anything were to disrupt transport links. Steve Hunt, agricultural credit broker, told me of the difficulties facing farmers who want to invest in their businesses and his experience of the decline in farming investment over recent years.
Many farmers spoke today about the burdens of red tape, the incompetence and bureaucracy of the rural payments agency and the excessive power of supermarkets. The dairy industry in the South Hams is collapsing and the Government has done nothing to address the crisis of bovine TB other than to pretend that a small scale vaccination trial might somehow hold the key.
Rural communities need village hubs and where better than places like the Red Lion in Dittisham? Brigitte Tardy refused to be thwarted by the closure of her post office and told me how she took over the pub, and with the help of a grant from the local council, has kept a post office service going in her business which combines pub, shop and post office all in one.