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Rural views on Count Binface's manifesto

Posted on 24 June 2024

In the interests of remaining politically neutral, it seemed only fair for us to cast a critical eye over Count Binface’s manifesto with a view to assessing the potential impact of his policies on the rural economy. 

In response to river pollution, all the parties have included policies aimed at preventing pollution and sewage outflows into rivers and restoring them. Binface’s pledge to make “all water bosses take a dip in British rivers to see how they like it” brings a new angle, though it does raise questions over employer liability for health and safety. It does not address the more technical issues around nutrient levels - whether the water bosses will be able to detect phosphate levels from a quick dip will remain to be seen. 

Binface’s transport and communication policies will be welcome news for many rural communities and businesses, with implicit major infrastructure spending commitments in two key manifesto pledges: “WiFi on trains that works” and “trains that work”. Binface goes on to pledge "a ban on speakerphones on public transport.” Not only will this appeal to commuters (particularly rural lawyers working in London) but the impacts are likely to be far wider. With a 2018 government study concluding that superfast broadband boosted the turnover of local firms by £9bn per annum, providing an enhanced network coverage by train WiFi may offer significant opportunities to rural businesses currently inhibited by slow internet speeds.  

For those not close enough to a station to benefit from the expanded connectivity, Binface’s policy to reintroduce Ceefax may provide alternative boosts to revenue for rural businesses and estates, particularly by providing more jobs for those at or approaching retirement age in showing Millennials and Gen Z how to operate it. This could help fill the gap for many in that generation in light of his pledge that pensions will be "double-locked, but with a little extra chain on the side”

Like the other parties, Binface makes firm housing promises, pledging to build “at least one affordable house”. However, unlike some, Binface does not promise any liberalisation of planning laws. If anything, his manifesto suggests an extension of the listed building regime, with a pledge that Claudia Winkleman’s fringe is to be grade 1-listed. Under the current regime, only buildings and objects and structures annexed to buildings may be listed. The Supreme Court confirmed in Dill v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government and another [2020] UKSC that the so-called Skerritts test – size, permanence and degree of physical attachment – should be used to determine whether objects and structures have a sufficient degree of annexation to a building to qualify for listing. Given Claudia Winkleman's fringe is likely to fail at least the third limb of the Skerrits test, Count Binface would need to introduce immediate amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990. 

Turning to farming, Binface does not address subsidies or environmental schemes. Instead, policies are focused around pricing, with a fixed price for croissants at £1.10 and 99 Flakes to cost 99p. Whilst this may seem attractive for consumers, it raises serious questions concerning wheat and dairy prices and competition law in the face of ever-present inflation in inputs and yield pressure stemming from adverse weather.   

Farmers hit by the recent flooding may be hesitant to support Binface’s solution: “to combat the UK’s increasingly wet climate, all British citizens to be offered stilts.” This policy could potentially be discriminatory if it were only to apply to British citizens so could face challenges from a human rights angle, particularly given the need for seasonal migrant labour in the rural workforce.  

Rural retail could come under pressure with “shops that play Christmas music before December to be closed down and turned into public libraries”. Interestingly this implies a deemed use class change, and for those with farm shops or for shops in rural areas, a drop in potential food shops and increase in public libraries may restrict the ability for people to eat locally sourced produce – though they will at least be able to read about the macro-economic and environmental merits of doing so.  

Despite state intervention in specific industries, underlying Binface’s manifesto is an interesting international theme not explored before. Binface advocates free trade with other European countries, inviting other “european countries to be invited to join the uk, creating a new ‘union of europe’, if you will” (sic). Whether this concept could affect English law, or notions of sovereignty, remains to be seen. 

You can find more analysis of the other parties’ manifestos and what they could mean for the rural economy at the links below: 

Rural views on the Conservative manifesto 

Rural views on the Labour manifesto 

Rural views on the Liberal Democrat manifesto 

Rural views on the Reform manifesto 

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