The Labour Party’s knowledge of farming appears to be on a par with its information about technology.
Graham Jones, MP for Haslingden and Hyndburn, hit the headlines over the weekend with his claims that rural broadband funding should be spent elsewhere because “farming has existed without the internet for eternity.”
He suggested public funding for faster broadband in rural Lancashire would be better spent in “industrial areas where the benefits would have been far greater”.
Jones said that Lancashire County Council and Lancashire LEP were currently spending some £32 million on super fast rural broadband.
But it was difficult to see how the investment would create jobs, he added.
Writing in his bog, Jones said that demographics suggest that upgrading from broadband to superfast broadband will not bring jobs, the geography does too.
Broadband was only useful for new businesses that are media intensive, have no product to shift and don’t meet clients, but the question is, how many will fit that category?
He added that even with superfast broadband, factories were not going to locate down miles of country lanes where they couldn’t get planning permission and access was prohibitive.
Rural people were not going to get better connections.
He added that mobile devices and 4G will be of greater significance than landline superfast rural broadband. The same argument could apply to government, but how many politicians have been sticking their paws up for free iPads?
Jones, however, sees it all as a class thing. Lancashire’s rural population is a playground for the wealthy and that’s the problem.
Needless to say, in a statement, the Countryside Alliance described the comments as “criminal”. In a digital age, the need for fast and reliable broadband was just as important as the need for gas, electricity and water, it added.
Jones did not understand how in the 1990s farmers were among the first to get their businesses online and now have about 90 per cent of their administration online.
In the 1990s, the National Farmers Union set up an ISP for farmers and spend a lot of time and money making sure they understood that requiring four RAM to run was not a livestock requirement.
We doubt that Jones would lose much sleep over the roasting has he has received from farmers. The day a farmer votes for anyone who is not a Conservative is the day that the death of the universe prevents a farmer from collecting his EU subsidies.
* Update: Since we wrote this, Jones’ post has mysteriously disappeared. We guess the Labour Party Central office is still hoping that the countryside voters will get hacked off that the Tory party is taking them out of the EU, and away from their salary meal tickets.