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Will you vote for the red or grey squirrel party?

Friday 29 April 2005

Our countryside commentator John Sheard, pondering on how he will cast his vote next Thursday, highlights the politically correct madness that is throttling the life out of the British countryside

PLEASE be a little patient, dear reader, whilst I try to explain the connection between the true blue British red squirrel, the all-conquering invading American grey squirrel, and next Thursday's general election.

Unless you happened to be listening to the Radio 4 Today programme on Monday, you might think that that is a pretty stupid question - how can little furry things have any bearing on national politics?

But if you had listened to the programme - the great bastion of political correctness amongst Britain's chattering classes - you might have heard a sad but extremely funny debate about an organisation down in the West Country which is offering a £500 reward to people who shoot the most grey squirrels.

Will your vote be red or grey?

The subject was treated as something of a joke and some of it was very funny indeed. When one reader emailed in saying that the invading grey squirrel was just a rat with PR, another replied that such a creature was not a squirrel but a politician. And who could possibly complain about that?

Now I am not averse to a bit of a giggle first thing in the morning - and, God help us, the Today programme is pretty depressing most of the time - but the most significant point of the entire segment was that three of Britain's leading conservation bodies refused to comment on the suggestion that the greys should be exterminated to save the native reds.

The RSPCA, the RSPB and the Forestry Commission all declined to join the debate despite the fact that in the latter case, the grey squirrel does great damage to trees, particularly the stately beech, by stripping away bark.

However, an off-the-record comment from one of these so-called bastions of wildlife protection said it all. "We daren't comment on this during a general election campaign," he said. "A campaign to shoot grey squirrels would upset the urban vote."

And there we have it (sorry for the pun) in a nutshell. These big and powerful organisations, much loved by the British public, are scared out of their wits in case they upset townies who know nowt about real rural life, red in tooth and claw.

Now this struck home to me as a "swing" voter. I am already suffering personally from urban-based political correctness as I go about my countryside work, either from the ban on hunting (which I don't do but support friends who do), to a growing clamour against angling (which I do) to the cancelling by John Prescott of bypasses on the A65 which I use virtually every day.

Labour is, of course, totally dominated by political correctness, which is why it cannot enforce discipline in schools, get the yobs of our streets, stop the invasion of illegal immigrants or remove gypsies from illegal campsites in open countryside. The only minority they don't kowtow to is country folk.

Sadly, the Liberals (or the Lib-Dems as they now are) have taken PC even closer to heart. They are now the party of choice for people who want to smoke pot and would-be terrorists who hate the idea of being stopped and searched by the police in case they are caught carrying their guns, bombs or chemical weapons.

Then there are the Tories and I am almost bound to get a Tory MP whichever way I vote. In my part of the Yorkshire Dales, the saying is that they will vote for a pig - so long as it's a blue pig. Trouble is, my likely MP is pro-European Union, as I was 30 years ago, until I realised it was a con-trick by the French to take over the continent by sleight of hand.

That leaves UKIP, which is tempting as a protest vote, for even the Monster Raving Loony Party has lost much of its charm since Screaming Lord Hutch died. So unless I decide to go fishing and not vote at all, I suppose I must choose the most politically incorrect candidate. Now let me see...

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