Why are politics so important to anglers? I agree with the vast majority of people in this country that politics is boring and believe me, I have been involved at the centre and it was, to a large extent, boring there as well. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that politicians can affect our lives in more subtle ways than you can at first imagine and it’s only when the final threats come, as it has with hunting, that we get off our backsides and do something about it.

I am writing this in the wake of the Liberal Democrats successful gain of a seat at the Brent by-election where Sarah Teather gained a swing of 30%. We should wish her well, after all, this is a new, life-changing job for her and I really do believe that Government (and every other profession) should have an equal representation of the fairer sex. I am well aware, though, as I suppose she is, that this could just be a rebellion following the recent Iraqi war and the current inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly. Nevertheless, it could also be that the tide is finally turning for the Liberal Democrats.

Jeff Woodhouse
“Go back to your Constituencies and prepare for Government.” was the war cry of David Steel back in 1983 and we’re still waiting. He made that declaration following the success that the then SDP/Liberal Alliance had in many by-elections in the early 80’s. I was then a member of the SDP (confession time), but I am completely sane and independent now. Many of us really believed that Britain was ready for a change whereas in fact the popularity of the Alliance was solely due to the unpopularity of one Mrs Margaret Thatcher and the mistrust of the lefties within the Labour Party. However, it is a fact that every 100 years or so there is a major swing in the (un)popular parties such as back in the 1920’s when Labour started claiming seats from the Liberals of Lloyd George. So could this really be the start of the Liberal Democrats rise to power?

Before we get too sidetracked you might well ask “Where does fishing fit into all of this?” It’s going to be a couple of more years yet before you get a say in the next General Election, but you have to ask what will the attitude towards fishing be of the party you are going to vote for and how will their attitude or policies affect your final decision? Will you really keep an open mind or will other issues take a priority over the future of your sport?

You basically know where you stand with the Conservatives. The name says it all – conserve – protect tradition, keep things as they are. There is no better illustration than their stance on the Euro and Europe in general for example, which some of you might support – I don’t. We know that they are, in general, in favour of hunting and certainly have no problems with angling as sport or a pastime. However, if you come from a socialist background you might not trust their record on unemployment and their rapport, or lack of it, with trades unions.

Some anglers have voiced doubts about Labour’s attitude towards angling in light of the ban against hunting with dogs. Are we to be next and how many MP’s might, in the end, be persuaded by the anti-angling brigade and call for a ban on fishing? We have our own Labour MP for angling in Martin Salter, but what clout will he have when the vast majority if the Labour Party goes against us? We could try to throw back at them their own ‘Angler’s Charter’ released in 1995 that promised that angling would not only be safe in their hands, but would also be promoted. I interviewed Tom Pendry (now Lord Pendry) who was then the Shadow Sports Minister at the time for the Angler’s Mail and knowing Tom personally I fully believed and trusted him, but how much has changed in the past 8 years especially since Labour MP’s have now got the taste of power?

What if there is a genuine swing towards the Liberal Democrats and they begin to have more of an influence on Government, perhaps even sharing power as Labour did with Ramsey MacDonald. Could the worst eventuality for us be a new Lib/Lab pact and what then will their attitude toward angling be? We know for a fact that in some local authorities controlled by Liberal Democrats that angling has been banned on public amenities such as park lakes and the like. Could this be a pointer for their future policy once in Government? Again, I remember Charles Kennedy from when he was an SDP MP, he is a very nice and very genuine person, make no mistake, but he could very easily be overruled if followed into Parliament by a further hundred or so ‘Loony-Liberals’. A derogatory name I know, but they do exist as do the Loony-Left of the Labour Party still.

So you see there is a lot to consider when deciding who you are going to vote for unless, of course, you are like me, trapped in a safe Tory seat. It wouldn’t matter if the overall swing was 30% in our seat, it would take nothing short of an absolute revolution for anyone else to win in Wycombe. This means I can vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party and not worry about affecting the result. You may have other priorities or you could be tied to voting for a party by dent of the fact that you ALWAYS vote for that party as your father did and his father before him did. This is an all too common view, unfortunately.

Whatever your other political views and wherever your traditional support lies, it’s time we started asking our prospective local candidates exactly what their views on angling are. We have to bring angling to the forefront of the political agenda. We cannot simply vote people into these important positions without fully questioning what their motives and their objectives are.

Just as a postscript to this item, I was going to start up another party for all those people in this country, and there are millions of you out there, who can never be bothered to vote or take any interest in politics at all. It would simply be called the APATHY PARTY.

With this party and the support we could raise from all those millions of idle-burgers we really could overthrow the existing parties. It could be a revolution beyond our wildest dreams, but there are drawbacks before we even get started. Because our members would basically be apathetic by their very nature, they wouldn’t even bother joining in the first place and so we would have no funds to launch a campaign with. Also, no-one would be bothered to draw up a constitution nor a set of policies to start us off. In fact, being apathetic, there wouldn’t be anyone to stand for election and so no-one to vote for on policies that wouldn’t exist.

I suppose the APATHY PARTY already exists in principal, but it can never get anywhere because all of its potential members are so bloody apathetic to do any more about it. As for me, well it’s all a matter of getting up the enthusiasm to do it myself, but there always seems to be something else better to do with my time.

Besides which, I just couldn’t care less.