Rural affairs are likely to come under the spotlight during the election following the recent ban on hunting with hounds.
Changes to the Common Agricultural Policy have affected farming income and there are also growing concerns over the increased dominance of supermarkets.
A huge gap between average house prices and the average wage has seen many of those brought up in the countryside being unable to afford to purchase their own home.
There are also environmental worries over increasing development in the countryside to provide new housing, especially in the South East.
Are the political parties promising enough for rural areas? What should they concentrate on? Do you live in the countryside? Who will get your vote?
The BBC's Sarah Mukherjee answered your questions on rural affairs. Click on the link to watch the video.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
As a person who was born and brought up in deep countryside, and is still there, I would point out that I will only vote for the party who shows most concern for animal welfare. It is my over-riding concern and as far as I am concerned is today's big issue. I and, I suspect, lots more like me will again swallow selfish desires and vote only for the party showing most interest in this one issue. The fact that two of the big parties still do not get it seems amazing to me - wake up and smell that compassionate coffee.
Paul Munds, Bodmin UK
The ban on fox hunting with hounds is nothing more than a vote loser. Hunting with hounds will continue, they just will not be chasing foxes.
Lucinda Ball, Rugby
Hunting ban a vote loser? It would appear not! I am cheered by the fact that many country dwellers are so passionately in favour of the hunting ban. It seems from this page that those who support blood sports are a privileged minority who can afford not to worry about the big issues affecting everyday people in the countryside. They should read the comments from ordinary people, who express reasoned opinions about big issues.
Previously, farmers were paid to uproot hedgerows. Now they are being paid to replant them. This illustrates the failings of the Common Agricultural Policy of subsidies to farmers at great cost to the taxpayer. Only Labour can be relied upon to bring about the necessary reforms.
Eric Whiteley, York
House prices will only be lowered if the supply of building land is substantially increased. The supply of building land must be left to the free market forces and not pseudo-nationalised by central government.
R Potter, Silverstone, Northants
Regarding the average house prices and the average wage. In Cornwall the average wage so called does not exist. We are the lowest paid in the country. No one seems to mention this fact; they just go on talking to the Countryside Alliance people. This area is rarely mentioned in any programme.
Sheila Trezise, St Austell, England
I am not voting Conservative this time - after 45 years of voting for them - because they intend to allow fox hunting again. I emailed the local office and Michael Howard and never got a reply.
T J Newman, Bournemouth England
To all those who complain about wind farms and mobile phone masts: stop using electricity as someone else has to live near an ugly power station. Throw away your mobile phone as someone else will have a mast near them.
Andrew Law, Warrington, UK
In Ireland, they've effectively got rid of the problems caused by travellers. Now, in England, these groups are allowed in and many of them run riot over whole swathes of communities and abuse the benefits system. It appears that mainstream politicians are living in glasshouses, oblivious to this festering issue.
Juan Reyes, Caddington, Bedfordshire
I live in a small country town, surrounded by farms and so-called country folk. Many of these country folk are city dwellers who have moved in to the rural areas simply because they have made a mess of the concrete jungles that form our cities, and because they can afford to. They should be treated just like the rest of us.
Why does everyone assume that all people who live in the countryside despise the ban on fox-hunting? I live in the countryside and I am delighted with the ban! It means no more horses and dogs ruining my land (which do more damage than any fox) and no more barbaric killing of foxes! Fox hunting is nothing more than an excuse for those who think they are better than the rest of us to have a social gathering. I am very thankful to Labour for the ban.
Catherine Wheeler, Devon, UK
This government has demonstrated a distinct lack of concern for rural affairs. They have revealed their prejudices through their ban on hunting and have failed rural people on a range of policies including a failure to get to grips with TB in cattle by denying any link with badgers. The party that understands the countryside better than all the others is the Tory party.
R Fry, Halstock, Dorset
City dwellers should not be permitted to vote on countryside issues as they do not live in the countryside. City dwellers overwhelmingly out-number country dwellers and therefore would dominate any vote take otherwise. It isn't fair for people who do not live in the countryside to tell us how to live.
Margaret, Devon, UK
I thought it was a leg-pull when Labour announced that Margaret Becket was to launch its Rural Manifesto. Does the party that has been waging war on the countryside since it came to power, really think that anyone outside the big towns will vote for it?
Barry, Deeping St James
This government has let down the countryside badly. But that is nothing new for British governments. The culture of greed and selfishness we live in is to blame for the lack of affordable housing in many rural communities, and the appalling rate of second home purchases simply doesn't help. Farmers have been consistently squeezed until they can't be squeezed anymore, and true British agriculture is in decline. Nothing satisfactory to the people who work the land has been done seemingly. I do wholeheartedly agree with the ban on hunting live animals however. But apart from that, the countryside has been treated as a political poor relation.
Jennifer Hynes, Plymouth, UK
As a Cornishman, I feel strongly that those persons owning second homes should be taxed heavily. Desirable country villages throughout the South West die in the off-season. Why can't the powers that be follow the example of the Channel Islands and have a two tier market?
Peter Girling, Honiton, Devon
To Bob re: wind farms. I would gladly have one in my back garden if it would mean I was doing my bit to reduce pollution. I think the real objection is the way politicians have dictated to rural areas rather than consulted.
Mrs S Wilkinson, Hemel Hempstead, UK
Blair's promises of saving rural post offices, schools and pubs have been worth nothing in the past eight years. Labour doesn't seem to care about rural people and their way of life. Being voted Prime Minster meant he should try to represent everyone in this country and he doesn't even bother to try.
Alice, Cirencester, England
Towns and cities are overcrowded so there is no choice but to move out into the countryside. This 'not in my back yard' attitude is ruining the whole country. The government should have more power to force changes that are for the benefit of the whole country. A minority may not like it, but as with voting - a majority wins.
Lee, Newport, S Wales, UK
This government published a White Paper called something like "A Fair Deal for Rural Areas" a couple of years ago. Since then there have been loads of initiatives, national and local, to save rural services (buses, schools, Post Offices etc). Obviously it is not perfect, but people in rural areas should try helping themselves by getting involved in writing Parish Plans, being a parish councillor, a school governor, etc, etc. There are less of us living per square mile so we have to make more of an effort to have our voices heard. And on the turbine issue, I happen to think they are beautiful. They are not the be all and end all solution to our power needs obviously, but a good stopgap while research continues into better sustainable sources. Once they have been superseded, they can be taken away with much less long-term damage to the environment than nuclear, gas or coal power stations which leave more pollution behind them. In the meantime, I too can see no reason why every new house does not have photo-voltaic cells instead of tiles.
AW, Herts, UK
I would like to protest most strongly to the continual building taking place on green field sites and flood planes. I can understand it from the commercial land developers and the building industry, because all they are bothered about is making money, but I would like to see central and local government put a stop to green field land-grabbing and make them pull down the slums and the derelict buildings that blight our towns and cities and build on them.
Roland Debenham, Thornton Cleveleys, Lancs
I am supporting the Conservatives because I am disgusted by the hunting ban.
Rachel Hodgkinson, Basingstoke, Hampshire
The perception in the countryside always seems to be that the Tories are the best party and that they are ignored by everyone else. What did the Tories ever do for country folk? The reason that people in the countryside get ignored is that they make up so little of our voting population so politicians don't bother to try to please them, sad but true. As for them paying for all the urban projects - we urbanites have been propping up farmers for decades with their contributions. If it wasn't for large urban populations they wouldn't have a market! I was born and brought up in the countryside and have seen both sides. The trouble is that countryside issues get hijacked by hunting enthusiasts etc. The countryside is about much more than farmers and blood sports!
The Labour government continuously erodes the social fabric of the countryside. They have no idea of how the countryside works and go out off their way not to learn. Labour are a disaster for all rural areas.
George Clowes, North Oakley, Hampshire
None of the parties are concentrating on rural issues and therefore it's easy to answer the topic question. I agree with the hunt ban and believe it's the biggest change to happen to the countryside. It depends how people want to adapt to the new order that is going to matter. Unfortunately, they do not appear to be flexible or worthy of compassion. It'll not make a huge change in the voting patterns though.
Richard, Witney, UK
I grew up in rural Suffolk but now live and work in London. The inexorable rise in house prices, driven by lack of vision and planning on the part of government, and parasitic greed on the part of many people, means I cannot afford even a starter home in either location. I have been unemployed for 5 days in my entire life, have two degrees and have never been convicted of a criminal offence. The social contract in this country has been broken and I am voting with my feet this year - I am trying to emigrate. There is no security for me in the land of my birth.
It is very simple; this government will never like rural Britain, because rural Britain will never like it. Dispersed rural communities will always in real terms have to pay proportionally more for the left's city based social projects.
Dave G, Hereford, UK
I live in Devon, and I know that the only party helping us is the Conservative Party. Labour don't care for us, we mustn't let them into power again, otherwise the English countryside will be destroyed.
Do people in towns and cities, even our large villages really want a countryside? If they do then they should listen to rural views. I would not presume to tell a town dweller what to do and I value their opinions about improving urban and suburban life. Many concerns we have are shared but some are not. Do stop the bigotry or you will find that the countryside which has been shaped by many processes including country sports as well as farming will disappear.
Originally from Devon, after 25 years living abroad, the only thing preventing us returning to live in the UK is the price and availability of housing.
Clare Manusset, Troyes, France
Will the landed classes ever tire of their complaints about how the Labour government has persecuted them? For the first time in living memory this pampered section of society are finally being forced to live by the same rules as the rest of society. The next step is to make farming turn itself into a sustainable profitable business - like how the rest of British industry was forced to in the 80's and 90's. I don't remember many tears shed by farmers for the mining industry.
Tom, Dorset, UK
I lived in Devon until I left for university. Growing up there was this growing sense of foreboding that the countryside would have nothing to offer. I now live in Birmingham and have a successful career and can afford to buy a house here. My childhood friends who chose to stay still work in dead end jobs despite us all going to one of the best schools in the country. I just feel sad about the whole experience. I can't live near my parents (who also rent), they need my support now they are getting on. I can send money but it's not the same as being nearby all the time.
Bernard, Birmingham, England
Wind farms are a blight on the landscape and a serious danger to birds. It seems that the only people who like the idea of these monstrosities are those who live in towns and don't have a horizon to mess up. Let those who want wind farms be the first to start - by having one in their back garden.
Bob, Staffs Moorlands, UK
The general ignorance by the current government on all matters rural is staggering. When will this government, and Europe, understand that the most sustainable option of countryside management is farming? Let farmers farm the land to the best of their knowledge - it has shaped our beautiful countryside for hundreds of years. Many of the so called 'sustainable' options encouraged by this government have led to a reduction in overall biodiversity and the development of overgrown, unsightly farm land.
Peter Carr, Newcastle, UK
Can anybody please tell me why the tax payer subsidise farmers? If farmers are not able to make a profit they should do what the rest of us would have to do - change jobs.
Colin, Bristol, UK
I was born and brought up in rural mid-Wales and I face a future of fighting to stay here. The English incomers have pushed prices up so much that locals have been forced out of their own communities. My local village has been almost entirely taken over by English incomers resulting in the destruction of the community.
Alex, Machynlleth, Mid-Wales
Blair doesn't care about rural areas.... so I don't care about Blair! Kennedy seems to be the only one in touch with the countryside.
Andrew, Cambridge, UK
It sickens me to read some of the anti-farmer comments on here - people just have no idea. My father made a loss last year; can you imagine working full time, all year and then actually owing your employer money? No. Until our produce starts being favoured over produce from other countries, the government is killing the industry and the countryside it manages. It is sad to rely on subsidies, but it's either that or live on benefits. And don't say "you can just get another job", try explaining that to someone who's been a farmer since they were 15 and has no other experience and tell me what their options are.
Jenny Gough, Gloucester
Why is this discussion so fox hunting focused? I've lived in the countryside all my life and would say fox hunting affects only a minority of people. How about focusing on 'real' countryside issues such as lack of affordable housing which is killing small communities, lack of public transportation making pensioners prisoners in their homes or lack of services provided to rural communities.
People should not be able to make huge untaxed capital gains by selling houses in London and other expensive areas, and then move to other regions where the money they have previously made pushes house prices there sky-high as well. Equity on house sales should be subject to capital gains tax. Also, it's a myth that the answer lies in trying to building houses more cheaply - it's the purchasing power of the buyers, not the construction cost, that determines the price of a house.
Philip Bisatt, Taunton, Somerset
Let's not beat around the bush - Labour treat the rural population of the UK with utter contempt!
Matt F, Bristol, UK
To everyone who says Labour is the only party who will continue the ban, I believe the Greens have supported the ban and will continue it. They will also stop animal experiments. There is an alternative to Labour.
Chris, London, UK
Under Labour the English country folk have become far more politically active; fuel tax protest, Countryside Alliance and UKIP are the most obvious products of rural protests. My vote goes to the party that allows rural communities decent levels of autonomy, not one size fits all policies designed to benefit the urban poor at the least cost to the urban rich.
Michael Saunby, Okehampton, Devon
I don't understand how country people can on the one hand vote Tory, the self-proclaimed party of small government and low tax, and on the other demand subsidised post offices and public transport and hugely expensive village schools. Can anyone please explain that logic?
During the last election campaign, with the countryside closed and healthy livestock burning as a result of the foot and mouth epidemic, the Blair government claimed they had got the crisis under control. Since then, they have banned fox-hunting, causing yet more difficulties for those whose livelihoods depend on the countryside. We hear endlessly about the unhealthiness of this country's children, and yet totally ignore our food producers. Why have rural issues been almost completely absent from this election campaign? Could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that rural constituencies tend to return Conservative MPs anyway?
I can't see that any party is doing much for rural issues, they don't seem to be campaigning about it at all. This is nothing new as we don't count and our industries are just problems for townsers. Maybe they would rather look at derelict farms and weeds as well as their derelict industrial sites in the cities. When are we going to start promoting ourselves other than as a nice place for call centres and big city whizz kids.
John Prescott and New Labour will take care of rural affairs. Prescott intends to make the countryside low maintenance just like your gardens by concreting over the better part of it. How green is my land?
C. Preece, Tamworth, UK
In order to sustain rural communities there are a great many issues that need to be addressed. Second homes or holiday homes drive up house prices and locals leave. Areas lose traditional industry and local skills/knowledge as a result. Newcomers often have better access to private cars and can therefore cope with the lack of village amenities. Farmers must be encouraged as stewards of the countryside to maintain and enhance the environment and farm more sustainably. With the right approach rural communities have done a great deal to help themselves become more self sufficient and sustainable, something which urban dwellers would do well to take note of.
Present rural policies are putting many smallholders out of business. The amount of RED TAPE is incredible. Abattoirs have reduced by some 75% in 6 years and the hunting ban has also reduced disposal facilities. We also have further to travel. All in all this government is destroying farming in this country.
Gordon Sim, Malmesbury, UK
I work in London but am country-born and bred. The ignorance of "townies" about farming never fails to astound me. They still think farmers make lots of money and they hold them responsible for BSE, salmonella and everything, without acknowledging the role of government or the feed companies.
Gabriel Herbert, London, UK
In response to the question of 'Why should a New Labour government help the countryside?' - surely if Labour better looked after the needs of rural people, more would vote Labour? The rural areas of Britain can't be ignored, but it does feel like New Labour is trying to sweep it under a nicely concreted carpet.
I would like to see laws like fox hunting enforced.
James Murphy, Dorset
If Labour does have any sort of countryside policy it appears to me to consist of class war against hunters and the fuel price escalation that makes it difficult for country dwellers to pay for fuel in areas where public transport is simply not an option for many.
Frank Routledge, Durham, UK
The countryside receives huge subsides. If people living there aren't happy why don't they get on their bikes?
Richard Fisher, Derby
I would like to see a government committed to funding wave power development (which is perfectly feasible). Waves are "concentrated" wind, and therefore offer much greater energy densities than wind farms without blighting the landscape. Wind farms at sea seems like a huge engineering problem, but "wave farms" make much more sense.
Scott, Newcastle, Tyne-and-Wear
I live in town and work in the countryside with families. We all have much the same problems when it comes to income, house prices and the environment. Why the so-called 'special' problems of the countryside? The advantages of living outside town far outweigh the disadvantages for some people and for those who don't agree, they can move into town. We want policies that will help all of us, not favouring one group over another.
Chris, Surrey, UK
I live in the country, and I say to Chris in Surrey - try and get a dentist, try and get a GP, try and catch a bus anywhere. We don't have the things you take for granted. Saying 'move back to town' misses the point - we all have a vote and can expect reasonable services for our taxes (which are the same as you pay).
Steve Hannaford, Presteigne, Mid-Wales
Labour has addressed the major rural problem of money being collected by local councils in the countryside, but then being spent exclusively in nearby towns. With DEFRA's Vital Villages programme, this government has given authority and funding to villages, so that the urgent needs of rural areas can be addressed by the local communities. It is taking time for intermediate levels of local government and entrenched local interests to accept this, but DEFRA's work in this area deserves a lot of praise.
Tony Blair has done a wonderful job in banning hunting. As a countryside dweller and a lifetime anti-hunt supporter I shall certainly be voting for Tony Blair again this time round. Not everyone in the countryside takes pleasure in ripping apart terrified, innocent animals for fun! Ban shooting next, that's what I say.
Matt, Lincs, England
The countryside is getting a raw deal from those politicians in London. I hear that Prescott and his friends at the unaccountable South East regional assembly want to dump 10,000 houses near Romsey. It just about sums up their complete contempt that they have for our environment. Is it me or is there an ulterior motive behind getting rid of country past times such as hunting and its opponents of New Labour?
Under Labour, developers can apply for planning rights to build in your back garden, this is a spin on 'brownfield' sites. We live in such an area where planning application has been submitted to build four bungalows and 12 parking spaces in three back gardens that we back onto. Not only will this get rid of the wildlife that abounds in our garden but will ruin our lives as we know them. I know who I won't be voting for!
Sheridan McGinlay, Leamington Spa, England
The idea of 100 metre tall wind turbines on Hampstead Heath is a wonderful one. The urban people can thus demonstrate that they stand firm on their principles as they dance to the penetratingly loud and rhythmic whirring of the generator units perhaps even drowning out their own latest urban music trends. That would be nice.
The Conservatives do not understand the countryside! All they do is pander to landowners - most of whom are just rural businessmen out to make money. The Conservatives have already pledged to kill badgers to please some dairy farmers - even though it won't actually help combat bovine TB at all - the ISG report has even stated this!
Ade, Conwy, Wales
After moving "out into the sticks" from just outside London, I was amazed at how ignorant people from towns and cities are (myself included). All farmers do NOT get subs from the government, the services you in the city take for granted we do not get but we still pay for them through taxes, I pay the same in council tax here as in London. Yet there are none of the expected facilities, no street lighting no pavement, no sports centre, nothing. The only time the countryside has been discussed has been over fox hunting that affects a very small minority in the countryside. You/We have a choice - pay all farmers a decent price for their produce, or pay for the benefits to keep people out of poverty, your choice.
No party understands the countryside, except the Conservatives. As a 17 year old, it is strange that I support them while all the other students support the Liberals or Labour, I feel so strongly about voting Conservative, because no other party, especially Labour, which is full of towns-folk, doesn't even understand the concept of the countryside. They think all you have to do to become a country-folk is to wear a pair of wellies and say 'oh-ah'. The Conservatives say that they will repeal the hunting ban, good for them. The ban was like British politics itself: utterly stupid.
It beats me why we're supposed to pay farmers to manage the countryside. I don't want suburban lawns in every field. What's wrong with a bit of wilderness? Farmers moan that without grazing, scrub will invade. Well yes, but then there'll be woodland, where wild creatures can make a living, much better. We don't need to manage all our land. As for foxes, they're not relevant to other countryside concerns. The Countryside Alliance has tried to connect the two subjects and succeeded in getting large crowds into the streets. That was bogus, and I hope it didn't fool our politicos. There's a large anti-hunt majority in the countryside as well as the towns, but it stays discreetly quiet for fear of aggression by the disreputable underclass of thugs who follow blood sports.
Michael Maas, Sheffield
The most remote areas in many parts of the world are characterised by extreme living conditions, people are desperately grasping to poor living conditions and are ever the last to understand what communication using the latest technologies mean. In Kenya for example, it is a normal factor for politicians to manipulate people living in these areas before escaping with votes into the cities. It is hence totally difficult to manage the people living in rural areas.
Chebaibai John, Kampala, Uganda.
We've enjoyed a bit of countryside around London which we thought was sacrosanct, until Labour got in. It's called the green belt, soon to be the brown and concrete belt. Thanks Prescott! Something else you and your lot are destroying.
Judith Chisholm, London
People in favour of wind farms really ought to read the vast mass of research on the subject which points out that it is a supremely expensive and non-viable source of energy in this country. For wind energy to be successful, as someone has already said, it would need to cover almost every available piece of land in the UK. Each turbine costs a vast sum of money. It beggars belief that the government has gone and put up these wind farms (because they're visible, presumably) while totally ignoring other renewable options which would actually be capable of producing sufficient power and are cheaper!
David Rees, London, UK
We have had no election literature from any party yet. We have a new boundary and we do not know who is standing. If we could afford it we would have our own electricity producing turbine, as it is we depend on the generator.
Hilary, Dumfries, UK
I am a country person through and through, but the ones who have a bitter and twisted attitude to the fox hunting issue should not blame Labour for its demise but the millions of animal lovers throughout Britain who have appealed for an end to such a cruel sport (all in the name of fun). And if Labour are the only ones who will continue to support the ban then "VOTE LABOUR".
Darren B, Trowbridge, UK
The more wind farms the better - the complaints are the normal English whinge of objecting to any change on principle! Obviously it's better to have non-polluting energy. How stupid and selfish can people be?
I was recently in the south of Spain looking across the sea to North Africa. The conditions were perfect, the mountains beautiful despite having hundreds of wind turbines on them. People have got very used to pylons and cables, so why not turbines, which are a wonderful way of using natural infinite resources that are far less damaging than burning oil etc?
Naomi, Amersham, Bucks
I hate it when people move from the cities into the countryside then start moaning about the things that have been there years. No one makes them move there.
Anyone objecting to a wind farm should be given a simple choice - allow the wind farm to be built or have their home disconnected from the national grid and let them generate their own power. The shameless hypocrisy of people wanting electricity, but not wanting it made near them is stunning. For 40 years the midlands has been covered in coal fired stations fed by open cast mines to generate power for rich country dwellers. Wind turbines don't look that great but they look a lot better than nuclear or coal fired stations and all 3 are preferable to having your home 30 meters underwater to make a reservoir for a hydro scheme. That will terminally affect your house value!
It is about time that farming got back in touch with the marketplace. Farm subsidies harm the efficiency of the industry and are keeping the third world in poverty, as well as the British tax payer. The housing crisis in many rural areas has been made considerably worse by the supply of affordable houses. If I recall correctly the Tories sold off many of these in order to buy votes during the 1980's.
The only people politicians are interested in are those that will get them into power. The environment plays second fiddle to power politics - lots of rhetoric, little action. Where are the integrated transport policies that would help the environment? Britain will fail to curb its carbon dioxide emissions under the Kyoto agreement and yet people bang on about the naughty Americans. Fox hunting with hounds is oh, so important. I don't think so, except to rural areas, which says a lot about the Labour Party and its lack of interest in parts of Britain that don't have large urban populations. Large companies make friends with those in power, whoever they are, so such things as new supermarket outlets get planning permission. Any politician with conviction stays on the backbenches, and they do the least damage, like Dennis Skinner. Unfortunately we've all been 'fitted up'. And you believe we are in a democracy!
John Clarkeson, Chichester, England
Yes it is lovely to live in the countryside, but there is no public transport at all. For those without private transport especially the elderly and infirm that means no local amenities. The local post office is only open 3 mornings a week, and it is over 2 miles to any local doctor. One has to travel 25 miles to the local A & E. The local town is very small, and hosts one small supermarket and the local market, which is now literally a few stalls selling videos etc. Yes it is great to live in the countryside, if you have a good pension, private means or are in a well paid job. But if you're a pensioner, or have a young family forget it. We could buy through the internet if we had a computer and could afford to have credit cards etc. but most pensioners cannot. We do not have the choice which everyone else can enjoy, and we'd like to support our local farmers. We do not have the convenience of gas and pay exorbitant amounts for electricity, oil and coal. Why don't the government harness the power of the sea which surrounds our country for energy? People in cities and towns have an utopian view of living in the countryside, but unless you have the money it is far from idyllic, although I am sure 99.9% would not change for living in town.
F Kinderman, Kent
Since when has anyone cared about the ability of people to afford their homes, let alone the concept of farm workers owning their own homes? What they think we need is profit so as we kill off the farming community here by virtue of the supermarkets and the CAP That means we can have more motorways, theme parks and lovely areas for bankers. When the last person leaves the countryside, will someone please turn off the lights. Oh as for food, I thought you knew. We import it from Africa at painfully low rates to keep airlines busy so that we can pollute the skies.
Tony, Welling Kent
Not one party is doing enough. Every new build home should have solar cells instead of roofing tiles. The volume will bring the costs down. Scrap road tax entirely. Put the difference in cost on petrol, so you pay for the road when you use it. HGVs and taxis should be exempt. We should do this now so we are not reliant on the Middle East and are prepared for the future.
What's the problem with having wind farms out at sea in non navigable areas well away from populated areas? Its done in other parts of Europe.
Interesting read Tony, your little red book of 110 pages has about 400 words on rural affairs - seems like we have been forgotten, except for the fox.
Robert Francis, Devon
Farmers are simply the custodians of an ever changing countryside. Once heavily forested, most of Britain has now been urbanised or turned over to farming. As custodians, farmers are paid by the rest of us through heavy subsidies, so stop moaning and get on with your job!
Michael, York, UK
There are plans to build a wind farm only 700m from my back door - but the village in which I live will not benefit at all from the electricity generated. The only local person who will is the farmer - who says he cares about the environment but who has pulled up virtually all the hedgerows on his farm in pursuit of profit. I will not be voting for any party that supports building industrial turbines so close to village populations. Put them out at sea.
If Labour get in again there won't be any countryside in the south east to worry about since it will all be built on.
I agree with Peter from Nottingham. Why are wind turbines bright white in colour?
The vast majority of the UK is countryside, we just don't get to see it because it is privately owned. It's a disgrace that the wealthiest few in Britain also own all the land. This in a country where some inner city communities have an infant mortality rate of a developing country. The Farmers are supported by the CAP which keeps developing world farmers in poverty. Rural council taxes are lower but they still drive their 4x4's to use city facilities that they haven't paid for. It is nobody's exclusive right to live in the British countryside. The poor and disadvantaged in the countryside need looking after as much as anyone else. The vocal affluent minority should realise how lucky they are and shut up.
Chris G, Cambridge
It is always enlightening to find that the only people who want wind farms to be placed in the countryside live in towns and cities. I wonder how they would feel if one of these monster structures was built at the end of their road. They kick up enough fuss about mobile phone masts (try getting a signal in some rural areas). This is but one small problem facing the countryside. I have lived in the country all my life and seen the gradual erosion of the rural way of life. This has accelerated over the last 8 years. The Labour party and its urban supporters just want the countryside there as an R'n'R spot for them when they feel like communing with nature. They think that by eliminating farming there will be no restriction on their activities However, when the farmers have gone who will look after the countryside? Nature has a wonderful way of reclaiming what is hers and the countryside will soon become an overgrown mess without the careful stewardship of the farming community. Still the townsfolk will be alright: they can get their French lamb and cheeses from their local supermarket, using the tube or their 4 times an hour bus service.
Rodger Collins, Towcester
There is a wind farm proposed five miles from my house. It would save 55,000 - 75,000 tonnes of CO2 per year according to the House of Lords committee report. Those who talk about intermittency should take the time to talk to an electrical engineer. The only party which I trust to help those of us in rural areas is the Greens.
Adam Ramsay, Perthshire
The countryside, or at least the farming community in it, receives more state subsidy than all other industries combined, yet people still feel neglected and resent the fact that parliament can pass legislation that affects them.
George, Chessington, Surrey
How can anyone find wind turbines beautiful? They stick out like a sore thumb, being completely at odds with the landscape they are placed in, and are of little practical benefit. They are another symptom of Labour wrecking the countryside for the townie vote. It's unfortunate that the other parties have equally absurd views on other issues. Let's put all politicians on treadmills to generate electricity!
I don't think the Labour Party has ignored country issues. Foxes apart, it's been looking at the bigger picture, like uneconomic subsidies. The main problems in rural Britain are the same as those in urban areas. Houses too expensive, under funded state schools and hospitals, a loss of local shops to the supermarkets, little visible policing and a struggle for local employment.
I was brought up in the countryside and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, I can't afford to live there any more. If I could, I wouldn't be complaining about wind farms, post offices or local amenities. I'd feel very privileged.
Perhaps if wind turbines were made in a greeny-brown or slate grey colour (the same shade they paint fighter planes) then they'd blend into the countryside or skyline better. Is this idea just too simple for politicians to come up with themselves?
The government of the day should consider the welfare of the whole of the UK not just areas which supported it in the last general election. Unfortunately the Labour government have neglected rural areas at the expense of the inner cities.
Ian, Baildon UK
If John Prescott has his way there won't be any countryside left to worry about in a few years. It will all be concreted over!
Jack Stone, Southend on Sea
One of my biggest concerns is urban sprawl and how it seems that towns keep spreading out and eating up green belt land without any objection from local authorities or government. Also I am just waiting for the next gun amnesty and clamp down on shooting to tackle rising gun crime which does nothing to halt gun crime and just penalises responsible shooters. This government will not be happy till every country sport is banned.
I think the government is doing a lot for rural areas. How? By taking hard-earned money in the form of taxes to be spent by our unelected 'euromasters' in Brussels on subsidising farmers across the rest of the EU so they can undercut our farmers. I can bet that French farmers will welcome another Blair term.
I have lived in the countryside all my life. There are very few amenities but it is my choice to live here. If those who live here are not happy, move.
Elaine Milbourn, Wigton, Cumbria
When I see wind turbines on Hampstead Heath then I will agree with the "wind farms solve all our ills" brigade. Until then please reconsider and look at the facts wind farms are not going to solve the problem of CO2 emissions unless we carpet the countryside with them. They are a blight on the landscape.
I think it needs to be realised that without farmers the countryside would not be as well kept and as beautiful as it is. I live in the countryside and all around me I can see the hard work put into making it enjoyable. I think more concern and welfare should be given to the people who make our countryside what it is today!
Karen Spanswick, UK
There is far too much interference from government "townies" and ignorant do-gooders in the affairs of rural communities. What if country folk ruled the roost in towns? Let the people who live and work in an area decide on policy. I live on the edge of a town, by the way, and appreciate both types of community.
Chris Bentley, Sutton Coldfield, England
All those in favour of wind farms do not appear to live near the proposed sites. There are a number of uninhabited islands of the west coast that could be used.
Neil Small, Scotland
I really believe that Blair will only be happy when our beautiful countryside is covered with houses and concrete and roads. He has no feeling for the countryside and no understanding for those who (try to) live and work there. His appalling and arrogant government has done incalculable damage to the rural economy and has set town against country.
Lin, rural UK
I think that building wind farms is a far better option than building coal, gas or nuclear power stations. However, to destroy areas of our countryside with man-made machinery (which I accept some people do find 'beautiful and relaxing') seems a bit unnecessary when we can build them out at sea. This has been done many times already, and it keeps the turbines out of most peoples way and generally has a higher productivity rate than inland farms.
Alan Jenkins, Chester, UK
Rural areas have been neglected by this government to the point where they are reducing NHS cover for emergencies. Our local villages are setting up 'first responder' teams because the ambulances take an hour to arrive. Farmers are shooting themselves (two near me in a year) and there are no services although we still pay our council taxes, income taxes, fuel taxes, and national insurance. We have virtually no police cover for crime. I know I'm worse off since 1997 in a big way. More promises, more talk.
Wind Power in this country is a fundamentally floored method of power generation, due to the organisation of the national grid combined with irregular winds. All we would be doing by switching to wind power is to become reliant on the French Nuclear power stations for 'top up' power. If the government spent the money on home insulation and power saving devices instead, we would more than eradicate some of the need for the power in the first place, saving the UK countryside.
Richard Jenkins, Oxford
While there are occasional instances where wind turbines are not appropriate, the vast majority of the UK population are in favour of more renewable energy: those opposed are a vocal and unrepresentative minority. Personally, I find wind turbines beautiful because they represent hope for the future: a peaceful, non-nuclear future in which we finally take the threat of climate change seriously. We need more renewable energy to deliver that future: not less.
Chas Booth, Edinburgh
All parties should be trying to come up with "affordable housing" for people who have been brought up and want to stay within their community - the problem is it would take quite a bit of grey matter to sort out - which arguably is absent from most politicians. For instance, once built and 'sold' to the first owner, how do you then strike a price to compensate the current owner yet give enough of a discount to make the property "affordable" to the second without reverting back to market forces? Furthermore, what happens if/when the first 'owner' wants to sell and there is not (at that moment in time) a local deserving case - should it be left empty until one comes along?
S Allsop, Essex
Backing wind power is the only real way we can make a start in creating a renewable Britain. The opposition to wind power appears to be out of touch with the science behind these farms, it's sound science and it works very well in other less windy countries. This opposition is out of touch with reality. This is a case of 'not in my back yard,' a scorched, poisoned landscape without windmills will be a far greater turn off to tourists if we don't get sensible and put renewable energy up high on the political agenda.
Diego Riviera, Horsham
I see nothing wrong with wind farms. Its either wind farms or floods like the catastrophe in Cornwall last year. Wave and tidal power is not viable at the moment so what else do the objectors propose we use? If a climatic catastrophe happened on their doorstep maybe they would rethink their reasoning.
Darren Sloan, Bury
I live in Cornwall and the countryside only seems engineered for holiday makers and retirees. As a young person I'll simply enjoy the countryside for now and move on when the time comes.
James, Cornwall, UK
The phrase I have heard several times from people who work in various rural sectors is "Tony Blair's war on the countryside." People who live and work in rural Britain really do feel that the last couple of governments have been actively destructive towards them rather than just ignoring their needs.
How does Mr. Gary Hills come to his conclusion that the Labour party has done anything at all for the rural communities? Under this Government more rural shops/post offices etc. than ever before have been closed, transport is one big joke and as for hunting, well nice to know that now thanks to the ban in many areas up to 15 foxes a night are being shot. The hunting ban has also stopped, not helped, many ordinary people from enjoying their hobby of horse riding.
Michael Mciver, Hastings
The party in power should sanction a review on optimal sites in the UK for Wind turbines and move forward from there. Personally I find wind turbines relaxing to look at the same way people watch fish in a fish tank!
There is no point in trying to preserve our countryside if the animal and plant life that make it are dead. Wind farms, I think, personally, are beautiful structures symbolising our attempts as a species to begin living in harmony with our planet again. We save for our children's future, work all our days and attempt to invest wisely, none of which will count for anything when the planet dies. Enough of big business taking away our natural resources.br />James Moore, Winchester, UK
People living in the countryside seem to be upset that they are missing out on the joys of living in towns and cities. In an act of self-sacrifice, I am willing to swap houses with someone in the countryside. I will just have to put up with the fresh air, community spirit and beautiful places to walk and ride. Any takers?
Kaylie, Runcorn, UK
The wind farm debate is interesting. On the one hand we have genuine concerns from rural communities. On the other hand the need to generate clean power for the UK to meet its Kyoto promises. Personally, I don't the think the loss of tourism argument holds much water. I am sure many people will go to the area and be fascinated not only by the beauties of the countryside but also the spectacle of the wind farm. As a resident of a rural constituency I sympathise but don't agree wit the anti-wind farm activists.
Graham, Daventry, UK
What evidence does the anti-wind farm brigade have that wind turbines will affect tourism? I'd travel to see more of them - they're beautiful feats of engineering and an encouraging sign that we're tackling global warming, even if it's not enough.
Margaret Nelson, Ipswich
If John Prescott has his way there won't be much left of a rural community, it'll all be replaced with swathes of overly priced houses to feed the insatiable expansion of the towns. Those rural areas left contain houses that have become so expensive due to retiring townies that we can't afford to buy them; when the older folks pass away and leave their property to their children the government will tax the inheritance to force the rest of us to sell to even more of them! Local shops are being forced to shut when the local Tesco wipes them out, and the council tax bleeds people dry.
How do people that object to wind farms think climate change will affect their beloved landscape? It is time for people to stop taking such a short sighted, "not in my back yard" approach to renewable energy and start taking a look at the bigger picture.
Gareth C, London, UK
Wind farms may do the job but they are ugly and distracting when you drive by. I should know - there are 6 on my journey to work. Make them easier on the eye and less distracting then they may be the answer.
Chris, Co. Durham
If you count foxhunting, Labour has pandered to the worst type of prejudice.
John, London, UK
Wherever I have seen wind turbines, I have been delighted by their soaring elegance and soft click clack. That these great sculptural masterpieces should also be a practical attempt to reduce a bit of man's relentless pollution is surely a bonus and sheep may safely graze close by. Far better than the horrors of coal mines, or planes offloading foul gases into the atmosphere. Why are Brits such luddites, yet put up with ugly phone masts and pylons?
Margaret Evans, Ashford, UK
I see no mention of the Green party. With their proposal to encourage more local organic food, and bio-fuels to replace fossil fuels, this must be the party of choice for rural folk.
Malcolm, Wirral, UK
If the government stopped whistling on about renewable energy and did more about reducing the nation's energy use, we wouldn't need these gross monsters. A town with properly insulated houses saves as much energy as is produced by a wind farm at a fraction of the cost, but insulation doesn't look as cool as a windmill on the telly ads does it?
Dan Thurgood, Liverpool
I live in the countryside. I work in the countryside. Like the vast majority of rural dwellers, I earn my living in a non-agricultural occupation (I run an IT company). I'll be voting Labour, as I have in the past, because at least they realise that the countryside contains people other than farmers!
I think one or two wind turbines look quite nice. I do understand being against 27 of them though. They need to go somewhere. Can't we find some space for them off shore if no one seems to want them? It's either that or we accept that Tony will be building a few more Sellafields around the place. I know what I would rather have in my back garden.
Daniel Ladd, Swindon, England
I believe the local council should charge double the council tax to second home owners which should slow the market down of affluent people purchasing second homes for holiday lets etc. Slowing house prices down would enable the younger end of the market to be able to get on the ladder. Also in this area (national park) it is very difficult to get planning permission to build new houses
Paul Cookson, Windermere
Sorry to be negative but the only policies I am aware of are the one to tarmac anything that's green and the one that confines police to urban areas. The police only turn up when it looks like a career villain might be strung up by locals. The gaps between the cities have become no mans land, it's only fortunate that the majority who live there are civilised human beings that still have respect to each other and the land. Tom
Tom Bayes, Northants
I can't believe people complain about wind farms. Renewable energy is the best thing for the planet. We can keep sucking the earth dry and being dependant on other countries.
Sean Moran, Portland, Oregon
People in the country think the rural community has been ignored. I live in Birmingham and it is still the dirty hole it ever was. They haven't done anything to make life better in the towns or villages.
Labour has done a lot for rural life but all people have to see that farming accounts for just 1% of employment in rural arrears so looking for additional options is the way forward to protecting jobs. More needs doing buts it's not true to say nothing is being done. Hunting being banned not only stops cruelty it also opens up the potential to get more people riding and thus adding to the rural economy.
Gary Hills, West Midlands
Party politics is a waste of voter time in rural areas. The only thing that matters is voting for a person who knows the area, the issues and lives locally. The countryside, to most MPs, is just an empty space with a few voters in it, that is waiting to be concreted over, have houses built on it or is ideal for a few travellers' camps.
R. Charlesworth, Isle of Skye, Scotland
To the short sighted people who think we in the countryside are always up in arms, we do have a very valid reason. The arrogant assumption the government is not to blame is rubbish. It has created a bitter divide between 'townies' and country folk by planning policies that bring the worst out in both rival camps and I do not mean foxhunting. How about centralisation? The threatened loss of village schools, shops and garages, only to be replaced by proposed sandpit sites on workable farmland land. Would you like 8 sandpit sites around a hamlet no bigger than the borough of Westminster? Lastly no local bobby on beat in Frensham and we have to pay government via the council tax for non existent policing.
Charles Burton, Frensham, Surrey
Though on balance I think that the Tories and the Liberal Democrats do at least think about rural issues, the sad fact is that how the rural population votes will have zero impact on the election result. That will be decided in the urban towns and cities. None of the parties therefore really have any incentive to make or implement policies in favour of the rural minority.
Kevin, Leintwardine, Herefordshire
Most Labour bashing begins with a complaint about too little interference and ends with complaints about too much interference by 'townies' who 'don't understand our ways'. Most rural seats are Tory, as is the constituency where I live (which couldn't be more rural). This I believe is because of historic alliances and the wish to maintain traditional status quos. I do not believe much thought goes into such things as policy differences when it comes to rural elections. If it did then maybe the countryside complainers might reflect on such things as market forces controlling whether they had a bus service, village post office or store.
David Hamilton, Bridgwater, Somerset
There are many more people in the "countryside" than those marching to chase foxes. The problem in the countryside is the lack of any policy initiatives that apply to education or NHS. All this spouting of CHOICE (ignoring the fact that choice does not exist for those in urban areas unless they have money) does not apply. What choice is there if the local (catchment) secondary school is 10 miles away and transport will not be provided to an alternative (there is little if any public transport) even if it was desirable. Hospitals are often even further afield. Choice does not exist outside leafy suburbia.
No party will offer the residents of rural areas what they need, as they are "not economically viable".
J. Gomer, UK
Rural voters live, work, travel, go to school, get sick and do everything else town dwellers do, except they have to travel further. For most people that is a conscious choice as living in towns tends to be cheaper. Perhaps rural dwellers should shed some of the multitude of hang ups they have accumulated, forget the few thousand foxhunters who skew the arguments and join in the mainstream debate without seeking to become a special community. NB: I live in a little village on an average income and I am very happy.
Andy C, Oxfordshire, UK
Why should a New Labour government help the countryside? They always vote Tory and are forever complaining about their hard lot, whilst raking in billions of pounds in EU subsidies.
Glynn Snow, London
Living in West Oxfordshire I can see the negative impact that Labour have had in the past ten years on the local agricultural economy whilst forcing substantial increases in housing without upgrading the supporting infrastructure (public transport, parking, local health services provision etc). The quality of life people associated with living in the country has gone and there is now little to keep young people in the area as there is little prospect of employment outside the major centres and little chance of affordable housing.
Andy D, Oxford, UK
Labour seems intent on destroying country people's way of life. The government does nothing to help - for instance, by providing public transport in rural areas or clamping down on supermarkets' bullying of food suppliers - and seems more intent on wasting time and money banning hunting, something about which most townies know little and couldn't care less.
Harry Lee, London, England
I have lived in the countryside all my life - I am 25. I face the same issues as many, like not being able to stay in my community. Mr Blair has done nothing for rural people. Council tax is a joke and as for public transport and street lighting, don't make me laugh!
Christian Walker, Newark, Notts
I really don't think there is any point in the Labour party trying to win the rural vote. During their stay in office they have done nothing whatsoever to help rural communities and the ban on hunting was the last nail in the coffin. Government policies have pushed house prices up, supermarkets are decimating profits with no intervention from government and we have proposals for massive house building in the countryside when the infrastructure is not there to support it. We already have a hosepipe ban in Surrey in mid April! Just who do they think will vote for them?
Terry, Epsom, Surrey, England
Does Terry from Epsom really think that a Tory government would intervene to curb supermarkets' behaviour (and dent their profits)? And the hosepipe ban in April?? Will voting Tory increase rainfall?
Tom, Manchester, UK