This time last year I wrote about how the Angling Trust works to promote the benefits of angling to parliamentarians and how important the All Party Parliamentary Group on Angling has been in giving us both a platform and access to supporters in both Houses of Parliament. You can read it again here:
Amongst the group are some pretty passionate anglers including Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas and Labour leadership contender Owen Smith in the red corner and chairman Charles Walker and former fisheries minister Richard Benyon from the Conservatives. We pick up new recruits after each General Election and in 2010 fly fishing enthusiast George Hollingbery joined our ranks making an immediate impact by taking over as chairman and leading the charge for proper conservation of threatened bass stocks. We also signed up Marcus Jones, the newly elected Nuneaton MP and accomplished coarse angler who is now the local government minister.
After the 2015 election we have been pleased to welcome North Cornwall MP Scott Mann to the group. Scott has played a blinder on the bass issue and sponsored a parliamentary debate back in February which led directly to the government conceding the need to work with the Angling Trust and others on a long term management plan to conserve the species. We were also delighted when Mims Davies, the newly elected MP for Eastleigh in Hampshire, joined us as she has already been active in opposing options for a planned road scheme that could prove detrimental to important water meadows on the lower stretches of the beautiful River Itchen.
In addition to organising key debates the members of the All Party Parliamentary Angling Group table parliamentary questions on issues important to fisheries and conservation, lobby government departments and help us arrange delegations to ministers to press home our arguments on behalf of our sport. They do this not for any other reason than because they have an interest in seeing angling thrive and prosper in Britain.
During the 13 years I spent in Parliament I was a member of a number of All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) and I consider many of them to be examples of our democracy at its best. Party political considerations are put to one side as elected representatives come together to espouse causes and issues of common interest. They cover issues as diverse as drought in Africa, breast cancer and abused and neglected children right through to sporting and cultural subjects such as cricket, jazz and art. You can find a full list here
In common with many of the other APPGs the Angling Group has its secretarial services delivered by the appropriate national organisation for the area – in this case the Angling Trust, or more specifically me as National Campaign Coordinator. I fully admit that it is an important, but nonetheless enjoyable, aspect of my job enabling me to catch up with old friends in Parliament and keep the angling flame burning in the corridors of power. I started the group with Charles Walker back in 2005 and it’s great to see it going from strength to strength more than ten years later.
And of course it’s not all meetings, reports and parliamentary questions as we do organise a handful of fishing trips every year to bring everyone together and as a way of saying thanks for all that they do for angling. Over the years we’ve been barbel fishing on the Wye, trotting for roach, dace and chub on the Test and Kennet, fly fishing for trout on the Itchen and Pang and for carp on a Berkshire lake. This year I’m taking them piking on the Hampshire Avon and we’ve already had trips targeting trout and carp.
So what’s not to like about all of this? Surely we want our politicians to put party differences to one side, to be real people with real interests and to occasionally speak up for issues that matter to those of us who share the same passions? But apparently not so if you can use a harmless fishing trip to attack a political rival – for that is what happened this month to Owen Smith as Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters posted on Twitter and social media one of those stupid meme things deriding Owen for appearing in a photo with Conservative group members Charles Walker and Richard Benyon. They claim that Owen’s socialist credentials are damaged by such dreadful associations with the other side of politics, obviously unaware that angling is a sport enjoyed by millions of working people or that Corbyn himself is an enthusiastic member of numerous APPGs on which he too associates with the dreaded Tories!
I know of these things because I took the offending photo which the Corbynistas pinched from this blog and I felt obliged to respond to a Facebook post along these somewhat intemperate lines:
Of course what is not said that also on this angling trip were Salter and Cruddas whose socialist credentials are a tad stronger than all the public schoolboys and dodgy Trotskyists who run Corbyns office !
To their credit our MPs have just laughed this nonsense off but it has given me the excuse to remind anglers that we should be pleased that we have some good friends in Parliament and that if anyone happens to have a vote in the forthcoming Labour Leadership election there is one candidate, Owen Smith who is actually a real live angler – as Margaret Thatcher famously said: “One of us”!