Tory anger over RSPB campaign


Following the RSPB's call for its members to react to the UK Hovernment's plans for deregulated 'investment zones' and scrapping of the post-Brexit farming subsidy, Tory MPs have denounced the campaign as a cynical move to boost membership.

The charity's impassioned statements came alongside similiar messages from the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust. The RSPB's 1.2 million members were encouraged to write to their MPs to make their opposition to the proposals clear.

Species such as Yellowhammer would benefit from the post-Brexit farming subsidy, set to be withdrawn by the government (Geoff Snowball).

Derek Thomas, the Conservative MP for St Ives, said: "These CTAs [calls to action] are part of many charities' marketing strategy; by asking you to write in, they are getting increased engagement with their charity (not to mention your contact details), all at no cost to yourself. Many of them have found that these letter-writing CTAs add more numbers to their mailing list than CTAs asking for donations."

His comments were made in a response to a constituent, who passed the email on to The Guardian.

Mr Thomas continued: "The genius of this marketing strategy is that the allegations you are complaining about do not even have to be true. And there is absolutely no truth in the RSPB’s allegation that the government is launching an attack on nature."

Mike Wood, MP for Dudley South, said the RSPB statements were "complete rubbish", whether the organisation had "genuinely misunderstood what is being proposed or they are being mischievous".

Sir Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, said to a consistuent: "I would like to assure you that claims that the government is rowing back on commitments to our farming reforms or nature are wholly untrue. It is often the case that rumours or campaigns are designed to upset good people but happily turn out not to be true."

Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, responded by saying: "I think that one or two of the organisations in this field have rather jumped the gun in expressing great alarm without seeing what is proposed for the investment zones, the content of which has not been published yet."

However, there have been no specific protections announced for wildlife and the environment in the wake of the drastic policy changes, despite environment secretary Ranil Jayawardena expressing his commitment to maintain a "strong environment".

An RSPB spokeperson said: "Nothing we've heard so far from the UK government has addressed our concerns despite ample opportunity for reassurance. It’s the specific detail that really matters here. Having an environment bill with strong targets is a great start, but if you axe the underlying mechanisms and protections by which you achieve these targets then they are essentially meaningless."

They added: "We desperately need to know if the UK government will commit to retain the key nature protections in the habitats regulations in UK law beyond December 2023, with no weakening of protections. A healthy environment is integral to a healthy economy; a deregulated environment will set the economy up for failure.

"Without these detailed reassurances, the announcements of the UK government continue to be an attack on nature."

Kaye Benyan, The Wildlife Trusts' Head of Campaigns, said:  "Here's what they've said so far. The RSPB are 'liars', this is all simply a 'communications issue', established, respected green charities are 'making all this up' to create 'hysteria' to force an 'increase in membership' off people's fears.

"Happily, I can rebut. It is in no one's interest to make this ... up. We [already] have enough to do. Calling the RSPB and other NGOs 'liars' is disgusting as well as a disgraceful response from an elected representative to his constituents."