This paper uses Woods’ (2005) term ‘politics of the rural’ as a lens to trace connections between Brexit and countryside protests that erupted in the late 1990s following the disruption of a century old political settlement for governing rural areas. Historically, the intertwining of rurality, hierarchy and empire in national identity had shielded rural elite interests and the power structures that uphold them from progressive political developments in urban areas. The paper highlights how a new political party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP), was able to occupy a space opened by Countryside Alliance, and subsequently vacated by a modernising Conservative Party, to build a movement shaped by a similar type of settler populism. How these broader dynamics interacted with local contexts to structure perceptions and experiences underpinning support for Brexit calls for more contextualised, region-specific research. ‘Politics of the rural’ provides one lens among others to bring to these analyses.
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- English countryside
- Ethnic populism
- Politics of the rural
- Countryside Alliance