The Comment page of the latest issue of the industry magazine, Gun Trade News, pointed up the way in which searching for positive stories about gamekeepers and gamekeeping on the Internet is close to impossible, as the web is plastered with stuff that is almost always overwhelmingly negative. The editorial appeared immediately above a range of comments drawn from the current crop of candidates hoping to make it onto the council of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC). What was striking about these and the other candidates is that they are all share a common awareness of the bad deal shooting gets from the media and presumably one can conclude from this that their views accord with those members already on the BASC Council.
In January last year BASC announced that it planned to appoint 5 political officers to help forge links between the sport and MPs. Christopher Graffius, BASC’s executive director of communications and public affairs, said at the time: “BASC Council determined at the end of last year |(2018) that shooting is facing significant political risks”. Graffius didn’t enlarge on what those risks were, but one can assume that whatever the political threats to shooting they have their roots in public opinion. If that is so, then wouldn’t it make sense to try and influence that opinion before it gets political?
If we didn’t already know it, the lockdown has taught us just how much our Members of Parliament are in thrall to social media and increasingly what appears there calls the tune to which they dance. The question is whether or not the old boy network strategy favoured by Christopher Graffius of forging a personal link still works as well as it did in the pre-Internet days. Or is it the case that when the old boy or old girl has to face constituents fed on a web based diet of horror stories about shooting, that the carefully nurtured personal type of relationship BASC seems to favour won’t be enough to keep MPs onside? If that is the case, might a change of strategy be in order?