Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tony Blair, Labour and fox hunting

One of the benefits of having been blogging for so long is that I can repost old copy if I am feeling uninspired.

So here is Liberal Democrat News (ask your parents) column of mine from November 2004.

A cunning plan

As I write, the Lords and the Commons are fighting over the hunting bill like two greyhounds with a hare. It looks as though their lordships are going to force the prime minister to ban hunting at once so the resulting row takes place in the run up to the general election.

Forget all the guff about the upper house being the repository of the nation’s wisdom: this is a brilliant piece of low politics. And, whatever your views on hunting, Blair deserves it for his dithering and duplicity.

For Tony Blair never wanted to ban fox hunting. He wanted to be always in the process of banning it. That way, whenever his backbenches threatened to rebel over some nasty right-wing policy, he could buy them off with a little more progress on blood sports.

Not that most Labour MPs who vote to ban hunting are particularly concerned about animal welfare. You don’t find them putting down questions about factory farming. What they really want to do is have a go at the toffs. They would be just as happy banning polo or the Henley Regatta.

But when politicians insist on fighting the class war the outcome is seldom happy. We saw this during the miners strike and also when the Tories brought in the poll tax. In the long run, outbreaks of public disorder rarely do governments much good.

What will become of the foxes in all this? If hunting is banned, they will still be killed and the methods used may well be no more humane than hunting.

Worse than that, they will learn that under New Labour nothing comes without strings. Expect to see the introduction of compulsory lectures for foxes on the rights of chickens – or “members of the egg-laying community”, as they will probably be called. Look too for a network of Cubs Clubs run by Margaret Hodge and a Brush Your Brush campaign headed by John Reid.

All this may accelerate the trend that has seen foxes abandon the countryside to become urban scavengers and, as many householders know, significant pests. It will be a sad day when the only foxes you see are sitting round shopping malls wearing Burberry baseball caps and giving their children Sunny D.

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