PETER FROST has been out in the hunting field.
On Wednesday this week David Cameron failed in the first step of his back-door attempt to bring back full scale fox hunting in England and Wales.
After opposition from the Liberal Democrats and some Tory MPs, Cameron has been forced to abandon his attempts to relax the ban on fox hunting.
The Prime Minister admitted to MPs that – to his regret- the Coalition has been unable to agree on allowing the use large packs of dogs to help kill foxes.
The roots of the story go back to New Year’s Day when UKIP leader Nigel Farage was out at his local fox hunt, the Old Surrey Burstow and West Kent, in an attempt to make inroads into yet another area of traditional countryside Tory support, the fox hunting set.
Many Tories Ministers too were on their local hunts over the Christmas holiday while tens of thousands of their constituents were without electricity – demonstrating, once again, Con-Dem priorities.
Farage’s actions obviously shook Cameron, hence this week’s attempt to sneak in an amendment to the 2004 Hunting with Dogs act.
He started a search for MPs who will help him reintroduce full scale, tear-the-fox-limb-from-limb, hunting by the back door but fortunately failed miserably to gain the necessary support.
He and his environment secretary, Owen Paterson, wanted to use a parliamentary device known as a statutory instrument to amend the Hunting Act.
They tried hard to canvass support among MPs of all parties.
Both hatred and support for hunting cross party lines. There are enthusiastic hunters among Labour MP’s and Peers and on the Tory backbenches the Blue Fox group unites a good few, mainly female, Tory MP’s totally opposed to blood sports.
Cameron’s new regulations tried to lift the ban on hunting with any more than two dogs in England and Wales. Packs of up to 40 hounds would have become legal, although, in theory at least dogs would still not be allowed to kill foxes — death would have to be by shooting.
Cameron himself appears to have given up actual fox hunting after learning to love the cruel sport with the Eton School Beagles.
With the Tory party deeply split over hunting he has decided to sit on the fence rather than in the hunting saddle.
This may have had something to do with the fact that his own local hunt, the Oxfordshire Heythrop, have been convicted of hunting and killing foxes illegally.
The Heythrop numbers among its supporters Rebecca Brooks and her husband Charlie as well as Jeremy Clarkson who regularly invites them to hunt on his land. Other hunts have been prosecuted for breaking the law too.
As more and more country Tories drift towards UKIP, the Prime Minister felt he had to do something and has publically stated he favours relaxing controls on hunting with dogs.
Anti-hunt campaigners have attacked Cameron’s devious tactics to win favour among traditional Tory hunt supporters.
Joe Duckworth head of the League Against Cruel Sports said: “Deep moral issues such as hunting, demand strong political leadership.
“Given today’s polling shows 80% of British public living in both rural and urban areas think that fox hunting should not be made legal again, we would expect political leaders to give heed to what they think.”
Cameron had asked Owen Paterson, the so-called Environment Secretary, and a keen fan of many blood sports, to stage manage the amendment using as his excuse advice from his civil servants in Natural England.
These are the very same advisers who suggested secretly killing secretly buzzards to protect grouse shoots and who were also behind the expensive fiasco of the badger cull.
At least the reason they gave for killing badgers was the fear of them spreading bovine TB to cattle.
The real reason for amending the fox hunting ban is to give dubious pleasure to a few blood thirsty hunters, and to win back a bit of support from traditional Tories who may be thinking of moving their allegiance to Tally Ho! Nigel and the pack of dogs that is UKIP.
This article first appeared in the Morning Star 28 March 2014