Author Archive for Ben Williams

17
Aug
09

Hunting at the next Election

London campaign 028

Labour’s passage of the Hunting Act in 2004 will go down as one of its most progressive achievements when the history books come to be written. Despite the threats and violence of the pro-hunting thugs who attacked Parliament Square, Labour MPs trooped through the voting lobbies to strike a vital blow for social progress and animal welfare in the UK.

Yet it nearly didn’t make it onto the statute book, largely due to the prevarication of Tony Blair. Anyone who has read Alastair Campbell’s Diaries or any other memoirs of the New Labour era will know that Blair used hunting as a convenient rhetorical tool when under pressure. When it came to the crunch he preferred the dithering ‘Middle Way’ option, which in many ways this sums up the detachment of Blair from Labour’s grassroots. He was however courageously blocked by Labour MPs still angry at being misled over the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

After this landmark breakthrough following decades of fruitless failure over this issue, the battle is to now keep the ban in place given the impending threat of a Tory election victory. In tow to the pro-hunt lobby and the bulging chequebooks of the landed gentry, it is payback time if the Conservatives triumph in 2010, and that could be an appalling step backwards for animal welfare in the UK. Yet there is still time for Labour to include this issue within their long-term election strategy in order to significantly disrupt the Conservatives bid to regain power.

The Hunting Act has been dismissed as bad legislation by the bloodthirsty pro-hunters who have sought to flout it in complete defiance of the democratic wishes of the majority. Many of them only appear to respect democracy when it does what they want it to. Yet the Hunting Act could work if only the police were forced to address the matter seriously and generally showed less sympathy towards the hunting fraternity. A 2010 election pledge for Labour should be to tighten up the existing legislation and regulate hunting further. In short, if the hunters cannot control their hounds, then the hunt meeting should be prohibited from its pursuit and broken up there and then.

Despite the howls of anger and plans for revenge from the pro-hunting lobby, the Act has the capacity to remain firmly in place, but only if the Labour leadership shows more commitment to the issue than it has done in the past. The Labour government must loudly proclaim this Act as a sign of civilised progress as part of its list of key achievements, as part of a move towards a more compassionate British society. They need to make a future Conservative government too scared to repeal it for fear of generating significant public hostility.

Yet the anti-hunting lobby and Labour supporters of animal welfare must wake up and face the reality. Pressure groups and some Labour politicians seem to be dismissive of the Conservatives’ pledge to repeal the ban, yet such complacency is frightening. You only have to scour through websites such as www.conservativehome.com to see how the blue-rinse brigade are salivating and chomping at the bit to reverse the one law that symbolises their perception of  Labour’s class warfare. I for one don’t want a return to violent terrier-boys attacking animal rights protesters’ while they get their kicks from hare-coursing and other barbaric activities.

For all of Cameron’s bluster about compassionate Conservatism, he needs to be fully exposed as a fervent supporter of animal cruelty. Labour have been criticised for playing the class card in recent months, but to depict Cameron in his riding gear, shrieking ‘tally-ho’ along with the blood smeared over the faces of fellow hunters after a successful ‘kill’, could prove to be some powerful election imagery for the Labour Party next year.




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