LETTER: No way back for fox hunting
As a lifelong Conservative voter, I call upon the party to seriously and unselfishly review its support of foxhunting and other so-called blood sports, and to ditch its perceived links and obligations to the Countryside Alliance, in the wake of the election disaster.
Polls have shown that 84 per cent of the electorate abhor this barbaric pastime, which involves a tiny fraction of one per cent of the population.
The figure for those who do not want the 2004 Hunting Act repealed is around 73 per cent amongst Tory voters.
When Theresa May called her snap general election, she had a commanding 20-point lead in the polls.
It was around the time that a free vote on repealing the act appeared in the party manifesto that this lead began to wane, and before the “dementia tax” fiasco lost even more votes.
Of course, foxhunting is a microscopic issue and of minor and trivial importance when lined up against Brexit, our national security, terrorism, the NHS, care for the elderly, immigration levels and the economy, but it has the potential to be equally as toxic.
Only days after the Prime Minister reiterated her support for hunting, a sizeable protest march was planned and held through central London to Downing Street.
So why did Mrs May even bring up such a comparatively trivial but highly controversial subject at such a crucial time in her campaign?
As I see it, it was a rallying cry to supporters of the Countryside Alliance and Masters of Foxhounds Association to volunteer to canvass for the party in marginal Labour constituencies, which they did. The exercise failed completely, and now many of those marginals are safe Labour seats again.
A century ago, foxhunting was a spectator sport with a public following. However, in the modern age, you cannot sell the mass public at large the idea of setting a pack of dogs on to one breathless creature to tear it apart, try as the best PR expert in the world might.
You cannot turn the clock back to before the 2004 act: the internet and social media pages are full of graphic photographs and videos of the worst excesses of the hunting community, such as feeding live fox cubs to hounds for training and supporters attacking those who try to record their activities on cameras or video recorders or who are exercising their right to peaceful protest in support to the current law.
In the past few weeks, I have seen many statements from Tory voters like myself who felt that this time round, they could not vote for the party because of the issue.
More than 60 Tory MPs now support Blue Fox, aka Conservatives Against Fox Hunting.
It was highly pleasing to see one such Blue Fox supporter, Andrea Jenkyns, who snatched Ed Balls’ Morley & Outwood seat in 2015, increase her majority this time round, swimming against the tide of the night in favour of Labour.
She is showing the way forward for the Tories: compassion is a big vote winner.
Whichever party brings back hunting will open a running sore as wide as the River Thames, which will generate a perennial crop of negative and damaging publicity.
Britain does not want hunting back: consign it to history and pub dining table placemats.