Tuesday 25 May 2010

Foxy Lady

Our bright new coalition government is still less than two weeks old. I’m still full of optimistic goodwill. It’s such a delight to see the face of David Cameron when a story about the Prime Minister is announced on the television news, not that frightful old ogre Gordon Brown.

Still, I have some concerns and it would be wrong to keep quiet about them. The mistaken attempt to ‘co-opt’ the 1922 Committee, long the voice of independent back-bench Conservatism, would seem to be a stab at appeasing our Liberal Democrat partners. After all, this is a committee that takes its name from the time when a successful Tory coup was mounted against Lloyd George, the last prime minister with any Liberal associations! But my biggest concern by far is over the issue of a free vote on hunting with hounds, one of the Tory manifesto promises.

I know there are big issues to be faced, issues of more immediate concern than fox hunting. I accept this ancient country pursuit, one for which I have huge affection, will slip down the government’s political and legislative agenda, for the time being. But it’s going to have to be addressed before the end of this Parliament if David Cameron is to retain any credibility in rural England. Just as important, it’s going to have to be addressed if he is to retain any credibility among many of his back-benchers, some of whom have the feeling that their interests and the interests of the party are set to be sacrificed to a collection of tree huggers.

There was an excellent editorial in The Times last Thursday on this very issue. The point was made that a failure to address this topic is likely to be a mistake for the simple reason that Cameron will have to demonstrate at some point that the coalition does not involve the suffocation of Tory instincts. I will add that failure to do so would be a demonstration of his personal weakness, a demonstration that the ‘new politics’ is just so much froth and fluff, unable to tolerate any kind of stand on the most basic of principles.

What has he got to lose, I ask myself? As The Times says, all that the Tory manifesto promised was a free vote. What would be more in keeping with the new political mood than a free vote on an issue of civil liberties? A vote on this issue is also likely to quell discontent among Tory loyalists, all those who wished the campaign had been fought around solid issues, issues that people could relate to, like Europe, taxation and immigration, not the vacuous nonsense of the Big Society. Those who represent rural constituencies will be able to tell voters that the party still cares about their concerns, concerns that will not be drowned in soft-soap liberalism. The Times leader concluded as follows;

Eleven million people voted Conservative. Many hoped for a government based on fundamental Conservative principles. Mr Clegg’s remarks about “rebalancing the tax system” and protecting the Human Rights Act suggest that the Conservatives will have to fight hard for those principles in the coalition.

Foxhunting is a small but symbolic part of that battle...The Conservative Party is a leading partner in this coalition. Certainly, compromise will be essential. But the Tories should not run scared of their instincts.

Yes, make a stand, make it clear what it is we want and what it is we are. I did not vote Cameron to get Clegg; I did not vote for rural rights only to get yuman rights.


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  3. The country is going broke and Europe is on the brink of collapse, which may see the dreaded double dip come our way and spread misery across the western world.
    And you two are worried about the principle of fox hunting. Great.
    Look, not that I am too informed about UK politics, but anybody knows that uneasy coalitions, like the one you have as your government now, will bring about an enormous amount of dissatisfaction amongst the true believers.
    The compromises this government will have to make in the future will make you lot want to set the dogs on them.
    I reckon it would be easier to call a new election and accept either victory or defeat.

  4. Rainer, Ana shall not live by deficits alone.:-)
    There are all sorts of things that happen to engage one's passions, big and little. I love hunting, but it's also a big part of the rural economy in England; so there is more at stake than my sporting interests.

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  6. Totally agree with you. This is something I resented at the onset of coalition government. The the party would lose it's Conservative values. Values which I believe are really British values.

  7. OC, there is not a lot that he can do...other than pull out of the EU. :-)

    Rehan, absolutely!

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  9. Hunting is often considered as a "rural tradition". In fact, that it is a "tradition" is pretty much the only defence I have ever heard on the subject.
    Perhaps I could be allowed remind you all of some other long-lost "traditions". What about the enslaving of the Blacks? The drowning of women thought to be witches? Who remembers sending young children to work (and often die) in coal mines? These are old "traditions" that we have come to realise are barbaric, unnecessary, and thoroughly unjustifiable. Our ethics have evolved to teach us that many things which we once enjoyed, are actually fundamentally wrong, and yet there are those who still feel that hunting is a good thing.
    And let us not forget, hunting for 'sport' is a very new concept. For the greater part of our history on this planet, human beings have tried to live in harmony with nature. Many religions have taught us to love all of the Mother's creatures. It is only in very recent years that the wealthy, lacking in any desire to do good in the world, and with too much time on their hands, have decided to go out to kill animals just for the hell of it.
    To this day, it still shocks me to realise that there are people in this world can be so blindly selfish; and that others will continue down a selected course to the bitter end despite the long ago realisation that they were wrong, simply because they can't confront admitting their past mistakes.
    To reach a brighter future we must continue to evolve, all of us. Nothing is static; this universe doesn't allow for it, if we don't move forwards we move backwards. Remember this, all of you; you can change, and you can become a better person, you only have to want to.

    I leave you with a quote from Gandhi:
    "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

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  11. OC, obviously. :-)

    Dan, thank you for giving this your time and consideration. Please forgive me for saying so but you forgot to add infanticide, hanging, drawing and quartering as well as gladiatorial contests among the list of evils I would have back under the rubric of tradition. This kind of argument, this kind of artificial conflation of things that are not at all comparable, demonstrates to me the kind of woolly-minded confusion often shown by the anti-hunt lobby. I eat meat; I will continue to eat meat, so I expect, by your logic, that I must naturally be in favour of cannibalism.

    I can assure you, speaking as a historian, that hunting for sport is almost as old as human history. The notion that human beings have ever lived in ‘harmony’ with nature is, please forgive me for being so blunt, abject nonsense. I hunt for fun, for the thrill of the chase, for the sport, not just fox-hunting but also a spot of rough shooting from time to time. I can assure you that I am far more in ‘harmony’ with nature than urban-based liberal lefties.

    Thanks for your Gandhi quote. Have you ever been to India? No? I rather thought not.

  12. OC, what a super suggestion. :-))