Huntsmen, farmers, gamekeepers, supporters, firemen, teachers and nurses were among the 20,000 people who travelled to London today to make known their feelings on the Hunting Bill.
As MPs inside the House of Commons voted to pass all of the stages of the Hunting Bill in a single day by a large majority, protestors outside were addressed by various luminaries, from actors to teenage girls, in support of their way of life.
Explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, told the crowd: “This [vote] is about hypocrisy and the creeping degradation of democracy, not about hunting.”
Supporters heard how people’s lives would be affected by a ban, as well as being entertained by some young ladies who were keen to say “tits to Mr Blair”. The crowd continued chanting “No Ban” throughout the day, and speaker after speaker were cheered as they acknowledged that however long a fight would take, they would do whatever was necessary.
Baroness Mallalieu said that even if a ban is passed, the Countryside Alliance could have the case in the courts by Christmas, with a view to taking it on to the European Court of Human Rights.
“The reason this didn’t work in Scotland is that the Court said: ‘well you’re still hunting, so why overturn the Act’. This Bill is a very different matter,” she said.
When actor Jeremy Irons took the stage, he told the crowd that although he had helped to elect the Labour Government in 1997, he was ashamed to admit it and would not be repeating the same mistake. The crowd cheered louder than ever at this statement and spirits were high as a sing along was instigated by a fireman from Worcestershire called Michael Keel.
There was also what the Metropolitan Police called “a scuffle” outside the Houses of Parliament as a pocket of people strained to escape from the confines of the protest and displayed their anger too forcefully. Riot police were called in to contain the situation.
Meanwhile the Commons was suspended as a group of five young men in white t-shirts broke into the Chamber and harangued Alun Michael. The men were arrested and have been taken off for questioning. Many people are calling it the most serious breach of Commons security in living memory.
Simon Hart of the Countryside Alliance said: “The scenes of disruption in Westminster are unfortunate and unnecessary, but when the Labour party is destroying people’s lives in some perverted game of political football, they are not surprising.
“We do not condone any lawbreaking of any kind, but Defra Minister Alun Michael inflamed the situation this morning by admitting that the government is banning hunting as part of some sort of electoral game”.
The Bill was supported by the majority of MPs with 356 votes in favour to 166 against. The government’s amendment, which will delay the ban on hunting until July 2006, was also strongly supported with 342 votes to 15. Tony Blair did not vote. The Bill and the amendment will now pass to the House of Lords.