Andrew Sallis: This shambles could have implications for us all *H&H VIP*

  • Setting out in the whiplash of a tropical thunderstorm for a morning’s autumn hunting in a huge expanse of near-coastal country — largely without feature above waist height — might be considered rash by some. Hounds loaded with customary enthusiasm, although my horse gave me a sideward look of incredulity as the ramp went up. He too must have seen the swathe of green and flashing red over the Romney Marsh on the weather forecast. I answered a few texts, asking whether (and why) we were really still going to hunt, and set out.

    Arriving unusually early, we sat, buffeted, in the newly christened ark discussing whether to put my smart, new, red, huntsman’s sou’wester over my hunt coat or to dispense with the hunt coat altogether. The overcoat was formerly Stan Luckhurst’s, a kind gift from Mrs Luckhurst to a regularly drowned master.

    Belt and braces won the day. Our hardy yet select field arrived in all manner of attire, but most importantly, eager to get hunting.

    As reward for our efforts, the monsoon abated and dark skies parted to enable a most useful morning, after which I felt several pounds lighter having spent three active hours inside my strawberry plastic cocoon.

    Clear requirements

    As autumn progresses, some hunts are beginning to make their mastership and staffing arrangements in good time for next season. After decades of dedicated service, George Adams is retiring as huntsman of the Fitzwilliam. The advert for his successor was most refreshing and clearly stated what is required: a professional huntsman with experience to hunt hounds from 2016.

    Of late, too many committees have the view that they will “see what is out there” before they decide what sort of arrangement they want. Usually they end up appointing nobody and muddling on, having caused unnecessary upset beyond their own hunt boundaries.

    Hunting has few secrets and more than any appointment outside Parliament, everybody thinks they have a right to an opinion. Good people (and no doubt a few rogues too) put their jobs and reputations on the line, along with the trust of the mastership, committee, staff and country by applying for positions in their reasonable quest to climb the ladder, seek security or simply fresh pastures.

    Implications for us all

    Where were you when Jeremy Corbyn was elected to lead Her Majesty’s opposition? Hardly a JFK moment, I know, but as I sat in the car after a challenging morning’s autumn hunting, I thought that this shambles could have implications for us all, for years to come.

    Have I missed something? On his chauffeur driven campaign tour, did Corbyn give some early-Obamaesque spine-tingling oration? No. With More’s Utopia under one arm and A Petulant Sixth Former’s Guide To The Galaxy under the other, the dull sound-bite solutions to the world’s genuine problems are worrying.

    Now that the Labour Party is wearing the emperor’s old clothes, largely against its will, the Prime Minister will have to show great leadership to prevent his party from within becoming the government and the opposition. With the distinct possibility of an extended period of Tory administrations ahead, the new leadership of the Countryside Alliance and in time, VoteOK, has to redefine their relevance and message.

    Corbyn’s noisy minority will cause hunting problems through every media possible, but we have to defend ourselves by re-establishing hunting’s considerable worth to the countryside, quarry, hound, horse and human.

    As for JC appointing a vegan and animal rights supporter to shadow the farming brief; vegetables are a very important part of British farming but please don’t get me started.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 1 October 2015