John Holliday: lessons from political history [H&H VIP]

  • THE next election will be on 7 May 2015 and the Conservative Party will be hoping for the 20 or so seats necessary for an outright majority.

    Should they win, you would have good cause to imagine it will be a good thing for the hunting world, but to quote Ira Gershwin: “It ain’t necessarily so.”

    The current Government — to all intents and purposes — is Tory, and has done nothing to help us in our predicament.

    We have been assured from before the last election by the powers that be that a blue vote was a vote for repeal [of the Hunting Act]. I have championed the point many times in this column.

    However, this view has proved to be a triumph of wishful thinking over reason.

    Thanks to the hard work of Vote-OK, over 12,000 people turned out to campaign for pro-hunting (largely Tory) candidates at the last general election and claim to have been influential in many marginal seats.

    There have been several missed opportunities for the Tories to show gratitude for what, in an age of voter apathy, amounts to a Herculean effort.

    What conclusion are we to draw from David Cameron and his complete and absolute failure to do anything to alleviate the absurdity of the wretched Hunting Act?

    First, there was the apparent refusal of that doyenne of sartorial elegance — Theresa May — to contemplate changing the law regarding so-called evidence gathered by those highly dubious characters known as hunt monitors.

    Employed by the League Against Cruel Sports [LACS], they hold partisan opinions and only provide video recordings that insinuate guilt.

    If these extremists filmed evidence of hunts laying trails and making no mistakes, do you think they would provide it to the Crown Prosecution Service [CPS] for consideration? No, of course not. Yet their recordings may be used as evidence in court.

    If a police officer feels video evidence is necessary to verify an investigation, he would be required to seek a warrant.

    Secondly, there are vast tracts of state-owned land, such as that managed by the Ministry of Defence or Forestry Commission, where it is possible to trailhunt, but not to use any other exemption under the Hunting Act. Why? If it is legal, as the law stands, what can possibly be the reason?

    Third and last, there is the current proposal to amend the Act to allow more than two hounds to flush foxes to a gun, which has been proposed by the Federation of Welsh Farmers Packs.

    Farmers from the Principality and the north have much to lose from fox predation.
    It is legal to use a pack for this purpose in Scotland and even the animal rights nutters can’t come up with a good reason not to correct this anomaly.

    It might help Owen Paterson [Minister in charge of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] to seek advice from his own government department.

    Harry Roberts, huntsman of the Plas Machynlleth during World War II, was considered to be in a reserved occupation.

    Hansard records: “The soldier in question was released from the Army for a period of six months as a result of strong recommendations by the Ministry of Agriculture. In support of the application, it was stated that these hounds were maintained for the sole purpose of protecting sheep and poultry from foxes, and that since his enlistment farmers had suffered severe losses.

    “The Ministry are satisfied that, in this mountainous district, the only effective method of keeping down the foxes is to hunt them on foot with hounds and to drive them towards guns or towards their earths, where they are destroyed by terriers or other means [Official report, 16 October, 1941; col. 1522, Vol. 374].”

    This is the last window of opportunity for David Cameron’s party to show our community some camaraderie.

    If it has not happened by very early next year, believe me, it will not. And if that is the case and you have previously given freely of your time to Vote-OK, I would seriously reconsider whether or not to do so again.

    I confess, I am a single-issue voter who has long since lost what vestige of faith I had left in politicians to do the right thing.

    My point is this: by all means vote Conservative if you think they’ve done a good job with the economy, crime etc — and you don’t mind your beautiful hunt country being sliced in two by the high-speed rail link — but do not vote for them in the belief that they will repeal the Hunting Act.

    They say anything to get elected and appear to have no intention of doing it.

    Happy Christmas to one and all.