The Tories have already put fox hunting back on the table by vowing to enact everything in their controversial manifesto.
The document promises a free vote on overturning Labour’s 2004 hunting ban – but many thought a coalition partner would force David Cameron to back down.
Instead he will storm ahead with the bill after winning a shock overall majority in the Commons.
I used to be anti-fox-hunting back in the days when I voted Lib Dem. But by the time the Labour government banned fox hunting, I’d come to think that it was really more about knocking people off their high horses than protecting foxes. It was class warfare, disguised as an animal rights movement. “We don’t like you, and we don’t like what you do. So we’re going to ban you from doing what you like to do.”
By that time I’d also moved out of the city and into the countryside, and found very different attitudes to foxes. In the city, where there aren’t many foxes, they were regarded as cuddly furry animals (like polar bears and seals) with Rights to Life. In the country, where there are lots of foxes, they were regarded as vermin, no better than rats or mice. And their numbers needed to be kept down. If this wasn’t done by fox hunting, it would have to be done some other way. And whatever way it was done, lots of foxes were going to wind up dead.
When the ban finally came into force, and I watched the local hunt setting out anyway (they weren’t banned from riding on horses accompanied by dogs), I finally ceased to be anti-fox-hunting completely. At least foxes had a chance against the hunt: they could outrun it or “outfox” it. They had next to no chance against traps and poison and sharpshooters.
And when, a few years later, the smoking ban came into force, I couldn’t help but see the similarities with the fox hunting ban. It was all being done in the name of “health” this time, but it was actually another case of “We don’t like you or the things you like to do, so we’re going to ban the things you like to do.” This was the law being used selectively as a weapon.
So I’m glad that the new government is going to have a free vote on the fox hunting ban. But I suspect that, given their slim majority, unless all Conservative MPs are in favour of repealing the hunting ban, it’s unlikely to be repealed.
Nevertheless, if they’re going to have a vote on fox hunting, then they’re quite likely to have a vote on the smoking ban too at some point in time. It was just another piece of spiteful legislation, after all. And the Conservative party was never in favour of it to start with.
And I suspect the Conservatives are going to have plenty of time to undo all the bans and restrictions and regulations that Labour brought in. Because last week’s election effectively destroyed the Lib Dems, setting them back 40 years. I doubt they’ll ever recover. And given the enormous row that’s broken out in the Labour party since their humiliating defeat last week, it looks like it’s going to take a long time for them to re-invent themselves all over again. The “progressive” left is dead, and the 2020 election really ought to be a walkover for the Conservatives, assuming they manage the economy suddessfully. Maybe the 2025 election too. Britain has entered a new Conservative era.
But UKIP won’t be going away. After only 4 days in the wilderness, Nigel Farage is back as its leader: the party didn’t accept his resignation. The EU and immigration (and now the smoking ban) are likely to remain hot issues.
I expect the Conservatives to now gradually roll back the toxic legacy of Labour. They look like they may have already started:
Tories go to war with the BBC
David Cameron, infuriated by the corporation’s election coverage, appoints BBC critic John Whittingdale to “sort out the BBC” ahead of the royal charter review next year