Hunting bans and trivial pursuits
As the UK parliament debates a hunting ban, everyone seems to be chasing their own agenda.
Fox hunting has become the issue that the government would like to go away. It has become a totem issue for both rural voters and Labour backbenchers. For countryside campaigners, fox-hunting is the focus for an inchoate sense of grievance against a government with little interest in rural issues. A Countryside Alliance leaflet about the new bill says, 'This is an outright assault on us all which goes way beyond hunting and as such marks the beginning of the next phase of our campaign to combat prejudice and discrimination.' Countryfolk are apparently an oppressed minority fighting their domination by townies.
For backbenchers, it's a case of asking the government to throw them a bone. They have little or no say on policy anymore, but at least if they could get a hunting ban it would preserve the pretence of having some influence. Banning hunting is a petty and illiberal measure - but one that suits both the backbenchers and the government. Blair, desperate for a quiet life, will force the ban through using the most extreme parliamentary procedure, but delay the implementation as long as possible to try to appease the rural vote. Indecisive as ever, he wants both a quick kill, and a lingering death.
Who gives a fox about hunting now?, by Mick Hume