Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tony Blair "hunting ban was a mistake"

In Tony Blair's repentance splurge surrounding the publication of his new book, he admits that banning hunting was em, a bit of an error. Asked today if the ban was a mistake - "I think yes on balance it was in the end. Its not that I particularly like hunting or have ever engaged in it or would. I didn't quite understand, and I reproach myself for this, that for a group of people in our society in the countryside this was a fundamental part of their way of life." Blair accepted that the ban was "not one of my finest policy moments".

No sireee. The ban turned hundreds of thousands of countryside Brits onto the street to march to protect their way of life, and galvanised people who didn't feel strongly Tory to commit to vote for them. It's clearly not the morals of the issue Blair regrets but losing the labour party's rural vote for perhaps a generation. In my research for the book I came across a labour MP who smugly admitted that hunting was a "class issue" for them. It's really depressing that perceptions of class should drive a policy issue in a childish, -"we'll show the rich toffs" manner. Well they certainly paid for it in the 2010 election and will do so for lets say, about another 20 years.
Rural voters whether they cared or not about hunting saw the vote as proof that labour wasn't in touch with countryside issues- food prices, subsidies, closure of rural services and how British farming was a dying activity. The hunting ban simply galvanised all these issues together. If you talk to people living in rural Britain they still feel passionately that Labour let the countryside go to rot in this period. That's why any move in this country to ban hunting will bring about a meltdown - look at what happened with the Ward Union.
And typically, when if does happen, a proposed ban will come from urban based TDs who don't see the kind of mania this issue raises in the countryside, as it pulls all sorts of other emotions and grudges into the mix. Watch and learn Leinster House, if you don't get countryside issues right they eventually come down on you like a ton of bricks.

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