Wednesday 8 January 2014

Boxing Day fudge

Boxing Day brought the hunting fraternity out in force, and with them came the now traditional annual calls for the repeal of the hunting legislation.  Here in Wales, politicians representing three of Wales’ political parties supported the calls – only Labour was noticeable by its honourable absence from the list.
Whilst it’s clear that politicians from three parties have signed up to demand change, what’s a good deal less clear is how many of those are doing so from any conviction, or whether they’re just saying what they think a particular section of the electorate wants to hear.  A desire to win votes – or at least, to avoid losing them – can lead some to forget any hint of principle or conviction.
Conventional wisdom has it that farmers and rural communities in general are pro-hunting, and that any politician who wants their votes has to reflect that view and be seen to support it.  Given the extent of opposition to repeal shown in a series of opinion polls, I’m far from convinced that ‘conventional wisdom’ should go unchallenged.
Certainly, there is a strong feeling in agricultural areas that fox numbers need to be controlled.  I have no illusions about them being cute furry little creatures, and in a managed countryside can see the need for control measures when problems arise.  But the jump from “we need to control foxes” to “we need to allow groups of people in fancy dress on horseback to follow packs of hounds chasing a single fox for an hour or two before watching the hounds tearing it apart” is a very large jump indeed.  There are a few missing steps in the logic – and they’re missing for a good reason.
I wonder about the honesty of any politician who can so easily jump from the one statement to the other.  I rather suspect that many of them know as well as I do the scale of the non-sequitur involved, but are prepared to fudge it or the sake of their own political careers.
The other fudge used by politicians in Wales is to call for the issue to be devolved to the National Assembly to decide, usually with the sort of nod and wink which implies that a decision taken at a Welsh level would somehow be different.  That idea – that the subtext of devolution is repeal – seems to me to be even more disingenuous.
It’s less conceivable to me that the Assembly would repeal the legislation than that the House of Commons would do so.  It would require two things to happen; firstly that the three opposition parties together could muster more votes than the Labour Party within the Assembly, and secondly that the three opposition parties would all be unanimous in their support for repeal – turning it into a party political issue of Labour vs. the rest.  Whilst the first is a credible scenario, the second, as the English bard might have put it, “stands not within the prospect of belief”; it’s much less likely than an English Tory majority at Westminster overturning the ban.  Perhaps the nodders and winkers are secret opponents of hunting after all – knowing that what they propose would effectively kill the issue in Wales.
There are some, of course, who see the question of repeal as some sort of question of principle, based on the inalienable right of the unspeakable to continue chasing the inedible, largely because they’ve been doing so for centuries.  I don’t think that there are actually many in that category; unprincipled vote-seeking is a much more common motive.  And doing something purely because “we’ve always done it” doesn’t stand up to the more rational scrutiny of the modern era, thankfully.
No doubt the calls for repeal will be repeated fro a few more Boxing Days yet; but the issue has probably been settled permanently by now. It just needs the politicians to stop pretending otherwise, and misleading people in the process.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of having more foxes in the town and cities. They could have their lair in houses, and as they are cuddly creatures children can play with them and if by a quirk of nature they attacked a child there would/should NOT be a call to put the poor little cuddly fox down, as it is a wild animal which should be protected by law!