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So now we know ... as if we didn't before

Posted by Helen Sunday, November 21, 2004

Today’s Sunday Telegraph carries an article by Peter Bradley, MP for The Wrekin and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Alun Michael the egregious and pusillanimous rural affairs minister. Knowing as one does (at a distance) MPs, particularly of the Labour variety, it strikes one as inherently improbable that the man actually penned anything himself. But the thoughts or, rather, the venom and undisguised triumphalism must be his.

It seems that the people who said that the war on hunting was a latter day class war were right. The Labour MPs still perceive the hunting community as a bunch of toffs who need to be brought to heel. They seem not to have noticed that the vast majority or people who hunt, follow hunts, work for and with hunts or benefit from their presence and activity are not toffs.

Mr Bradley’s admission goes a little further than he may have intended. After all, even if he believes that only toffs hunt he must have realized that their power is strictly limited, as compared with his own (though not when the Party Whip comes to call). Nor is it a question of riches. As we know from recent revelations, MPs are not precisely on the poverty line. In fact, they live rather well, indeed, all at our expense.

No, the problems is that:

“Labour governments have come and gone and left little impression on the gentry.But a ban on hunting touches them. It threatnes their inalieanable right to do what they please on their own land. For the first time, a decision of a Parliament they don’t control has breached the lodge gates. The old families have come to realise that though they may still own the country, they are not controlling it.”
Setting aside that idiotic comment about the great families owning the country (how many houses with a good deal of land attached to them do Labour MPs own, one wonders) this is a chilling comment on modern political mores. I am not of the landed gentry and there are no lodge gates outside my very ordinary house. But I do believe that, short of the obviously criminal, I should have the inalienable right to do what I please on my own land with no Labour MP or government interfering.

The hunt ban is not about class war any more than it is about the welfare of animals or wild life management. The Countryside Alliance, the hunting fraternity and their supporters thought for a long time that they could persuade their opponents by reasonable arguments and peaceful demonstrations.

According to Mr Bradley, when the Countryside Alliance said “Listen to us”, they really meant “Do what we say”. As the Alliance did not tell anyone to hunt or to do anything but leave people alone to get on with their lives and to understand what might be a different but interesting and fulfilling way of life, one must assume that Mr Bradley and his colleagues are bothered by those concepts. How dare these people say they just want to get on with their lives? How dare they be indifferent to Labour governments and Labour politicians? How dare they insist that the communities that have grown up organically over centuries are more important than those artificially created by the government and its servants?

It is all a question of power, adds Mr Bradley, a question of who governs the country, deliberately invoking Ted Heath’s fatuous election slogan of 1974. So now we know. Power in our supposedly democratic country (please, don’t snigger) is about Labour MPs having the complete, unfettered right to decide how people lead their lives, what they are allowed to do and how they are allowed to behave on their own land and in their own communities. Anyone who opposes that, “declares war on the government” and on Labour MPs, whose right to govern was infringed on by people who opposed the ban on hunting.

Uneasily, one has to ask oneself what else Mr Bradley may decide infringes on his ability to govern and his right ot power. Will he and his colleagues announce that people who are campaigning for a no vote in the EU Constitution referendum have declared war on the government by opposing its instructions? Sounds far-fetched but then many of Mr Bradley’s comments are far-fetched.

While on the Continent they do not understand the fuss about hunting and see the all-embracing row as a sign of British eccentricity, the motivation of the Labour MPs is entirely comprehensible to all who are trying to build the “European dream”. Whether they pretend that it is for our own good or for animal welfare or mangement of wildlife or to prevent ecological disaster, the underlying imperative is the same: it is about power, about who governs, about who calls the shots. And if you do not like it, if you oppose us, we shall crush you.

Or we shall try. For, in the end, they will not triumph unless they are prepared to use a great deal of force and build prisons to rival Stalin’s gulag.

Meanwhile I fear for Mr Bradley’s sanity. He will find, like the Bolsheviks of old, that removing or oppressing the ruling class will not suffice. Ever new members of the enemy class will spring up and he and his colleagues will have to deal with them all. And then more will appear. And more. And still they will go on defying his right to govern and to rule people’s lives and to assert their inalienable right to do as they please on their own land. Worse than that, most of them will own themselves to be entirely ignorant of Peter Bradley’s existence. Oh the infamy of it all.