THERE has to be a general election by June 2010 and it would be idle to pretend that some sections of the country community haven’t got their tails up at the prospect.
Ever since Labour swept to power in 1997 there has been a perception the countryside has been misunderstood by Government and even under attack from some of its more vocal proponents.
A series of issues have highlighted this – foot-and-mouth, right to roam and bovine TB to name but a few on a fairly long list – but none have caused quite such a furore as the Hunting Act, eventually squeezed through in 2004 by the use of a last ditch parliamentary procedure not really designed for the purpose.
It effectively banned hunting with dogs but left so many loopholes – either deliberately or naively – that not only a cart and horses, but a whole pack of hounds, plus mounted and foot followers, are regularly driven though it all over the UK several times a week.
If the Conservatives are returned to power next year, David Cameron has already said he will revisit this law and the probability is that it will be repealed and replaced with something more amenable to the hunting community.
Quite what has not yet been made clear. However, meetings have already taken place behind closed doors to work out a system that will not only be accepted by the hunts but also seen as reasonable by the wider community, many of whom generally don’t care too much although they still get a little twitchy when the hunting issue is raised. With that in mind the Countryside Alliance (CA) is calling for a bumper turnout at the annual Boxing Day meets, the traditional shop window of the hunting year.
More than a dozen fox hunts, harrier, basset and beagle packs will be meeting throughout Worcestershire and Herefordshire, all at high profile locations and usually attracting thousands of spectators.
Clare Rowson, Midlands regional director of the CA, said: “The Boxing Day meets are always an important part of Christmas, whether you are from a town, village or rural community.
“This year we hope the support for freedom, tolerance and repeal will ensure this Boxing Day is bigger and better than ever.
“With support from MPs and candidates from all political parties, the hunting ban is on borrowed time.
“The political tide is changing and the repeal of the Hunting Act is becoming increasingly likely with hard work and determination.”
Needless to say, the Act’s supporters don’t see it that way and earlier this month Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned David Cameron that promising a repeal could cost him next year’s general election.
This time next year, we will know for sure.
Where to see your local hunt this Christmas
The Boxing Day hunts will be at the following places – all at 11am unless otherwise stated.
Albrighton Woodland Hunt: Hagley Hall, Hagley.
Clifton-on-Teme Hunt: The Hop Pole, The Square, Bromyard.
North Cotswold Hunt: The Kennels, Broadclose Field, High Street, Broadway, 11.45am.
Croome & West Warwickshire Hunt: Broad Street, Pershore.
Golden Valley: The Town Clock, Hay-on-Wye.
North Herefordshire Hunt: Corn Square, Leominster.
South Herefordshire Hunt: The Tump Inn, Wormelow.
Ledbury Hunt: Feathers Hotel, Ledbury: 10.45am.
North Ledbury Hunt: The Bell, Bosbury.
Ludlow Hunt: Ludlow Castle.
Worcestershire Hunt: Raven Hotel, Droitwich.
Ross Harriers: Garway Moon, Garway.
Wyre Forest Beagles: Barnaby Arms, Bredenbury, near Bromyard, noon.