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Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Rural PPCs take note

Last year, when the issue of fox hunting was last put to the Commons' vote, I wrote a speech for Conservative candidates in rural constituencies to make to Countryside Alliance meetings, and other pro-hunt events and meetings, in the hope of recruiting more activists and supporters. Fourteen months later, the speech seems still more appropriate. So here is it again.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is wonderful to see so many of you here, willing to work for this great cause, and showing by your presence that you will not back down. But we should also be seeing far more people here, because hunting should matter to everyone in this country. The freedom and tradition the sport embodies are symbolic of all that England used to be about. If some of this country's most decent, patriotic, freedom-loving, law-abiding people cannot on private grounds indulge in a sport and a tradition and a pest control system without the intervention of the law, then liberty as we understand it in this country has disappeared. That is the threat we face now, and we cannot simply sit back and take it.

You don't need me to tell you that hunting is no crueler than shooting or farming or fishing - that in a matter of seconds the fox's neck is snapped: seconds of fear, no pain, instant death.

And I'll tell you something about which you can have zero doubt: ..... Labour don't need to be told it. They know the truth.

Many are willing to give the proponents of a ban the benefit of the doubt on this one - they may be wrong and ignorant, we are told, but their hearts are in the right place. "They act out of misplaced concern for the animal, not hatred for the hunter." This is rubbish and we know that. The bill that will soon become law will not save a single fox, nor spare it a violent death of some sort. The government demands in law that farmers control foxes, which are a pest and a blight on those who live and work in the country. That law will remain in force, only now your duty will be to shoot or poison the fox. You won't be able to obey these regularions in the way that has sustained so many valued traditions and community ties and jobs and friendships.

If these Labour people cared only for the fox, why would they accept that it be shot instead - as if a shotgun is as precise and quick a death as a quick break of the neck by a pack of dogs?

If these Labour people cared only about saving the fox, why would they - deplorably - have voted down all the measures of compensation that we tried to introduce to aid those people who will be put out of work by this stupid ban?

Their concern for the fox is non-existent.

In many cases it isn't even simple class warfare and prejudice. I know that some of them will flash their eyes and lick their lips at the thought of a wealthy man's weekend sport, the highlight of his week, spoiled for ever. But others know the truth about hunting and how it has acted as a way to bring people of all backgrounds together. Some of them know how the sport originated in its modern form in the first place - as a way for aristocrats to persuade farmers not to annihilate foxes completely by allowing them and their labourers to join in the fun of the hunt. This was in the 17th Century, and hunting was already helping to break down the barriers of class. Don't be fooled - many of them know this. They just don't care.

The ban is not about the fox, it is not about animal welfare or cruelty or even primarily about prejudice. It is that in almost every Labour MP's heart is a loathing of the traditions and values at the heart of this country. They feel shame when the Queen passes by in her carriage cheered by the masses. They feel fury as parliamentary ceremonies that form a link with a distant past are continued to this day. They feel wrath at anyone who looks on their people and their country with pride, remembering what we have done for the world and daring to believe we can do more. And embodied in all of this, central to all of this, is a tradition that you keep alive, that you continue, that you believe in - the hunt. When they see horses galloping majestically across empty fields carrying red-coated gentleman, black capped ladies and excited children, they see red, knowing that the grey and dreary, politically correct, socialist hell-hole they plan is as far off as ever. You are a people who will not back down, will not take moral lessons from the Guardian, will not do just as you are told by the government. That is why they have spent years trying to smash your livelihoods. They can't make the schools better or the hospitals more effective or the rate of violent crimes lower. In rural constituencies like this one you'll know that all too well for yourselves. They cannot do anything that will save their failed social experiments that does not simply increase the sum of human miseries. But with the stroke of a pen, they still can smash what you do, what you are and what you care about. And by God, they have.

So let me tell you what needs to be done. I have joined the Countryside Alliance. I joined the Alliance because I believe in its principles and its values and I want it to succeed. Now equally - and I am quite shameless about this - you must join the Conservatives. There is not anyone here who could not make the difference at the next election, who does not have something to contribute to our joint cause. The only way we can restore hunting now is to get a Conservative government re-elected to parliament, and you can be a part of that.

I promise you this now. I will vote for every bill to legalise hunting. I will oppose all measures to restrict hunting. I will fight every bill to ban hunting. I will do all in my power to keep ... hunting ... alive. So if you care about the traditions and the future of this country, if you care about doing what is right, if you care about putting every hour you can spare into preserving your liberty and livelihood, then join us now, and together on election day we will deliver Labour a blow they will never, never forget!

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