Battle is joined in Blair’s war on conservatism

Today the House of Commons votes on the banning of hunting with hounds – the fox hunting ban. The arguments on both sides have been rehearsed ad nauseam over the last few years, and the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance are currently (early evening) winding up a large rally in front of Parliament, protesting at the ban.

The Government have said that if the House of Lords reject the ban – as seems likely, given their previous record on this issue – that they will force through the ban by means of the Parliament Act.

Fox-hunting (and farming and countryside issues more generally) have been taken up strongly by the Tory press, notably the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. The irresponsible end of that spectrum, the Mail and the Express, have used this issue as another example of the perfidy of Labour’s crypto-communist campaign against all that is good and holy about British society. The leftish press, particularly the Guardian, have presented it as the last hurrah of the landed Establishment.

The class colouring of the debate is misleading, however. For the people who are going to vote on it this evening, it seems mostly to be a matter of animal welfare versus the right of people to carry on doing what they have always done. For all the rhetoric of the Mail, that something has always been done is no reason why it shouldn’t be stopped.

We shall see what happens when the ban comes into force, which may be several years away. The Countryside Alliance promises widespread civil unrest, and (echoing the Sinn Fein of old) insist that anything bad that happens will be the Government’s responsibility. Noteworthy was one small incident from the paranoid fringes: the leg of an electricity pylon in Cumbria was sawn through by a group calling itself the Real Countryside Alliance – a name echoing the Real IRA, and hence facile and offensive at the same time.

Are we going to see a rebellion of the Establishment? If so, when is the Prime Minister going to declare victory over the scattered forces of conservatism?

Update: It’s already begun!