The Government has been defeated over the repeal of The Hunting Act. David Cameron is licking his wounds after the humiliated, Tory Premier was forced to retreat on fox hunting when it became clear his sneaky plans to revive the bloodsport would be savaged by his own MP’s. The PM had arrogantly defended his “mates” right to hunt but he is barking up the wrong tree if he thinks he'll get his way by banning Scottish MPs from voting on hunting in England and Wales.
Because rock star Brian May, the campaign group Team Fox and thousands of campaigners will be ready to resume the fight against cruelty with dozens of rebels in a Tory No! pack are straining to inflict a defeat on the despicable hunters.
Anti-fox hunting protesters gathered outside Parliament telling David Cameron “Don’t turn back the clock”.
Hundreds of people gathered just metres away from the House of Commons today to make sure that MP’s knew that over 80% of the British public do not want to see hunting with dogs return to England and Wales.
Dr Brian May, legendary guitarist and founder of the Save Me Trust, lead a march in Parliament urging MPs to vote against watering down the ban on fox hunting. With hundreds of vocal campaigners descending on Old Palace Yard in Westminster - just a few metres from the doors of the Houses of Parliament - to demand MPs prove they are in touch with the public mood. With the amassed group chanting a rewording of Queen’s classic foot, stomper “We Will, We Will STOP YOU!” The gathered crowd awaited Dr May and the speakers.
A ripple of excitement broke through the crowd and continued to spread, ever larger until at 11 am it was confirmed that the government have been forced into a humiliating climbdown on the vote to water down the fox hunting ban.
A roar rippled through the crowd as word spread that the vote had been cancelled.
Brian May arrived at the rally. The Queen legend, animal rights campaigner and astrophysicist arrived and began to address the huge crowd. He told supporters the campaign against hunting was "not a political fight” and that ”even without the SNP, the government still would have lost the vote”.
Dr May has a lot to say on the subject of fox hunting and he doesn't hold back as he recently called a Countryside Alliance spokesperson “a lying bastard” on BBC Newsnight. "I think Cameron is a special kind of Tory. The worst kind of Tory - the kind that has no compassion for animals whatsoever. The only thing you can honestly say about fox hunting is that people enjoy it! People who get a sadistic pleasure in seeing an animal ripped apart, it's sadism, to be honest, it's psychopathic behaviour to enjoy the suffering of another creature." He continued "The people who have no compassion for animals tend not to have compassion for humans either.".
Brian May then introduced Angus Robertson, SNP leader at Westminster who told the gathered masses “We've won the battle, but not the war”.
Next to speak was Lorraine Platt, chair of the Blue Fox group - the Conservative group opposing fox hunting who have been instrumental in today’s decision.
The Green Party has slammed David Cameron's cowardly cancellation of the vote as "cynical".
The government is thought to be planning to delay the vote until the autumn, by which time they hope to have pushed through English Votes for English Laws.
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England, said: “The Tory Government's postponement of this vote is a cynical manipulation of our democracy when they are simply scared of losing the vote...Fox hunting is needless and causes tremendous suffering. We must continue to protect our British wildlife by ensuring this barbaric practice remains illegal...I am strongly opposed to hunting and this amendment would be a disaster for our beautiful foxes, stags and hares. The Hunting Act should be strengthened, not weakened.".
Labour's Shadow Rural Affairs secretary Maria Eagle has slammed the government's handling of the vote as shambolic. She said: “David Cameron is now running scared because he knew he was going to lose the vote on fox hunting. The Government’s proposed changes to the Hunting Act have become a shambles...This has nothing to do with ‘pest control’ - it is a shabby attempt to repeal a successful piece of animal welfare legislation by the back-door.”.
Would English Votes for English Laws have scuppered the SNP? The Tories have just released their updated English Votes for English Laws (EVEL) plan - which is said to be what sparked this row in the first place. But we believe it won't make any difference when it comes to blocking the SNP vote. If fox hunting is brought back to the Commons, even in the same form it was going to be this week, EVEL will apply. But crucially the rules will still need a 'double majority’. That means ALL MPs must vote in favour of watering down the ban, as well as just English MPs. In other words, it's just introducing a new stage to the process - not cutting the SNP out of the deal.
David Cameron hits out at Nicola Sturgeon; when asked if he had been "outfoxed" by the Scottish First Minister, the Prime Minister said, "I would not quite put it like that. The position of the SNP has up to now always been clear, which is that they do not vote on matters that are purely of interest to England or England and Wales. I find their position entirely opportunistic and very hard to explain in any other way."
Robbie Marsland, Director of League Against Cruel Sports has reacted to the delayed vote on fox hunting. He said: “The government’s decision to postpone the vote isn't about democratic choices, but the whims of a few. We were looking forward to winning the vote tomorrow and consigning fox hunting to history, but once the government knew they were going to lose because enough MPs from all sides don’t want to reintroduce bloodsports into the 21st century they decided to stop the vote. He added “We’re looking forward to working with the Scottish Government to improve the anti-hunting law in Scotland.”.
It fell to Chris Grayling, MP, recently appointed the Leader of the House, to come to the Commons and explain why tomorrow's vote had been cancelled. Perversely, he tried to wriggle out of taking questions on the climb down, making the announcement with a "point of order”, but Speaker John Bercow firmly suggested he should have done it as a statement, which left him open to the opposition.
Angela Smith MP (Labour) said, "I'm shocked at the cynical and shabby way the government has tried to use the business of the house to destroy the Hunting Act".
"They certainly didn’t hold back with Pete Wishart (SNP) The Tories knew they would lose the vote, and now they want to change the rules.”
Stephen Doughty, MP (Labour) asked Grayling if today's events proved the nasty party were back on the government benches. He said he'd never had so many emails in such a short space of time on one issue - and Stephen asked if Grayling was showing contempt for "this parliament, for the union and for the people of this country?”, Grayling rose to his feet and said... “No".
Team Fox, the coalition of charities united in keeping the hunting ban, will review the footage of Chris Grayling's appearance in the House to climb down from the fox hunting vote with great interest. He was absolutely savaged by a roaring pack of opposition MPs, and most of them seemed to be enjoying it very much. Among the many things he said in an attempt to brush the shambolic treatment of the vote under the carpet, he said Scottish MPs SHOULD be barred from voting on fox hunting - despite even the latest revision of EVEL not doing anything of the kind.
"This postponement is a victory for campaigners and animals across the country", says PETA Director Mimi Bekhechi. "The Government should now cancel the vote altogether and accept their cruel intentions have been defeated by the people. They must not play games with Britain's animals - we will continue to campaign against any weakening of these laws.".
Anne Brummer CEO of Save Me Trust said, "We are appalled and shocked that the government would try to bring back fox hunting in 2015. It is turning the clock back on cruelty and against the will of the people”.
Tom Quinn, Director of campaigns for the League Against Cruel Sports, says that the groups that came together today – known collectively as Team Fox – represent not only the majority of Britain but also "all the animals who are targeted by hunts, including deer and hares”. He continued, "Hunters are a minority who like to make animals suffer in the name of 'sport'. They don't represent the countryside. Team Fox is determined to ensure that MPs understand the truth about what hunting really is and vote the way the public want them to vote with no compromise – and keep cruelty history".
UKIP’s Deputy Leader Paul Nuttall weighed in with some typically thoughtful and considerate words on the fox hunting debacle. He said: "The bill has no relevance in Scotland and will not affect hunting in Scotland one jot, yet Labour are asking the SNP to back them on this issue. "Tuesday is Emmeline Pankhurst Day, and whilst I am not going to throw myself in front of a horse to make my point, perhaps we should throw Nicola Sturgeon in front of a hunt horse as part of the commemorations”.
Earlier in the day, the Daily Mirror front page article revealed 4,000 hunting hounds culled every year. It's not just foxes who are subjected to suffering by fox hunting. It also includes puppies being clubbed to death or shot for being “unsuitable”, after testing known as “Cubbing”. One former hunt member told us: "The hounds are very much the other victims.".
As the crowds began to dissipate, Nicola Sturgeon hit back at David Cameron's claims that her party's intervention on watering down the hunting ban was “opportunistic." She said, "The reason David Cameron finds himself with SNP votes so pivotal here is that he can't carry his own parliamentary group on this...That's perhaps where his fundamental problem lies...This highlights how slender and how fragile the Conservative majority is.".
Meanwhile, Tory Minister Robert Halfon admitted he was prepared to vote against his own party's proposals on the watering down of the hunting ban. He told his local paper, "After careful consideration, I have come to the view that the Hunting Act should not be changed and I was planning to vote against the proposals. As the vote has been postponed, I can confirm that when the vote comes back to Parliament I will be voting against the amendment. I appreciate the many residents who wrote to me in a courteous and constructive manner which has had an important impact on my thinking.”.
Halfon is not alone with fellow cabinet ministers, Tracey Crouch, Caroline Dineage and Dominic Rabb all publicly against the repeal.
While the repeal was set to be a "free vote", new Tory MPs had reportedly been told the Prime Minister would be paying special attention to how they voted. That makes it particularly brave of these new MP’s to stand up to the leadership on a matter of principle.