JEREMY HUNT found himself outfoxed – and cornered in a familiar political trap – when he suggested that there would be a new Parliamentary vote on the legalisation of hunting if he becomes Prime Minister.
The former Foreign Secretary appeared to forget that it took Tony Blair seven years to introduce the ban despite Labour winning the 1997 and 2001 general elections by a landslide. The Tories have no majority.
The unfortunately-named Mr Hunt also overlooked the fact that the mere mention of repealing hunting legislation during the last election was the turning point which began to galvanise the anti-Tory vote. Such an intervention discredits his claim that he is the man who can unite the country and I can only assume it was a desperate and cackhanded attempt to woo the Tory grassroots.
And then there is the impression that he inadvertently created – namely the Tories, and the Opposition for that matter, view the wider rural economy through the narrow prism of hunting.
Unlike those who hold strong views on this issue, I’m respectful of the compromise which has evolved over recent years while respecting the pro- and anti-hunting lobbies who can be just as intransigent, intolerant and inflexible as Remainers and Leavers.
But I don’t see hunting as a national priority when Parliament is gridlocked by Brexit – and unable to face up to its responsibilities over the social care scandal. And this untimely debate only serves to detract from the very real challenges facing countryside communities from the promotion of British produce to reliable broadband access for all and the support that rural businesses need to simply survive.
Even Michael Gove, the current Environment Secretary, accepts that Defra – the department he runs – needs greater autonomy from the Treasury if the agriculture sector is to flourish.
As such, it is regrettable that neither Mr Hunt – or his rival Boris Johnson – will have time to visit the Great Yorkshire Show next week to appreciate why the countryside needs a more sensible, and nuanced, debate. Not only would they enjoy a celebration of hunting as it is now – but they would also see an entire rural industry which is only existing, and functioning, in spite of the Government and those Ministers who think owning a pair of shiny green wellies (unused) for show makes them experts in this field.
AS a student of the turf, I liked the racing analogy used when Health Secretary Matt Hancock did not list social care as a priority in his NHS long-term plan update.
Noting that Mr Hancock represents the racing town Newmarket, his opposite number Jonathan Ashworth observed: “We have been promised a social care Green Paper umpteen times. We are more likely to see the Secretary of State riding Shergar at Newmarket than see the social care Green Paper. Where is it?”
This observation was on the money. Not only did Shergar, the great Derby winner, vanish in 1983 – he was kidnapped by suspected IRA terrorists – but all Mr Hancock could do in response was take a swipe at Labour. And yet there are senior Tories betting on him to become the next Chancellor...
IT is very hard to assess the spending commitments being rattled up by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt when we don’t know the identity of their proposed Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I suggested last month that they should be compelled to name their top teams – and the financial warnings issued by Philip Hammond, the outgoing Chancellor, about uncosted plans, and economic consequences of a no-deal Brexit, vindicate this. Expect a lot of backtracking when the next PM’s ambitions are thwarted by their Chancellor – whether it be Liz Truss or Matt Hancock for Mr Johnson or Sajid Javid if the Home Secretary moves to the Treasury under a Hunt premiership.
SO Boris Johnson says he will govern like Ian Botham rather than Geoffrey Boycott – reference to Theresa May’s admiration for Yorkshire and England batsman’s plodding play.
Quite what Mr Johnson has in mind is anyone’s guess after Boycott retweeted a post calling for all those politicians trying to stop a no-deal Brexit to be charged with ‘treason’. Perhaps the former Mayor of London would like to explain how he intends to unite the country before he, too, is hit for six by Brexit.
IT has been another bad week on the railways here, with confirmation that the Pacer antiquities used by Northern – I hesitate to describe them as trains – are now expected to stay in service into 2020.
Ominously neither Northern – or the Department for Transport – can now specify when they will be scrapped (or converted into community centres on square wheels) because of faults with new rolling stock. I bet Chris Grayling – and the Government – would have a very swift answers if the imposition of these rusting rattletraps was threatened on commuter lines down south.
FINALLY, it is game, set and match to the BBC bureaucrats who – in the final insult to over-75s being denied free TV licences – have acquired a giant tennis ball, stitched on the words Today at Wimbledon and placed it on a wooden plinth so it can adorn the table used during Clare Balding’s nightly review programme.
On some evenings, it even has the day in question on the ball. I dread to think how long, and how many people, it took to serve up this pointless gimmick – or the cost. I would have thought pundits of the calibre of John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova, two of the all-time greats, would not need any such introduction.