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Anti-wars and the tally-ho fraternity raise hell at Labour Conference

September 29, 2004 ~ 2:15 p.m.

Political party conferences typically bring out the disgruntled, but the gaggle of freaks lining up to heckle Tony Blair at the Labour Conference is extraordinary.

The first exhibit is the ubiquitous anti-war crowd. No real surprise there. Agitator (and delegate) Hector Christie shouted, “You’ve got blood on your hands!” The Prime Minister acknowledged Christie, responding, “That’s fine, sir. You can make your protest. Just thank goodness we live in a democracy and you can.”

Blair went on to add, as part of his speech about Iraq, “I can apologize for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can’t, sincerely at least, apologize for removing Saddam. The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power,” adding, “[we must] unite in our determination to stand by the Iraqi people until the job is done.”

Twenty minutes after the Saddam apologist interrupted Blair’s speech, the second exhibit of loonies made itself heard. Replying to pro-fox hunting heckles, Blair coolly asked, “Excuse me, but if there’s any more of you, do you mind standing up now?”

Blair has tried for the third time since achieving the top office in 1997 to enact an anti-fox hunting bill, which succeeded in passing, and though the House of Lords is expected to reject it, Labour plans to hammer the legislation home via the Parliament Act. Outside the Labour Conference headquarters in the seaside city of Brighton, 8,000 pro-hunting protestors gathered outside. Disgustingly, the hunting brigade dumped a dead horse, cow and two calves in the street and pelted the conference site with eggs. Nearly fifteen “bunny girls,” practically naked, ran into the cold water of the English Channel in support of blood sports.

Although a majority support a ban on fox hunting, a vocal minority is raising hell over their right to tear foxes to bloody pieces. It’s gotten so ridiculous that Lucy Ferry, former wife of Roxy Music’s Bryan Ferry, says that the fox hunters will topple the Blair government over the issue of hunts. Her son, Otis Ferry, was among the five hunt supporters that ran into the House of Commons on the day of the fox-hunt ban vote.

“What happened to the middle way in all this?” Ferry asked. “I think hunting people are quite happy to be licensed and if Tony Blair uses the Parliament Act on this, he is going to be the laughing stock of Europe and America and anyone who has any intelligence.”

Middle way? Laughing stock? Sneaking into—or recruiting a sympathizer to gain entry into—the House of Commons to disrupt a vote and nearly assaulting the Rural Affairs Minister—that sounds like extremism, not intelligence, to me. It certainly didn’t gain the pro-hunting crowd any sympathy. The democractic way is not enforced by breaking the law or breaching security.

The most risible aspect of the whole damnable topic of fox hunting is that before the vote took place, the “nature loving” tally-ho crowd bleated on about how other issues are far most important (education, health care, pensions, the Iraq War, etc.), and how can the Government even think of bringing up fox hunting?

Why, because the bill to ban fox hunting was a promise Blair made in 1997. For those who assert that the PM breaks his promises, this is one he has fulfilled. And for all their concerns about democracy, the great majority of Britons express disgust with fox hunting, even those in rural areas, and, as such, welcome a ban on the blood sport.

But lo! Now that the ban has passed by a huge majority, and enactment by the Parliament Act is swaying over their bloodthirsty tradition like a Damocles sword, the fox killing lobby have decided it is an important issue, come to think of it, what, what!

As one anti-hunt web page I stumbled across succinctly puts it, “Is it that this barbaric sport attracts violent thugs like flies to a lump of shit, or does it simply make ordinarily law-abiding folk go into a frenzy of bloodthirsty yobbishness? Those individuals who derive pleasure from the prolonged pursuit of a terrified creature to the point of its exhaustion and then watch its being ripped to shreds are clearly depraved.”

Hallelujah. Believe you me, it’s going to take more than the pampered, spoilt-rich family of an ageing rock singer to convince me to “topple” the Government. The pro-hunting lobby is nothing but a very loud, and very sick, minority.

The issues that matter in Britain are (a) asylum seeker and immigration policy, on which Conservative opposition leader Michael Howard has the right idea but Labour have done nothing about; and (b) the European Union “Superstate” Constitution, on which Blair has been keen to enter Britain into, but for which the United Kingdom stands to lose much of its sovereignty as a separate nation. Polls reveal the British public in favour of both a firm immigration policy and a reduction in asylum cases, and opposition to joining the European Constitution.

Both issues were strangely absent from the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday, however. The anti-war and pro-fox hunt crowd can yell and holler and cry in each other’s beers (the two factions naturally go together: if you're anti-war, you're certainly not bothered by butchery, whether by the likes of fox-hunters or Saddam Hussein), but on the two most important issues affecting Britain and British sovereignty, Blair and New Labour remain uncomfortably numb.

– M.E.M.

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