Labour's message: Tories would 'turn back the clock'
Cameron's plans to scrap hunting ban used to undermine his 'moderniser' credentials
Labour will try to undermine David Cameron's "vote for change" pitch at the general election by warning that a Conservative government would "turn back the clock" rather than take Britain forward.
Ministers have agreed to highlight Tory plans to end the ban on fox hunting, cut inheritance tax and reward marriage in the tax system in Labour's election campaign in an attempt to question Mr Cameron's credentials as a moderniser.
"We have to answer the 'change to what?' question because the Tories won't," one minister said. "We will put the spotlight on the areas where a Tory government would go backwards."
In a softly-softly approach, Tory parliamentary candidates have been advised by Conservative Campaign Headquarters to keep a low profile on hunting in order not to alienate voters who support the ban, which was introduced by Labour in 2004. They have been encouraged not to take part in surveys by newspapers or polling firms about the issue.
But a grass-roots campaign by opponents of hunting, who have asked individual MPs and candidates their views by writing to them at a local level, has revealed a stark contrast between the two main parties. Of the 122 Tory MPs and candidates who responded, 97 said that they did not support the ban while only 16 did and another nine replied "don't know". Of the 295 Labour MPs and candidates who responded, 284 supported the ban, 10 opposed it and there was one "don't know".
The findings of the Back the Ban campaign's survey have persuaded Labour to make hunting an election issue even though the party will risk Tory accusations of reverting to "class war". Mr Cameron has promised a free vote on hunting if he becomes prime minister and the responses suggest the Commons would vote to lift the ban if the Tories won a majority.
Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, who launched the campaign in December, said yesterday: "This information shows that the Tories are very far from the supposedly modern, compassionate party that David Cameron wants you to see. It seems that the majority of Tories want to spend government time legalising a so-called sport in which the participants allow dogs to rip other animals apart, even though a majority of the British people support the hunting ban."
The 2004 Hunting Act made the hunting of all wild mammals using dogs an offence and banned hare coursing, but did not prevent people from riding with dogs if they remained within the law. The Tories describe the Act as ineffective and unworkable, saying there have been few successful prosecutions. Mr Cameron has argued that such a bad law should be repealed.
The Tory leader reaffirmed his commitment to radical change in a speech at his party's spring conference on Sunday. Tory strategists say the party will make "change" its main pitch, spelling out their key policies while asking voters whether they want "another five years of Gordon Brown".
Despite the Tories' pledge to cut the public deficit faster than Labour, Mr Cameron said he would spell out before the election how marriage would be rewarded in the tax system. A rise in the threshold for inheritance tax to £1m has been promised by the following general election.
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
China's 'Inconvenient Truth': video exposing country’s smog crisis watched 100 million times
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...