Exclusive:

Now Brown declares class war on hunting

New campaign highlights Cameron's pursuit of 'barbaric' sport

Labour will today launch a hard-hitting campaign against David Cameron's proposal to repeal the ban on hunting with dogs. The move will be seen as an extension of its "class war" against the Conservatives. Ministers will point to Mr Cameron's record of supporting fox-hunting and condemn his proposal to give MPs the chance to overturn the Hunting Act if he becomes Prime Minister.

Writing in The Independent today, the Environment Secretary Hilary Benn says: "Quite why this is something that would be a priority for a Tory government, instead of the economy or tackling other concerns, is hard to explain to the public and [the Conservatives] have failed to do so."

Last night, Mr Benn explained: "David Cameron used to hunt foxes. He talked about fox-hunting in his first speech to Parliament, and he has said that if he becomes Prime Minister he will get rid of the fox-hunting ban.

"But like the vast majority of people, I think the barbaric act of letting dogs tear foxes to pieces should not return to our countryside. If you think the Tories have changed, their views on fox-hunting with dogs make it absolutely clear that their priorities haven't."

Supporters of hunting will be out in force today – traditionally a big day in the hunting calendar – to press for the repeal of the Act. But Labour's decision to launch the "back the ban" campaign makes clear that the party will make hunting an issue at next year's general election. Although Mr Benn insists hunting is not a "class issue", the move follows Gordon Brown's attack on Mr Cameron's plans to cut inheritance tax, which he said were "dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton".

One senior Labour source said: "We are not saying hunting will be the centrepiece of our election campaign. But it is an issue that concerns many people and it says something about the Conservatives. They say 'we are all in it together' but their policies, whether on inheritance tax or hunting, show that under a Cameron government there would be one rule for their friends and another for the rest of us."

When Labour's focus groups remind voters of the Tories' stance on hunting, many people are said to reply: "I guess they haven't changed." People are surprised that Mr Cameron wants to overturn the ban, and Labour believes the policy undermines his claim to have modernised the Conservative Party.

However, some Blairites are wary of Labour's "class war" attacks, which they fear will undermine the party's support among the aspirational middle classes and give the impression that Labour is appealing to its "core vote" in the hope of denying Mr Cameron an overall majority.

A "Tory toffs" campaign in last year's Crewe and Nantwich by-election backfired on Labour, but Brown allies insist that the new drive is legitimate because it is linked to Tory policies, not personalities.

The "back the ban" campaign will be endorsed today by the television presenter Tony Robinson and actors Patrick Stewart and Jenny Seagrove. Its survey of parliamentary candidates found that 84 per cent of Tories who responded did not support prohibition of hunting with dogs, but 98 per cent of Labour candidates did.

The emotive campaign will challenge Tory parliamentary candidates to make public their positions on hunting. Labour activists and hunting opponents will be told: "Find out what your MP and candidates think about allowing foxes to be ripped apart by the teeth of hounds."

Amid signs that the Tories are playing down the issue, their candidates are said to have been advised not to state their view on hunting but to promise to consult their constituents before deciding how to vote. The Tory manifesto will promise a free vote on a government rather than a private member's Bill, a move which guarantees parliamentary time and would make it harder for opponents to block. If the Tories win an overall majority, the Commons is expected to overturn the ban.

The 2004 Act made the hunting of all wild mammals using dogs an offence and banned hare coursing, but did not stop people from riding with their dogs if they remain within the law. The Tories insist the Act is ineffective and unworkable. They say there have been few successful prosecutions and that such a bad law should be repealed.

In February Mr Cameron said: "My personal view has always been the ban doesn't work, it doesn't make sense. It's an area of life that I don't think the law ought to go into. It doesn't seem to have worked in any way."

*The Charity Commission has banned a "keep cruelty history" newspaper advertisement planned by the League Against Cruel Sports, which opposes the repeal of the Act.

According to Whitehall sources, the commission ruled that the advertisement – which highlighted the words "cruel Tory" in blue type – would have breached charity rules that ban party political campaigns.

Hunting ban What impact has it had?

*Despite the ban, more than 300 hunts are expected to meet today, on the biggest day in the hunters' calendar.

*The law permits them to chase their quarry across country, provided the hunt does not end with a fox being torn to pieces by hounds. Any form of hunting with dogs, including hare-coursing and deer stalking, was banned under the 2004 Hunting Act. The Conservatives have promised that if they will next year's general election, they will give MPs a free vote on whether to repeal the Act.

*The RSPCA has released figures which, it says, show that the Hunting Act has proved to be an effective piece of legislation. There have been more prosecutions under the Act than under similar legislation on animal welfare, and more than three-quarters of the prosecutions have been successful. Last week, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a claim that the Act was a breach of human rights.

*But research carried out by the Countryside Alliance shows that 57 per cent of the public believe that the Act is a failure, and nearly half think that a new government should either repeal it or give Parliament a free vote on whether to keep it.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Sport
wimbledonScot will face Ivo Karlovic next
Life and Style
Kissing
life
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test