Editor-At-Large: If Otis wore a hoodie instead of a hunting jacket, he'd be in a prison cell

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The Independent Online

If Otis Ferry were black, lived in a council flat and wore a hoodie, he'd be spending this weekend under house arrest, probably the subject of an Asbo. He might even be sitting in a smelly police cell on remand, urinating in a bucket and queuing up for his supper. But because he's white, posh and moves in the right circles, he's perfectly free to carry on breaking the law and getting away with it. Now, Otis is very good-looking, which isn't surprising as mum's a former model (who's never actually done anything much in her life except hunt and look glamorous) and dad is style icon and pop legend Bryan Ferry, but sadly young Otis doesn't possess an IQ that makes double figures. He might be the youngest Master of Hunt in Britain, he might care passionately about the countryside, and he might be very angry that the Government seemed determined to ban hunting with dogs, but Otis has lived his 22 years under a major delusion. He honestly believes that if he stamps his feet, runs up and down and squawks enoug

If Otis Ferry were black, lived in a council flat and wore a hoodie, he'd be spending this weekend under house arrest, probably the subject of an Asbo. He might even be sitting in a smelly police cell on remand, urinating in a bucket and queuing up for his supper. But because he's white, posh and moves in the right circles, he's perfectly free to carry on breaking the law and getting away with it. Now, Otis is very good-looking, which isn't surprising as mum's a former model (who's never actually done anything much in her life except hunt and look glamorous) and dad is style icon and pop legend Bryan Ferry, but sadly young Otis doesn't possess an IQ that makes double figures. He might be the youngest Master of Hunt in Britain, he might care passionately about the countryside, and he might be very angry that the Government seemed determined to ban hunting with dogs, but Otis has lived his 22 years under a major delusion. He honestly believes that if he stamps his feet, runs up and down and squawks enough, then the Prime Minister will personally jump to attention and rearrange the laws of the land to suit the whims of Master Ferry and his pals. Of course life isn't like that, and with a democracy come all sorts of tough decisions. Leaving aside the need for proportional representation, we must accept that once MPs are elected we have to let them get on with running Britain. We can't have a pick'n'mix approach to legislation which is fully debated and voted on in the Houses of Parliament, no matter how flawed it might be.

I am a huge fan of the countryside but Mr Ferry and his law-breaking toffs haven't realised that owning a pack of hounds or riding a hunter aren't the only passports to an understanding of rural matters. It is actually possible to want to protect and cherish our countryside without getting sidelined into a debate about fox-hunting and it's insulting to everyone who will be enjoying a bit of open space this weekend. Unfortunately, Mr Ferry has hijacked the countryside with his belief that a hunting ban will mean the end of normal life in Britain. Anti-hunting legislation is mindless - and an infringement of personal freedom, no matter how distasteful you might find it - but what really makes me weep, is the way that young Master Ferry sees himself as a quasi-martyr.

He has broken the law and made a thorough nuisance of himself so often now, that only the fact he's middle-class and well-spoken allows him to get away with it. In 2002 he was arrested outside the Prime Minister's house in Trimdon, County Durham at 2am and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. In 2004 he was involved in another protest in Trimdon with opponents of the Hunting Bill. In September last year he invaded the House of Commons with his cronies, causing the most serious breach of security for over 300 years. He was arrested under the Parliament Act. After the recent election young Master Ferry made his way to the National Portrait Gallery and lunged at the Prime Minister and his wife at 6am when they arrived for their victory party. He was arrested again.

Otis dropped out of the incredibly expensive Marlborough College when he was 16. His brother Isaac was suspended from Eton for sending an abusive email to a hunt protester. His co-accused in the Commons protest, Luke Tomlinson, is a wealthy old Etonian who's a polo-playing friend of Harry and William. According to Otis, MPs voted for a hunting ban out of "bigotry" and he whinged that after the Commons invasion he was charged "for political reasons". Otis, baby, wise up - I know it's unfair and hard to stomach, but our elected MPs voted as their consciences dictated, and you were arrested because you broke the law.

But even more nauseating than Otis with his warped view of how life works was the judge who tried him. This imbecile claimed he was treating the defendants as "men of good character" (in spite of all the evidence that Otis is anything but) and added "to your credit the incident was brief" - as if that somehow made it more acceptable - before letting them off with a conditional discharge and ordering them to pay a piddling £350 each toward costs. Outside the court Otis boasted he had no regrets and "would not rule out" further action. If he had been a teenage tearaway in Middlesbrough or Newcastle, he would have been marched straight back into the dock and given a tough sentence.

Parliament operates with pretty minimal security. The pig-headed, selfish actions of Otis and chums have hastened the day when MPs will be sitting behind bulletproof screens and the public galleries will be permanently closed. But then Otis doesn't give a toss about democracy, unless it works in his favour. Disrupting Parliament is a serious offence, as evidenced by the sentences dished out to the Fathers4Justice pair who hurled purple powder in the House of Commons a year ago. One received a £600 fine and the other a two-year suspended prison sentence. But of course they didn't hunt, probably didn't know the royals and hadn't been to public school. Bryan Ferry is a charming man I have known and liked for years. He has had a long musical career bringing enjoyment to millions of people, is knowledgeable about art, unassuming, and passionate about football. His son is a thug who needs to grow up.

Immigration plus

So much rubbish is written about immigration, but figures published last week show the positive benefits brought by expanding the EU in 2004. More than 170,000 people from Eastern Europe applied to work here, of whom about a third were probably already here illegally. But only 8,000 of them applied for child benefit and just 43 were given council housing. We've gained 2,500 qualified bus, coach and lorry drivers, 200 doctors, and nurses and 485 teachers and classroom assistants. There are 42,000 Eastern Europeans in catering, 3,100 building labourers and 3,900 care assistants. In less than a year these immigrants have contributed £500m to the British economy. If you want a cleaner, electrician, builder, plumber or waiter these days, you'll find that the person who does the job will probably be Polish. They'll be hard-working and pleasant. Meanwhile too many Brits stupidly think that manual labour is beneath them.

* * *

Thank God Chelsea Flower Show is over once again, and we no longer have to read gushing reports about award-winning gardens made from recycled cans, gardens based on poetry, gardens inspired by naked women. My garden hasn't got a bloody water feature, black tulips or purple foliage. Kim Wilde hasn't laid my paving stones and I haven't got the Venus de Milo made of bay leaves. I've got a vegetable patch surrounded by rabbit-proof wire, encrusted with non-eco-friendly slug pellets. I have geraniums in vulgar shocking pink and I still like normal white roses, not varieties named after Princess Diana or Geri Halliwell.

My garden is like me, hardly cutting-edge but quietly confident.

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