Bill Hagerty: News from the front - how the papers read a bloody confrontation

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The Independent Online

Many members of the Countryside Alliance buy newspapers and, although they buy the different titles in varying numbers, I have no doubt that their potential purchases were in the minds of editors when they were laying out the front pages yesterday.

The Daily Express covered the story by sitting on the fence so firmly that the stakes of the fence were coming up through its throat. It doesn't like the Government but it thinks it has a Countryside Alliance readership. Their opinion page, "Is Fox Hunting Evil?", had the same old arguments everybody has done before so much better.

If they want to upset the Government, they should look at the way the Daily Mail does it. Love it or hate it, the Mail is an expert and knows exactly what it is doing.

I can't imagine why anyone would be surprised that the Mail ran the headline "Civil War". This story is just more fuel for the Mail 's increasingly venomous anti-government stance. Despite its protests, the Mail, rather than the Conservatives, still provides the real opposition faced by the Government.

I couldn't see anything in the Daily Mirror coverage that would entice anybody to buy it. There was the substandard headline "Toff With Their Heads". That's a real throwback - nobody says "toffs" any more. It was trivial and underplayed the story. The leader said: "Hunt for ban will be long, bitter battle", which was hardly revelatory.

The Sun covered it in a safe way and went right down the middle by going for the security issue when the real story was the event itself and the people that invaded the Commons. "For Fox Sake" was a better pun than the Mirror 's, if in dubious taste. That they mentioned Bryan Ferry's son in the second paragraph of the story reflects the celebrity-driven nature of the press today.

The Times gave us the worst headline of the day, "Invasion of Westminster". Dull and unoriginal. On the other hand the picture on the front page of my edition of The Times , showing the police cordon outside Westminster, was absolutely stunning, although what was even more stunning was that they devoted their first leader not to this story but to education.

At least their second leader, which was very well-argued, pointed out that the attack on the Commons will backfire on the entire movement against the ban on fox hunting, which hitherto had prided itself on its respectability.

It also attacked the Government for an unnecessary law - so not all of Wapping nods agreements towards Downing Street.

The shires readership of The Daily Telegraph was evident in its mild rebuke of the disruption while emphasising the view that the hunt supporters had been betrayed by an insecure Prime Minister.

The Guardian was in its element, describing the assault on Parliament as an attack on the liberty of the British people. No supporter of the pro-hunt lobby, The Guardian thinks it does not have to worry about people its readers see as wearing green Wellington boots and carrying pitchforks.

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