Our aristocrats need to move with the times: stop hunting and get into 'Heat'

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The Independent Online

I don't want hunting banned. I just want it to go away. But it never does. The propaganda war has been raging for decades now and the issue has been right at the heart of government for years. What tedious years they have been.

I don't want hunting banned. I just want it to go away. But it never does. The propaganda war has been raging for decades now and the issue has been right at the heart of government for years. What tedious years they have been.

There can be no doubt that many people hold the strongest of views on this subject. Indeed, the archetypal alien visitor might get the idea that hunting is the only example of cruelty to animals left in this country, rather than one that is dwindling while others - such as factory farming - thrive pretty much unchallenged.

What a waste of passion and energy it all seems though. I can't help wondering whether hunting would actually be as popular now as it is, had it not, long ago, been made into such a cause célèbre by the hunt saboteurs themselves.

And what a cause célèbre it has become. How glamorous, how top drawer, how young and hip ... fox hunting it turns out is defended most loyally by the friends of princes, the sons of rock stars, Old Etonians, Marlborough boys, and polo players.

How odd none of those who stormed the Commons had thought to invite the cross-section of people in all walks of life that their experience of hunting had introduced them to. Perhaps they're not as chummy with "ordinary country folk" as the Countryside Alliance would have us believe. How ironic their protest has achieved so little - except of course, to confirm the widespread belief hunting is the hobby of a privileged social elite with bugger all else to do except seek dangerous and expensive thrills.

(Though it has to be pointed out the dangerous thrill of being truncheoned by a police officer doesn't go down awfully well with those who enjoy watching the living flesh of other creatures being ripped apart. Which is odd, because the pictures of their scars look pretty similar to the photographs of their first "blooding", though of course the blood this week was their own.)

Meanwhile, there is no longer much in the way of dissent when the cry of "class war" goes up. Once upon a time, anti-hunters would deny vehemently there was any such motivation behind their hatred. Now, they embrace the accusation, triumphantly, pointing out how the little, faded, country squirearchy is willing to defy democracy and the law of the land in order to maintain its sad, cruel prerogatives.

How deranged this culture is. Broadly, the nation remains in thrall to the idea of an aristocracy, especially an aristocracy willing to move with the times, drink at Chinawhites, be photographed snogging in a bikini, and smile merrily at the snappers.

An aristocracy that co-operates with the idea of entitlement being just another form of celebrity, is not only tolerated but actually celebrated. An aristocracy, however, that goes around high-handedly doing the high-handed stuff aristocrats always have done, has no place in Heat.

Maybe Otis Ferry and his chums are in the throes of challenging this absurd state of affairs. More likely, the chumps are up to their necks in it. Will Otis sell his story to the tabloids? If he does, he'll be huntsman turned quarry for the rest of his days.

Reality - or just mocking the afflicted?

*A new documentary series began this week on Channel 4, entitled My Crazy Parents. It claims to tell the stories of children who have to cope with the mental illness of their mothers or fathers. Actually, though, it is just a piece of vile voyeuristic "reality television" posing as a documentary to persuade mentally ill people and minors (erroneously) that, if they sign the release form, they'll help others in their situation.

Lucy (left), one of the teenagers featured last night, was in a psychiatric unit by the time the programme ended. Would her descent into mental illness have been as spectacular without the cameras around, demanding responses from her as she went on drinking binges, wept as she broke up with a boyfriend, or showed them her favourite self-harming knife?

Who can guess? Not the viewer. All she is asked to do is stare. There is no contextualising information about the various pathologies and illnesses displayed on the programme at all. Nor is there any advice about successful coping strategies that children in similarly hellish situations might adopt.

I support the idea that television can be a powerful tool in the fight to educate the public about mental health issues. But this programme has nothing to contribute. It is a cynical, sentimental and intimate tour through a series of modern, domestic, Bedlams. The obligatory figleaf, a "helpline" at its conclusion, excuses nothing.

* Chinawhite, by the way, is the London nightclub so beloved of the country set that it ran a marquee at a recent and auspicious polo event, garnering much breathless publicity about the bright young things holding court there. But why is it that in all the acres of coverage the watering hole gets from such esteemed organs as the Daily Mail, the fact its name is the same as a "brand" of heroin is never mentioned? Am I the only person who thinks this odd? Is the very fact I'm mentioning it an example of how the media promotes heroin chic? Or is this simply a dumb name for a licenced premises catering to young people?

* According to the publicity surrounding Cherie Booth's new book, B>The Goldfish Bowl, the Prime Minister's wife (also mother-of-four, barrister, charity worker etc ...) decided to write it when she found she was expecting her fifth child. This was because she believed that she would "have some time on her hands". Fiona Millar, Ms Booth's former press officer, has declared what a formidable woman Ms Booth is. But surely nothing describes what a high achiever this woman is better than that brief anecdote. Ms Millar also suggests that Ms Booth's experience in Downing Street should inspire a reassessment of the Prime Minister's spouse in government, and should prompt an official recognition of the post's demands and duties. This suggestion should be avoided like the plague. I bow to no man in my amazement at Ms Booth's schedule. But the idea that anything similar should actually be expected of other spouses in future, rather than simply marvelled at, is just plain scary.