The Sketch: Bluff and bluster as the Lords try and fail to get to grips with fox hunting

Click to follow
The Independent Online

What are we doing here? Stopping in for a quick snooze after lunch? It's the Lords. They're doing hunting with dogs. They've been at it since the early hours (11am, to be precise; what time did you start work yesterday?).

What are we doing here? Stopping in for a quick snooze after lunch? It's the Lords. They're doing hunting with dogs. They've been at it since the early hours (11am, to be precise; what time did you start work yesterday?).

Baroness Gail, or Gayle, or Gale, it wasn't clear how she spelt herself, told us of a scandal in her native Wales, or Whales or Wails concerning dogs and badgers. "The injuries," she wailed, or possibly whaled, "were consistent with dogs fighting a badger!" The dog, it should be explained, had a severed badger's head in its mouth. One's senses are sharpened so, are they not, in the countryside. Fox hunting, she told us, was barbaric and bloodthirsty. She seemed to be against it, but didn't explain why.

A Conservative peer declared an interest. He was the Earl of Onslow. He'd fallen off a lot of horses in his time. Broken a lot of bones. Fallen off quite recently as a matter of fact. On his head, possibly. Had to sell a stupendously good horse. It didn't seem right. But enjoying another hunt stupendously. The horse. Not the Earl of Onslow.

He dwelt on the ironies of modern life. Banning hunting but chopping up six-month-old foetuses. "We have a saint for hunting but we're considering banning it!" Try arguing with that. He concluded with an aphorism: "Fascism," he said, "is a word that should be used extreeeeeemely lightly."

What were we doing here again? Hunting with dogs. The Government wants to ban hunting with dogs to please its back bench without offending people who hunt with dogs. The strategy is to be proactive in a reactive sort of way and do as much as it can without doing anything at all. That is what we are doing in the Lords.

Lord Willoughby de Broke (pronounced "brick") referred to Baroness Fookes (you don't want to know how she's pronounced) and laughed at her reliance on "crack marksmen". I must say, he made them sound quite indecent.

"We saw the horrors of so-called marksmen wounding, failing to kill and missing a cow." If we don't hunt foxes with dogs how else are we to control their numbers? "If they can't hit a cow in broad daylight, how are they going to hit a fox in the middle of the night?" Out there at night, "deranged gunmen shooting Willy Nilly". Awful business. Poor Mr Nilly, he doesn't even hunt, and who's going to look after Mrs Nilly?

Lord Weatherill told us he was a tailor by trade. "Most of the garments I made appeared on the hunting field. And when I read Horse and Hound, I see far too many advertisements for second-hand hunting clothes!" What a Speaker he must have been, in the Commons.

So how do we control this serial killer, red in tooth and paw? Some old coot told us that as many (or as few) as 25,000 foxes a year were killed by the hunt but 60,000 were killed on the roads.

The transport angle brings us back to where the whole sorry story started: Stephen Byers. The banning of fox hunting is Labour's reward to its back bench for supporting him. No wonder they prefer carnage to bloodsport.

SimonCarr75@hotmail.com

Comments