Hunting, hooligans in tweed, and hypocrisy

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How strange. When the protests of miners threatened with job losses, students opposing the poll tax or campaigners against globalisation end in violence, the protesters are yobs and hooligans hell-bent on violence. But when they are huntsmen and country folk fighting to preserve their sport, they are decent law-abiding people pushed into direct action by a callous Government. Oh yes, and the heavy-handed police are responsible for the demonstrations getting out of hand.

How strange. When the protests of miners threatened with job losses, students opposing the poll tax or campaigners against globalisation end in violence, the protesters are yobs and hooligans hell-bent on violence. But when they are huntsmen and country folk fighting to preserve their sport, they are decent law-abiding people pushed into direct action by a callous Government. Oh yes, and the heavy-handed police are responsible for the demonstrations getting out of hand.

Welcome to the contorted world view of many on the right, who treated the invasion of the House of Commons and clashes outside Parliament with remarkable indulgence. Right-wing newspapers, usually so quick to condemn protests that get out of hand, have been muted in their condemnation of the perpetrators of the mayhem. Tory MPs, usually so critical of direct action and violence protests, seemed almost supportive of such antics.

Perhaps it was because the protesters wore check shirts and tweed suits rather than T-shirts and dreadlocks. Or perhaps it is just breath-taking hypocrisy.

This newspaper does not support the proposed ban on hunting, an illiberal measure and a diversion from more important issues. But the facts are simple. An elected government is forcing through a measure that was in its manifesto and is supported by a majority in the country. Consequently, where is the difference between the hooliganism of some poll-tax protesters and the hooliganism of some in the hunting lobby? On Wednesday, missiles (to say nothing of obscenities) were thrown at police officers guarding Parliament. Firecrackers and smoke bombs were detonated as protesters rushed their lines. Simply by congregating these protesters were breaking the law; big demonstrations outside Parliament are banned when it is sitting, precisely to avoid this sort of intimidation.

When Otis Ferry and his gang rushed on to the floor of the Commons, they complained about the Government's "contempt for democracy", a sentiment echoed by the protesters outside. But it is Mr Ferry and the howling mob that demonstrated a contempt for democracy. The hypocrites in the media and politics should recognise this, and think a little harder about the values they are suddenly espousing.

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