“The unspeakable in full pursuit of the uneatable” is how Oscar Wilde famously styled the sight of an English country gentleman on a fox hunt. Something of the same could be said of the sight of David Cameron, no stranger to a red coat, in full pursuit of the Hunting Act. And yet, having flushed out his quarry and in charge of a newly enlarged pack of slavering (mostly) pro-hunting Tory MPs, his prey is proving unexpectedly elusive.
For the Hunting Act 2004 will almost certainly survive now that the Scottish National Party has come out in its support. Rightly or wrongly, that is a matter of plain parliamentary arithmetic. To a large degree, though, Mr Cameron brought this particular defeat on himself. Had he not tried to enact a major legislative change by stealth through changing statutory instruments, the SNP’s case for intervention would be much weaker. Mr Cameron assumed too much about their behaviour, thinking they’d stick to their usual practice of ignoring English-only issues. Which is not to say that the SNP case was particularly strong. Indeed, some of their arguments are comically bogus, such as the idea that they had to defeat the Government to show Mr Cameron just how precarious his parliamentary majority is. The Prime Minister is not so stupid that he needs to be told.
As a guerrilla act of resistance to the idea of English votes for English laws (Evel), the SNP’s ploy worked. Still, the SNP’s almost rabid opposition to the “double majority” proposal for English-only legislation is hard to understand. Evel is simply the best answer yet found to the famous old West Lothian question. If those on the SNP benches in the Commons and at Holyrood can come up with a better idea, we’d love to hear it. The SNP’s vulpine cunning could also be put to good use on that project.Reuse content