Can Blair play it both ways?
What’s going to be the electoral impact of the Government plan not to oppose the Countryside Alliance if it seeks an injunction delaying the ban on hunting?
Certainly the move is in line with the thinking of ministers when they tried to push the implementation to the other side of the General Election by seeking to insert a delaying clause. But seeking to do something in Parliament is completely different from what could be presented as “caving in” to the CA.
Is Tony Blair in danger of upsetting both sides? He won’t gain anything from the pro-hunt lobby for going along with this move and he might now be sacrificing the goodwill of the animal welfare groups.
The injunction should also take away the threat of serious protests during the General Election run-in which probably would have re-bounded on the pro-hunt lobby and reinforced support for the Government. It would have enabled ministers to have presented the CA as extremists thus underlining the need to have a ban and would have been a good issue to attack the Tories over their commitment to law and order.
There’s also the huge risk that an injunction by the courts against the implementation of any legislation does not look good for a government.
For the vast majority of voters hunting is not an issue that will determine whether and how they vote. But there are smallish, but nethertheless significant, groups who feel so passionately either side of the argument that it will be a vote-decider. This latest move reinforces the perception that Tony Blair is not happy with the new law thus, possibly, depriving him possibly of some of the benefit.
There’s also the down-side that for many of those who are strongly in favour of hunting the ban could be a vote-critical issue. The latest move is unlikely to make them less determined to turn-out and they are likely to go with the Tories rather than, say, UKIP.
Happy Christmas and thanks for all your support during the year. In the interests of my health (my family will kill me if I spend the entire holiday in front of the computer) there’ll only be a limited number of updates until the New Year.
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