PRO-HUNTING campaigners from across the North of England left Prime Minister Tony Blair in no doubt whatsoever about the depth of feeling that exists against his Government’s anti-hunting Bill, which will see hunting outlawed within two years.
On Friday, demonstrators turned up at Mr Blair’s constituency home in Trimdon, near Sedgefield, County Durham, when Mr Blair was in residence, to show their determination to oppose Government plans to ban hunting.
The demonstrators, some with dogs, blew hunting horns and held up pro-hunting banners asking: "Are foxes more important than people? Get real, MPs."
The scale of the demonstration, which lasted three hours, caught police by surprise with only two close protection officers and two uniformed officers on duty at his home. Reinforcements were swiftly brought in.
The Prime Minister eventually agreed to see a five-strong delegation from the protesters, who included Otis Ferry, son of Bryan Ferry, the singer. Sam Butler, who led the delegation, said: "Mr Blair said he was under a lot of political pressure from MPs to ban the sport."
Mr Butler claimed that the proposed two-year transitional period, which would allow the ban on hunting to be gradually phased in, was like "telling someone they were going to be shot tomorrow but not today". He added: "We continue to make the case that this ban will affect a lot of people and their livelihoods and we reminded him that over 500,000 people had protested in London two years ago against a ban."
The Prime Minister later left for a series of constituency engagements. As he drove away, one pro-hunt campaigner was arrested on suspicion of breach of the peace.
Countryside Alliance Chief Executive, Simon Hart, said: "The Prime Minister was left in no doubt of the seriousness of the opposition he will face as the Government tries to implement a ban on hunting. This demonstration marks the start of our campaign against unjust legislation being inflicted on rural people for the pleasure of Labour backbenchers.
"On Wednesday [this week] thousands more people will gather in Westminster to ensure that the rest of Mr. Blair's party get the same message. We will hold them to account for their corrupt politics, and the rest of the country will ask why Labour's obsession with hunting continues to sideline real issues which matter to real people".
Mr Blair was later forced to meet with hunt campaigners for the second time in 36 hours as the roads around Chequers were brought to a stand still by a Countryside Alliance protest on Saturday night, disrupting a party for the PM’s wife’s birthday .The protest ensured that several guests who were en route to Cherie Blair’s party were turned away on the advice of police officers.
Protest leaders Polly Portwin and Emma Pearce agreed to lift the blockade only after the Prime Minister met them. Mr. Blair claimed, as he had when faced by the delegation in Trimdon on Friday, that there was ‘nothing he could do’ to stop legislation to ban hunting because of the obsession of Labour backbench MPs with the issue.
Alliance Chief Executive, Simon Hart, commented again: "It is simply not good enough for the Prime Minister of this country to claim that he is impotent to stop a deeply prejudiced section of his party passing discriminatory legislation.
"He knows perfectly well that by bringing forward a Bill to licence hunting
the Government fulfilled its manifesto commitment to ‘enable Parliament to resolve the (hunting) issue’. That resolution was rejected not by the hunting community or the House of Lords, but by the very backbench Labour MPs he is now fawning to.
"If he allows this legislation to be driven through he will be openly supporting the vindictive discrimination of his backbench MPs".