THE AXE is expected to fall today or tomorrow on fox hunting as town-based left wing Labour MPs go ahead with their plans to abolish a centuries-old rural tradition.
The House of Commons yesterday rejected by a majority of 117 a compromise solution to allow hunting to continue under licence in areas where foxes are a serious pest.
In rejecting the compromise, Labour back benchers are believed to have gone against the wishes of Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is said to fear that it will spark months of pro-hunting protests before a general election expected next spring.
However Blair has said nothing publicly on the issue in recent months and has not attended any of the parliamentary debates.
If the Commons does reject the Lords' amendments, the ban will be pushed through using the Parliament Bill, a device used in the past only in times of acute national emergency - it was first brought in by Lloyd George almost a century ago to over-ride Tory peers who voted against the creation of an old age pension.
If the ban is imposed, hunting has one last chance: the Countryside Alliance is preparing to launch legal action in the courts saying the ban is a contravention of hunter supporters' human rights under European law.