RURAL AFFAIRS Minister Michael Alun Michael yesterday (Sunday) cancelled plans to take part in two marches to celebrate the introduction of the controversial Right to Roam acts.
He did so on police advice because there were widespread concerns of more angry protests from pro-hunt supporters. But the cancellation was looked upon as a major climb-down by Government and a victory for the Countryside Alliance and its supporters.
"You now have the ridiculous situation that the minister in charge of rural affairs daren't go into the countryside," scoffed an alliance supporter. "If I were Michael, I would be watching my back: all the signs are that he will be left hanging in the wind as scapegoat because the Government now realises it has made a huge mistake."
It was revealed over the weekend that the Prime Minister himself did not want to ban hunting and no member of his cabinet turned up at last Wednesday's debate, which voted to ban the sport after the chamber was invaded by five pro-hunt supporters.
Even the choice of yesterday's marches had been chosen to symbolise the triumph of right to roam campaigners over the people they call "nobs."
The first was on the borders of the Yorkshire Dales in the Trough of Bowland on land owned by the Duke of Westminster close to his prime grouse moors. To hold such a march in the height of the grouse shooting season was looked upon as a deliberate slap in the face to field sport followers.
The second was on Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, scene of the first ever access riots in the 1920s when Left Wing ramblers sang the Red Flag before fighting police and gamekeepers.