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Country folk criminalized as democracy dies

Friday 19 November 2004

Our non-hunting countryside commentator John Sheard, whilst sympathising with those who hate the sport on compassionate grounds, says that yesterday's ban of fox hunting was just one of several measures that are killing democracy in Britain

JUST OVER a week ago, at 11 am on November 11th, I stood is silence for two minutes before the altar of Kirkby Malham Parish Church - the "cathedral of the Yorkshire Dales," as it is known - and thought of my long gone mum.

It was Remembrance Day and my mother suffered terribly in two world wars. Her elder brother was killed on the Somme in 1916 and my father died in 1943. With millions more, they died knowing that Britain was fighting for democracy in defence of the rights of the individual.

Yesterday, one of those rights was stripped away from hundreds of thousands of country folk and against the wishes of at least 15 million more. Tens of thousands of those will lose their jobs - and, in the case of most kennel servants - their homes. So far, they have been offered virtually no compensation.

RIP? Hunting will not rest in peace.
RIP? Hunting will not rest in peace.

As someone who have never hunted and has a strong dislike for horses, I could have felt some sympathy with those who are against hunting on compassionate grounds. But compassion played no part in yesterday's events in the so-called Mother of Parliaments.

Hunting with hounds will become illegal next February 18 because Labour left wingers have used it as a class-war weapon against the "toffs" in the House of Lords - and a cowardly Prime Minister has let them get away with it as a sop to take attention away from his failings in other, far more important, arenas.

Readers who don't follow politics too closely (and nor would I if it weren't for my job) may think I am going over the top by saying democracy died yesterday over fox hunting. If they were better informed, they might shudder with dread at the future.

As well as banning hunting, parliament also yesterday agreed to ban smoking in most pubs, enforce people putting their houses up for sale to produce a property log book at an estimated cost of £1,000, and only smack their children lightly enough as not to cause a mark.

It also waved through was a bill allowing the Government to suspend all previous civil rights legislation since the barons forced King John to sign Magna almost a thousand years ago - except, that is, the controversial EU Human Rights Act which, so far, has been used mainly to protect illegal immigrants.

In an emergency (and only the Government can say what that is), people could be arrested without trial and would no longer have the right of Habeas corpus: i.e., they could be locked away in some dark dungeon and the courts could no longer order the state to "produce the body."

It was the third time this Government has used the Parliament Act, brought into by Lloyd George almost a century ago to force the Lords to accept the introduction of the national old age pension. And it has only been used six times since 1911.

Apart from banning hunting, this sledgehammer was also used to bring the age of consent for homosexual boys down from 18 to 16 and to introduce voting rules for European parliamentary elections which were thought to favour Labour - although they didn't, much, because few people voted anyway.

There are millions of down-to-earth people, in the towns as well as the country, who would be deeply offended by the use of such powerful instruments to force through politically correct legislation - if, of course, they knew about it. But politics and politicians are held in such contempt by the vast majority of people that they just can't be bothered to take an interest.

Well, with a bit of luck, the foxhunting ban will not go unnoticed. The Countryside Alliance has already lodged a legal challenge in the High Court saying that the use of the Parliament Act was illegal.

And if there is to be a general election next May, it will be fought against a background of civil unrest in the countryside not seen since Watt Tyler and the Peasant's revolt. With a bit of luck, ordinary, urban voters will see how their rights are also being crushed. But, whatever happens, hunting will not rest in peace!


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