Will Theresa May really be able to repeal the fox hunting ban?
Written by News on 12/05/2017
Theresa May faces having to win over a chunk of her own party if she is to push ahead with a vote to scrap the fox hunting ban.
The Prime Minister has confirmed the Conservative manifesto for next month’s General Election will retain the party’s promise to grant MPs a free vote on the controversial issue.
Mrs May is "personally" in favour of traditional forms of fox hunting, which were outlawed by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 2004.
But it is unclear whether Mrs May’s views will be shared by enough of her Tory colleagues in the next parliament to make a repeal of the legislation possible.
Many could be influenced by their own supporters’ lack of enthusiasm.
An online survey conducted by YouGov this week revealed 52% of Tory voters supported keeping the ban with only 30% in favour of repealing the Hunting Act.
Overall two-thirds (67%) of the total 4,460 respondents were in favour of retaining the legislation, with only 17% opposed.
Mrs May will have noted how her predecessor David Cameron dropped his own plans to hold a free vote on the return of fox hunting with dogs in July 2015 after it became clear he would not win.
With pollsters predicting a clear Conservative win on 8 June, pro-hunting campaigners are hopeful a significant Tory majority in the next parliament will see an end to the ban.
But Tory candidate Sir David Amess, who is hoping to be re-elected as Southend West MP, insisted there is "no way" a repeal of hunting laws would be passed by a future parliament.
A patron of the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting group, Sir David told Sky News: "So many Conservatives think differently these days."
Sir David dismissed suggestions a Tory majority of about 50 MPs in the next parliament would be large enough to amend fox hunting laws.
He added: "The modern MP responds to campaigns and there would be a big, big campaign about this.
"Many of them (potential new Tory MPs) would vote against it or abstain, especially as it wouldn’t be a whipped vote."
Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire is among a handful of ministers likely to oppose a change to fox hunting laws.
Sir David claimed about 60 Tory MPs in the last parliament had been opposed to fox hunting.
But pro-hunting Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg, standing to be re-elected in North East Somerset, insisted most Conservative MPs would like to see the ban amended.
He said: "The hunts have worked very hard in a number of constituencies and therefore there’s a great deal of gratitude to them from existing Conservative members."
Mr Rees-Mogg, however, admitted the Tories’ target of stealing seats from other parties on 8 June could reframe the debate.
He said: "In the next parliament it (the argument) will be more about freedom of the individual than it will be about the management of the countryside.
"The Conservatives must expect to win more urban MPs for whom this is not a pressing constituency issue."
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(c) Sky News 2017: Will Theresa May really be able to repeal the fox hunting ban?