Why on earth are the Tories using the quiet news period between Christmas and New Year to talk about fox hunting? It’s a question many Conservative MPs are asking, worrying that it will only make their party look more posh and out-of-touch to most voters. Other than that Boxing Day is good day to place a story about hunting (check out Camilla’s festive mount in the Telegraph today), placing the story at all seems like an odd idea.
Even Labour are quite chuffed with the story, as it’s not exactly an offensive against the Opposition. They haven’t just used it to bash the Conservatives, but also to needle Ukip on whether the party supports a ban or not.
But why have the Conservatives given the Opposition a bit of a gift? The answer is less to do with broad appeals to the electorate, a little to do with an appeal to rural voters (some of whom were rather cheesed off that Owen Paterson lost his job as Environment Secretary in the reshuffle), and a lot to do with logistics. You see, at the last General Election the Conservatives rather relied on the help of pro-hunting groups. Vote-OK campaigned in marginal seats using volunteers who wouldn’t have turned out for the Tories alone. They have been growing steadily more furious over the past few years that their efforts haven’t even managed to secure a modest change in the Hunting Act. One of their reps told Lord Feldman at a party that they were ‘mercenaries who still haven’t been paid’, and so a trail about a pledge on hunting in the 2015 manifesto is the very least the Conservatives can do for their private army if they’re to have any hope of getting them marching again in a few months’ time.