A key part of Jeremy Hunt’s pitch to be the next prime minister is convincing Tory members that he is more popular with the general public than his opponent, Boris Johnson. It’s an effective message, that preys on Conservative members’ fears that Johnson is no longer the Heineken candidate of old, but a Marmite figure who is too divisive to win the next election.
But if you’re going to pursue a strategy which relies on mass public support, it’s probably not the best idea to rally behind one of the most controversial issues in the UK, which potentially cost Theresa May the 2017 general election: repealing the ban on fox hunting.
Nonetheless, in an interview with the Telegraph yesterday evening, Hunt said that if there was a majority in parliament for lifting the ban, he would support putting it to a vote and felt that it should be made legal, because it was ‘part of the countryside’.
And already, he’s finding that the topic is beginning to dominate his campaign. In an interview this morning on Radio 4, Hunt was pressed on his support for the practice, and asked simply if he felt that the sport was cruel.
But the Foreign Secretary was clearly not up for answering the question, saying that ‘my view is a matter of public record’ before attempting to steer the conversation toward other rural issues.
Hunt then dodged the question a further three times (not exactly a good look), before eventually relenting, saying that:
‘I have never hunted and it’s not my thing, but the way I’ve voted is a matter of public record. But this is not something that I will seek to change as prime minister.’
Mr S will let readers decide if the episode will harm his chances among Tory members…