Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Running with the Fox & Hunting with the Hounds

The abiding dilemma with politics is how much is cock-up and how much is conspiracy. Let's take the fox-hunting bill as an example, first of all as a cock-up.

The Tories have a problem with their back-benchers (especially those of the red-meat persuasion). There is a residue of resentment from the way that the Labour Party forced through the fox hunting ban back in 2004, especially the none-too-subtle elements of class war that came with it. Since with his majority of 16 David Cameron is going to have to rely on his fractious back-benchers to get key legislation trough this Parliament, why not throw them a bone early? There's a problem, in that the ban is fairly totemic for the Labour Party, and there are enough Tory antis to prevent it getting through a vote of the full house, but this shouldn't be a problem because the fox-hunting bill only affects England and Wales, where the Tories have a thumping majority.  Into this stump the SNP, announcing that they will oppose the ban being relaxed and forcing the Government to pull the motion.

Results: Egg on face all round, Government looks weak and pusillanimous. SNP look like king-makers, and Labour get to keep their ban. Now, let's look at this again as a conspiracy.

The Tories have a long-term aim of instituting English Votes for English Laws, but certain back-benchers are unhappy about the means of getting there. A free vote on relaxing the fox-hunting ban was in the Tory manifesto, but the last thing David Cameron wants is endless wrangling about toffs on horseback. The SNP have used fox-hunting frequently as a perfect example of a bill which only affects England, and which they would therefore never vote on. However, it was always likely that they would be unable to resist stirring the pot by embarrassing the Government.

The result is a bill that plainly and obviously only affects England, but that the SNP go into linguistic contortions to justify voting against. At a stroke the 'self-denying convention' that the SNP have talked about in the past (partly as a reason EVEL is unnecessary) is blown forever. The need for EVEL (as far as the Tories are concerned) is clearer than ever. The back-bench Tories who have been most troublesome over EVEL are also among the most pro-hunting.

Result: SNP look duplicitous, hypocritical and a bit ridiculous. The Government has a concrete example of why EVEL is required, and its back-bench doubters have had a prize objective taken away from them because it hasn't been introduced yet.

Usually the answer to these questions is cock-up. I'm not so sure this time.


Blogger Recusant said...

We can but hope, but like the current Pope, I'm not sure that Cameron is as aware as he should be of the second and third order consequences of his words and actions.

12:43 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

He does seem to busk it a bit doesn't he?

10:11 am  

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