Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday, 15 September 2004

On! On! - in the House of Commons, forsooth ...

Just two days ago we had 'Batman' posing for five-plus hours (!) on a ledge of the facade of Buckingham Palace.

Today there was a further humiliation - a group of protesters penetrated the Chamber of the House of Commons (click on the video link here to see the whole sequence of events), to show their opposition to the likely passing today of rushed legislation (see next paragraph) to ban hunting using hounds in England and Wales. Many thousands of in general much more peaceful protesters gathered in Parliament Square outside, although there were a number of violent clashes.

As expected the bill to ban hunting with hounds received its Second Reading today with a large majority for the government (356 votes to 166). I have no views of any kind about hunting, strong or otherwise. However, the way in which this legislation is being forced through Parliament only reinforces my belief that this government is taking yet another step toward reducing our democracy to a battle based purely on class hatred. In the past few days, even those who want hunting with hounds to be banned have admitted that their principal motivation is not aimed at the welfare of foxes, rather it reflects their obsession with curbing what they see as the curbing of a sport, with only partial accuracy, to be the preserve of the 'upper classes'; some of those protesting today did not look to me me to be by any stretch of the imagination members of an 'upper class', rather they looked to me to be a cross-section of British society. What it does seem to be is a clash of views between town and country dwellers. Naturally the Labour backbenchers who allowed this government legislation to succeed are preponderantly the representatives of urban constituencies and of course the UK is primarily an urbanised society so on the basis that the majority in a democracy rule, then this is certainly, on the face of it, democratic. But whether it is right for the urbanised majority to ride roughshod over the views, and the lifestyle, of a rural minority is less clear.

It is often the case that urban visitors to the countryside, whether of the 'weekend' or the more permanent variety, are often the most vociferous in endeavouring to keep the peace and tranquility of the countryside unspoilt, even if this in practice means that rural economies stagnate and make it difficult for younger people who grew up and want to continue to live there to find employment which pays a 'living wage', or to find a property they can afford to rent or buy; higher property prices in many urban areas mean also that rural-dwellers are likely to find a move to the city impossible in practical terms, whilst at the same time giving urbanites the purchasing power to outbid the local competition when rural property comes on to the market. I don't pretend to know a great deal about the economics of the countryside, but I do know that maintaining the beauty and tranquility of the countryside, for all of us (rural and urban) to enjoy, does not happen without active management - something that those who live in the countryside, and who help to keep 'pests' such as foxes under control, contribute a great deal more to than any urban-dweller.

The fact that this foolish legislation is being forced through Parliament, but will not become effective for at least 18 and possibly upto 24 months, conveniently after the expected date of the next General Election, says all one needs to say about how this Labour Government, of which Tony Blair is Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, sees our electoral system. Merely as a mechanism to be manipulated to ensure it can perpetuate itself in power.

None of which, of course, justifies protesters breaking into Parliament. As the man with overall responsibility for domestic security I expect it is highly unlikely that Home Secretary David Blunkett will offer his resignation for yet another botch-up committed whilst he is in charge. I expect it will as usual be blamed on others - probably the Police in this instance. Grrrr!

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