Theresa May has confirmed that she has ditched plans that would have allowed the end of the ban on foxhunting, in the latest attempt to repair the Conservatives’ reputation on animal rights.
In a U-turn that will anger some party members and supporters in its rural heartlands, she revealed that she was dropping plans in the Tory election manifesto to hold a parliamentary vote on reversing the ban.
The prime minister voted against the ban when it was introduced under Tony Blair and New Labour. However, the decision to include a vote on the repeal of the ban has been blamed by some Tory MPs as contributing to the party’s disastrous result.
In an interview recorded for the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show to be broadcast on Sunday morning, May said that she had “not changed” her personal view on hunting and had “never fox hunted”.
However, she added that she wanted to listen to the verdict of voters at the election. “If I look back at the messages that we got from the election, one of the clear messages we got is that there are a number of areas in which people were concerned about what we were proposing,” she said.
“So, just as we have looked at issues on school funding, on tuition fees, on housing, we are taking forward approaches in relation to that. On this issue of foxhunting, what I can say is that there won’t be a vote during this parliament.
“As I said my own view hasn’t changed. As prime minister, my job isn’t just about what I think about something. It’s about what the view of the country is.”
It follows a concerted effort by the party and Michael Gove, the environment secretary, to counter social media campaigns denouncing the party’s record on animal rights. A Survation poll taken ahead of the election revealed that 67% of voters believed foxhunting should remain illegal.
During the election campaign, Labour officials said the foxhunting pledge had helped them enormously on the doorstep.
While May’s move had become inevitable, it will unleash a backlash within the party. In previous elections, the Tories have been helped on the ground by Vote-OK, a pro-hunting organisation, mobilising its supporters to back the local Tory campaign. Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, has warned that ditching the hunting pledge would have serious consequences.