A leaked email has revealed a secret Tory plot to bring back fox hunting after the election.
The email was written by the chairman of the Council of Hunting Associations and Tory Peer Lord Mancroft. In it, the chairman urges local hunt masters to campaign for Conservative candidates standing for marginal seats.
Former PM David Cameron tried to overturn the ban in 2015, but his slender majority plus some rebel backbenchers (as a 'matter of conscience' MPs do not have to toe the party line) as well as pressure from the SNP meant he had no chance of winning so he shelved the vote.
Now many people are predicting a Tory landslide, meaning the legislation is more vulnerable than ever, as the majority of Conservative MPs are pro-hunting, and would support May's efforts to scrap the ban which has been in place for 12 years.
Lord Mancroft believes a majority of just 50 would be enough to legalise fox hunting once more.
In his email he wrote: "This is the chance we have been waiting for. A majority of 50 or more would give us a real opportunity for repeal of the Hunting Act. This is by far the best opportunity we have had since the ban, and is probably the best we are likely to get in the foreseeable future.”
Not all Tory MPs support fox hunting - a small group have formed the Conservatives Against Fox Hunting (the Blue Fox group). The patrons include Tracey Crouch MP, Sports Minister, Caroline Dinenage MP, Equalities Minister, Sir Roger Gale MP, Sir David Amess MP and Dominic Raab MP, former Justice Minister.
Sir Roger Gale has spoken out against blood sports on a number of occasions.
He has previously said: “A combination of those who still bear the scars of hours of debate about the Hunting Act before it was finally passed into law, and a 2010 intake of young MPs who are not wedded to the idea of controlling wild animals by chasing them with dogs and then watching with apparent pleasure as those animals are torn apart, saw that proposal off, at least for some time.
“The Government had to bow to the fact that there was no parliamentary stomach for revisiting the legislation.”
Repeal on cards?
Could a larger Tory government - plus pressure from the hunt supporters Lord Mancroft is urging support their local candidates - mean repeal is on the cards?
Politicians of other parties fear this could be the case, with Angela Smith, Labour’s candidate in Penistone and Stocksbridge, saying: “This is exactly why we must not give the Tories a blank cheque.
“If Theresa May wins a big majority on June 8 we will see all the worst excesses of an unrestrained Tory Government.
“Bringing back fox-hunting, one of the cruellest blood sports imaginable, will be just the start.”