Last week, Theresa May revealed that she has always been in favour of fox hunting, then a few days ago, her party’s published manifesto included a commitment to allow Conservative members of Parliament a free vote on the issue, should the Tories win the forthcoming election. This decision caused outrage and revulsion in many quarters, but I can’t help seeing this apparently self-serving decision in a slightly different light, as I shall describe after I’ve briefly run through some of the more obvious conclusions that can be reasonably drawn from what we now know.
As others have pointed out, there is perhaps an unprecedented degree of hypocrisy at work here, but such a thing is hardly unusual or remarkable in our modern era, when the approval ratings for politics and for all politicians have never been lower. With this woeful track record in mind, it breaks new ground in sheer gall for the prime minister to rule out a second vote on Brexit or on another Scottish referendum on independence, especially when both these votes were so close, yet to allow another vote on whether or not to legalise fox hunting once more, when all the polls I’ve seen show that something in the region of 85% of British voters are firmly against blood sports.
Perhaps there was a time when I would have been outraged by these things, but now, I cannot help but be amused when I see that the Conservative party are vociferously accusing their bemused Labour counterparts of wanting to take Britain back to the 1970s. After all, in 2017, nothing says that you’re a modern, progressive party more than announcing to an incredulous world that you want to reintroduce the barbaric practise of setting a pack of dogs on a wild animal for the pleasure of a few onlookers, but as I’m not the one seeking re-election, I will assume that Conservative party strategists are confident they know what they’re doing and are not going to make fools of themselves.
There are many political issues worth exploring in far greater depth, but I am far more interested in one aspect of Theresa May’s enthusiasm for fox hunting that no one has yet described and delved into, at least not as far as I’m aware. The prime minister is famously the daughter of a vicar, so before I’m accused of unfairly singling out an aspect of her character or history, I would simply say that this matter was covered and indeed highlighted as a positive virtue on page 17 of Friday’s Daily Mail, a newspaper that has shown itself to be Theresa May’s single greatest champion among our media thus far.
If being the daughter of a vicar somehow brings Theresa May qualities that prove useful to her and to the country, then she deserves all the credit going, while any success she achieves in the political arena should reflect well on her faith. On the other hand, I surely cannot be the only person who has more than a passing interest in Christianity, primarily on account of the extensive research I did for my 2009 book, who finds the practise of setting dogs on wild animals for the pleasure of a few onlookers to be completely at odds with the teachings of the central figure in Christianity.
Christianity is in sharp decline in Britain and this 2016 article from the Spectator is as good a summary of the matter as any that I’ve seen recently. I am no analyst, but it seems to me that if Christians are now a minority in Britain, as the figures tell us, and if a small minority of something like 15 or 20% of the population are in favour of blood sports, then a leading Christian figure such as Theresa May is notably going against the tide of history by publicly aligning herself with a pastime that the overwhelming majority of people in Britain view with revulsion.
Most of the indications that I’ve seen suggest that Theresa May and her Conservative party will win at the next election, although I personally doubt that her backing of fox hunting will have made much difference either way if this proves to be the case. However, while the Conservative party may turn out to be in power for the next five years or so, hunting foxes with packs of dogs and with terriers for the depraved practise of digging out continues to wane in popularity, especially among young people.
Unless some kind of miracle occurs, it seems to me that Christianity in Britain is on the way out as well, so when the history of this apparently doomed religion comes to be written, then I strongly suspect that Theresa May will be judged to have played a significant part in the emptying of Britain’s churches and in failing to inspire a new generation to fill these houses of worship, an odd legacy indeed for a churchgoing vicar’s daughter.