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Even party members are confused by hunt plans

Mixed messages from Labour are causing confusion: the party says it respects the rural way of life — while insisting it will ban hunting.

When shadow Environment Secretary Steve Reed insisted a Labour government would prohibit drag and trail-hunting in its first term, 10,000 members of the public emailed Mr Reed within 72 hours. 

In an interview in The Times, Mr Reed initially made the comments relating to foxhunting, while also stressing that the Labour Party wanted to shift from being “narrowly urban” and show the countryside that the party “respects their way of life”. 

The Countryside Alliance and other rural organisations have been working with Labour since these comments, and believes there is confusion in the party about the current approach to a full hunting ban. 

Mr Reed has given two major interviews since he spoke to The Times without mentioning trail-hunting. He has also assured rural lobbying groups that Labour’s plans regarding foxhunting are limited to a minor tweak to ensure that the law is being adhered to. 

Sir Keir Starmer and Mr Reed have both publicly admitted that Labour has lost touch with rural Britain and has already backtracked on other policy positions such as banning grouse shooting and introducing a right to roam. 

Countryside Alliance chief executive Tim Bonner has suggested the positive steps by Labour to court the rural vote will be undone if it does decide to launch another attack on hunting. “Labour is not following public opinion with its commitment on trail-hunting, it is bowing to a small group within the party for whom hunting is a totemic political issue. 

“It is impossible to square such an approach with the suggestion that Labour has a renewed respect for rural communities. Keir Starmer will have to decide whether he really is going to change Labour’s approach to the countryside, or whether he is going to enable another attack on hunting.” 

Shooting Times’s hunting contributor Rachel Green said: “When Labour win the next election have they really nothing better on their agenda than to ban all forms of hunting? It seems neither they nor the present Government have any interest in the countryside or farming. Reed and Starmer can rest assured their proposed full ban of all forms of hunting will only find favour with a small percentage of voters.”