Magazine article The Spectator

True Labour, New Bans

Magazine article The Spectator

True Labour, New Bans

Article excerpt

Listening to the oleaginously unpleasant Dr Jack Cunningham on Today last Friday, I heard the true voice of Labour: the bullying, blinkered, intransigent Labour we knew of old. In opposition, Tony Blair succeeded in masking this tendency with his pretty smile and amiable manner but in power it is proving more difficult. True Labour rather than New Labour is Coming Out. Cunningham followed an interview with a Hampshire butcher who defiantly told the programme that he was continuing to sell meat on the bone and oxtails. His customers demanded it.

Cunningham said darkly that butchers shouldn't boast about this as there were local authority inspectors who would go in and enforce the law, and he understood that this particular butcher had been warned. Listening to his menacing comments I wondered when we'll see mass civil disobedience in the countryside. The countryside rallies in London are only the start. How long will it be before MIS is ordered to establish a Barbour squad to infiltrate dissident country folk? To bug their labradors and to infiltrate the Young Farmers Ball?

True Labour has been active in Bradford where the metropolitan district council has decided to ban grouse shooting on lIlley Moor. Fortunately, Ilkley is the only municipal grouse moor in the country, a fact I learned from Scenes From Provincial Life on Radio Four the week before last (Thursday). It was the second of a threepart series where novelists report from their home patches. For this particular programme, the producers Joy Hatwood and Joanna Rahim allowed the novelist Martyn Bedford to examine the dispute between the city and the country people of Ilkley.

In one sense Bedford was an appropriate choice in that he's the author of Acts of Revision, a novel about revenge, and it is clearly some sort of class revenge that has made the Labour councillors of Bradford end grouse shooting. In another sense, Bedford was not quite right for this task as he admitted towards the end of the programme that he was a vegetarian who knew nothing about shooting and would rather watch football. Although he now lived in Ilkley he was brought up in Croydon. Despite this unpromising admission he broadly remained fair though one detected where his sympathies lay.

I don't know much about grouse or pheasant shooting, either, though I'm surrounded where I live by shoots. I like hearing the guns blasting on a misty, wintry Saturday morning and observing the tweedy, brown-faced beaters patrolling the local roads in search of errant pheasants. …

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