The leaders of Britain’s fox hunts have boasted that they ‘got away with it’ after the demonstration outside parliament which ended in violent clashes with the police, a leaked memo reveals.
Despite publicly condemning the ugly scenes, a confidential memo sent from Stephen Lambert, chairman of the Council for Hunting Associations (CHA), reveals senior figures in the hunting world gloried in the publicity surrounding the 15 September protests. They described the storming of the Commons as an ‘epic’.
Details of the letter sent out on Monday – and leaked to The Observer – have emerged as pro-hunt supporters launch a campaign of intimidation against Labour politicians. Yesterday more than 100 protesters barricaded Welsh secretary Peter Hain in his South Wales home to prevent him attending this week’s Labour Party conference in Brighton. Hunt supporters began the siege at dawn yesterday and promised to remain outside the minister’s country home ‘for as long as it takes’.
Hunt leaders are increasingly concerned that they are losing control over the extreme elements of the hunting community.
The memo from the CHA – a body linked to the Countryside Alliance – suggests further disturbances are inevitable. The violent demonstrations in Parliament Square led to several arrests and dozens of injuries. Pro-hunting demonstrators blamed the police for excessive use of force.
In the document, Lambert said: ‘We probably got away with it this time – but further confrontation with the police will inevitably result in the loss of public sympathy and media support.’
The council praised the publicity generated by the ‘invasion of the house’ by eight protesters, who included a friend of Prince William and Otis Ferry, son of rock star Bryan Ferry. He boasts it was an ‘an epic covered by the media from Tasmania to Iceland’.
Lambert adds: ‘Some have been concerned about the “sanctity” of the house; the private view of our political friends is that the incident has not lost us many friends in Parliament.’
Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, condemned the memo, claiming it showed that hunt leaders know who the trouble-makers are.
He said: ‘This document appears to show the Countryside Alliance has some control over its hotheads, whose actions they refuse to repudiate. They are determined to overturn the democratic decision to ban hunting with dogs.’
The council refers to secret plans for its demonstration at the Labour party conference. ‘You will be briefed shortly about Brighton. The southern hunts will be called on for duty, but all other hunts are welcome.’
Already the Real Countryside Alliance, the most hardline of the pro-hunting factions, has revealed that hundreds of supporters will attempt to form a human barrier around the conference to prevent MPs attending key speeches.
Elsewhere, the memo goes on to outline the hunting community’s attempt to sabotage the government’s proposals to ban hunting.
It reveals the Countryside Alliance has obtained ‘expert legal advice’ and has already prepared a legal challenge to the use of the Parliament Act to overrule the House of Lords. It will be ‘actioned at the appropriate moment’, the memo states and refers to an ‘A-Z guideline’ it will publish on both ‘legal and illegal hunting’.
Despite the self-congratulatory nature of the memo, it does show the desire of the hunt leaders to rein in the actions of some of the more extreme supporters. Lambert also urges all senior figures in the hunting community to ‘concentrate on the prejudice line’ when speaking to the media, because he claims it is ‘hitting the media and public conscience’.
The memo concludes: ‘There is a central strategy in place and it is being rolled out. You will be briefed as appropriate but please ensure that everyone remains disciplined. Our future depends on it.’
A spokesman for the Countryside Alliance denied the suggestion that it was glorifying the violence. He said: ‘We have made it abundantly clear that we condemned violence and the security breach at the Commons. We have worked closely with the police to keep the lid on violent protests, but passions are running high.’