Fox hunting ban ‘deliberately sabotaged’, says Blair

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said introducing legislation to ban fox hunting was one of the measures he most regrets from his time in power.

In his memoir, A Journey, Mr Blair said he deliberately sabotaged the 2004 Hunting Act to ensure there were enough loopholes to allow hunting to continue.

Describing the act as a “masterly British compromise”, Mr Blair said it left people able to hunt foxes “provided certain steps were taken to avoid cruelty when the fox was killed.

He also told then-Home Office minister Hazel Blears to steer police away from enforcing the law.

In the book, published on Wednesday (1 September), Mr Blair said he had not realised how passionate the hunting community was about the ban, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of hunt supporters marching through London in 2002.

“The passions aroused by the issue were primeval,” he said.

“If I’d proposed solving the pension problem by compulsory euthanasia for every fifth pensioner I’d have got less trouble. By the end of it, I felt like the damn fox.”

Mr Blair said he also had a bet with Prince Charles that fox hunting would continue

“He thought the ban was absurd and raised the issue with me in a slightly pained way.

“The wager was that after I left office, people would still be hunting.”

The former Prime Minister said he initially agreed to a ban without properly understanding the issue.

During a trip to Italy he spoke to the mistress of a hunt near Oxford he realised banning hunting was the wrong thing to do.

“She took me calmly and persuasively through what they did, the jobs that were dependent on it, the social contribution of keeping the hunt and the social consequence of banning it and did it with an effect that completely convinced me,” Mr Blair said.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the law as a “farce” and said MPs would have the chance to vote on a parliamentary motion later in the year on whether to hold a free vote on the ban.