Theresa May to ‘ditch free vote pledge on ending fox-hunting ban’
Theresa May is reportedly set to scrap the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to give her MPs a free vote on ending the ban on fox hunting.
The Prime Minister will announce plans to permanently drop the controversial commitment early in the New Year, according to The Sunday Times.
The issue sparked division within the Tories when it was announced that a policy to bring back the blood sport was on the cards prior to June’s election, having been banned under Tony Blair’s government.
Announcing the move during the campaign, Mrs May said she had “always been in favour of fox hunting” - however she later faced strong opposition from within her ranks which could make changing the law under a minority government impossible.
The paper quotes a Whitehall source as saying: “The Prime Minister will make it clear in an intervention early in the new year that this is no longer a Conservative Party policy.”
And while the U-turn risks further alienating rural voters, PoliticsHome understands that Tory bosses are convinced that appearing pro-animal welfare will help win back young voters who backed Labour in the election.
Responding to Mrs May’s initial bid to repeal the act in June, Jeremy Corbyn branded the sport “barbarity” and pledged to keep it banned on animal welfare grounds.
Yet Conservative MPs have now been invited to No 10 for a presentation from party pollsters on improving their image.
One backbencher said: “It basically amounts to ‘be nice to furry animals’.”
The internal move to boost the Tories’ pro-animal rights image follows a social media row which saw them accused of trying to strip back animal sentience laws after Brexit - which they denied - while in recent days Mrs May pledged to crackdown on “unscrupulous” puppy farms.
A Downing Street source has described the report on a fresh vote as "pure speculation", and said none that could change the current policy on fox hunting was scheduled in this session of Parliament.