Up at 6am which is cruel enough for a person who is used to going to bed around that time ! Drive to Millbank for a spot on Sky News – and on the way in the car, an interview with LBC Radio, talking about how underhanded this SI is, as a scheme to bring back full-scale blood hunting of foxes for the amusement of a few sadistic bar stewards.
In Sky News I am in a small box .. a room about the size of your toilet, alone facing a TV a camera that is remotely operated from afar. Talking to a nice man at the other end, whose face I cannot see. Apparently it’s Stephen and Isobel I’m connecting with. Stephen is respectful – and asks the right questions, challenging my view that this is all about reclaiming a blood sport, rather than a farming issue. It’s actually easier, sometimes, to get the necessary points across when you’re properly challenged, rather than talking to a totally friendly interviewer. It ALL makes me nervous. This stuff does. I might look confident, but it never gets easy. Everyone I know who does this stuff gets nervous. It’s easy to be brave and funny off camera, but as soon as the red light is on, it feels very different. You have to control your emotions, so you don’t become angry and incoherent, but you can’t control ALL the emotion or you’d come across as a boring robot.
Everyone at these TV stations is normally on our side. They all say “well done for championing the animals”. That applies to almost all staff around the TV stations and in Parliament too. And the Police, who are almost to a man, friendly and supportive. But we meet all the politicians and spokespeople too, bumping into them coming in and out of the interviews. This morning we met a glamorous lady who had been on before me talking about the gap between men and women’s wages. Apparently she invented a special bra ! A nice meeting in which she told me her Mum loves me ! Then something different. A lady with two assistants, who turns out to be a Conservative MP, who perhaps should remain nameless. She comes across as nice and gentle … and happy to meet me, etc. But when I ask if she’s voting tomorrow, she says,"‘Sorry", she’s on the other side. It’s quite shocking. "How come", I say ? She says she has one of the big Hunts is in her constituency, and so she has to support it. But, I say, what about the 70 per cent of the rest of her constituents who are outraged, and want to make sure the Hunting Act stays intact ? Well, she says, "I can’t do it". Why ? Well, we don’t get into it with her, but the reason is that she accepted support from the Countryside Alliance, in the shape of Vote OK, in her election campaign. That would have been conditional on her supporting the Fox Hunts. It’s dirty politics again. It’s still rampant. So we can’t count on HER support tomorrow, and there are a whole raft of others like her in the Tory Party. So if we (Anne and I) were party political animals, we’d still be shuddering at the word ‘Tory’.
But I have always believed that our particular concern, decent treatment of animals, is above politics, or should be. The fight against cruelty to animals is about people rather than parties. And I believe Parliament should operate on the basis of each issue being honestly and sincerely debated – and voted on, according to MPs' consciences, and the will of their constituents. Thus is it that, alongside wonderful passionate Labour animal advocates like Angela Smith, we have seen the anti SI campaign being driven in the HOC by a solid bunch of Conservatives led by Tracy Crouch, Andrea Jenkyns and Henry Smith. If we win this awful battle on Wednesday, to keep what protection there is in place for wild animals, it will be massively because of our Cross-Party support.
Now we know that the SNP are to vote with us, things look a lot brighter, but we are dealing with desperate fundamentally violently inclined people, who, by definition are all about carrying on with cruelty, and … the ‘Dark Side’ are not going to take this lying down. There will be more dirty tricks.
And then suddenly … Anne, beside me in the car, is on the Phone to Tracy Crouch’s office. It’s off. Cameron has withdrawn the debate, and the vote. He’s pulled it because, like ‘Repeal’, he knows he won’t win. It’s like a child. I’m gonna lose this match, so I’m not going to play it.
And I feel … flat … frustrated, disappointed, cheated, like the Government DID manage to wriggle out and have deprived us of the true democratic process, and of winning the debate. I feel like a prize fighter who has trained for months, and on the eve of the big fight his opponent says “Oh … you’re obviously gonna win, so I’m withdrawing from the fight.” The timing is impeccable. All this is going through my head at exactly the time we pull up at the demo … hundreds of people on our side are chanting, and looking very colourful, making a splash, bless ‘em !
I say to Anne, “So what do I tell them ? that Cameron has managed to take evasive action ? As we suspected he would ? What can I ask the people to do, now ? The debate is off tomorrow, so there no use asking them to E-mail their MP again … !
I feel gutted. I get out of the car, and there is a big man in a smart grey suit. I’m told he’s Angus Robertson, the leader of the SNP brigade in Westminster. Wow ! He says … "happy to meet you … WE WON !"
Angus says he’s star-struck meeting me – but I feel pretty impressed that he’s come to rally with us too. But my mind is reeling. Is this true ? Is it a win ? Angus says … "Cameron has been forced to withdraw … he’s defeated. It’s a victory." So suddenly I believe it. There’s still a depressed feeling in my stomach, but I step up and address the throng … leading off the speeches. I thank them all for caring and tell them … It’s a victory. Maybe we haven’t yet won the war, but we have won an important battle. The foxes can sleep a little more soundly for a while longer.
The speeches done, I spend the next hour or so doing interviews for more publications and News channels than I can count. And a lot of selfies and autographs. But I can feel myself closing down. It’s like the pressure has come off and my body is saying "Enough".
I grab some coffee and a snack with Angela Smith and some of our friends in Portcullis House. We mull over what the next moves might be. Whether Cameron will manage to pull off EVEL (which of course is EVIL ! but means English Votes for English Laws) and thwart us that way. It seems it’s by no means a foregone conclusion that he can do it. But that’s for the future. I go home and crash on the sofa for a couple of hours. Then it’s off to the CNN studios. I kinda wanted to skip it, because of exhaustion, but they’re nice people and I made a promise I’d go. The news seems to have been sent out to the USA that the SNP defeated Cameron’s attempt to bring back fox hunting. I guess that hurts a little bit. Because we all know that even without the SNP’s intervention we had enough support from the new compassionate contingent of the Tory party to defeat the SI. The SNP’s decision was a wonderful boost, and made it 100 per cent certain that we had the majority – but I’m pretty sure the Government had already done the maths and got the same answer as we got – that the SI was dead.
The Victory, if victory it is, is thanks to the tireless work of a great network of people at all levels, visible and invisible. I was lucky enough to be a figurehead, and willing to put in the sustained work, but this was a Historic day for TEAM FOX.
WELL DONE TEAM !!!