by your MP Roger Gale
I cannot pretend to have endorsed every dot and comma of the coalition government’s policy. I remain opposed, for example, to the concept of same-sex marriage, and had the Conservatives not failed to win the last General Election we would most certainly have by now culled some 60 or more parliamentary seats that are funded by the taxpayer but surplus to requirements. At the end of the day democratic politics is about numbers in the voting lobby and those numbers do not always stack up. Nevertheless, in more general terms I believe that the coalition, while not in the partisan interests of my own party or that of the Liberal Democrats, has certainly served the national interest and, in particular the repair of the broken economy bequeathed to us by 13 years of Blair-Brownite misrule, rather well. I doubt whether we would be where we are today had it not been for the willingness of two otherwise frequently opposed parties to bury differences and work together to put the country’s finances back on the road to recovery.
All that said, policy in so far as it relates to animal welfare issues, a cause that has been politically close to my heart for all of my years in parliament, has been what, in tolerably polite terms, can best be described as “a badger’s muddle”. Nobody sensible could fail to recognise that bovine TB is a terrible disease that affects cattle and wildlife with equally awful consequences for animal health. That something has to be done to seek to eradicate TB in the interests of farming and also for the benefit of many species of wild animals that carry and transmit it is beyond question, but it is not enough to do ‘something”. We have to do the right thing. Scientists have been arguing for at least 25 years about what that right thing is, with little agreement, but it has become painfully obvious that trying to cull the badger population by shooting it is not the answer. Blue Badger and Conservative Animal Welfare have worked together to see the current programme of destruction that does not discriminate between healthy and sick animals consigned to the dustbin and will now continue to work together to press for a co-ordinated programme of management and vaccination that stands at least a chance of working.
Nodding in the direction of Vote OK and the Countryside Alliance, the government also flirted with the idea of trying to introduce by the back door an amendment to the Hunting Act that would have allowed farmers to increase the number of dogs allowed to be used to flush out “vermin” – a pack of hounds by another name. Happily, a combination of those who still bear the scars of hours of debate about the Hunting Act before it was finally passed into law and a 2010 intake of young MPs who are not wedded to the Idea of controlling wild animals by chasing them with dogs and then watching with apparent pleasure as those animals are torn apart, has at least for the moment seen off that proposal. The government has had to bow to the fact that there is no parliamentary stomach or majority to revisit the legislation.
Herne Bay Gazette, April 10th 2014