The MP was sweating. It occurred to him that tweed had been entirely the wrong choice for the studio. The lights were beating down on him like so many suns and he was sure his ruddy complexion, rather than signal a hale and healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle, was making him look like a beetroot being tortured in a sauna. He ran a finger beneath the collar of his checked shirt. He could feel the face powder they had dabbed him with clagging in every crease of his weather-beaten face. He became aware the presenter of this godawful Sunday morning ordeal had asked him a question. He blinked and ransacked his mind for any trace of media training. A fallback answer sprang to his rescue.
“There is no evidence to support a contrary view,” he intoned. It was the presenter’s turn to blink. He even gaped as well.
“Minister, are you or are you not telling me you support a repeal of the ban?”
“Yes,” said the MP. “Listen, let me be clear. The ban should never have been imposed in the first place. Well-meaning but ill-informed do-gooders, meddling in things they do not understand. Urbanites. Townies.” He shuddered, “Liberals.”
The presenter nodded his ‘I’m listening’ nod. The MP straightened, getting into his stride.
“The ban is contrary to British values. These hippies bleat on about cultures and what-not but what about our culture, our traditions – that’s what I want to know. Eh? Eh? That’s why I shall be voting in favour of the repeal. And so will any level-headed, true blue, red-blooded Englishman. And even, some of the women, what!” He laughed. The presenter smirked and then arched an eyebrow.
“Since the ban there have been unconfirmed reports of illegal hunts, unregulated and unmonitored.”
“All the more reason to kill the ban and get things out in the open, like the good old days. Then the authorities can keep an eye on proceedings and prevent any unnecessary brutality.”
“You admit then, there is brutality.”
“Well, that’s a loaded term. The practice is time-honoured, part of the weft and weave of country life.”
The presenter consulted his clipboard. “The young taken from their mothers, chased across open country for miles before being torn to pieces –”
The MP harrumphed. “Emotive language for what is, at heart, simply a matter of pest control.”
“But surely there must be other methods of ‘pest control’. Something more humane.”
The MP shook his head. “You have never seen one of these young animals caught in a snare or shot in the belly, crawling away, slowly bleeding out. Or coughing its guts out from poisoned bait. No, the hunt is the only way.”
“Critics say that these young are bred specifically to satisfy the bloodlust of the ruling class.”
“Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of sport at the weekend?”
“Sport! That’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? A bunch of over-privileged psychopaths getting their jollies by causing the grisly death of a defenceless creature.”
The MP smiled in a patronising manner. “Look,” he said with a kind of forced patience. “Something has to be done to control these vermin. Without the hunt, the population grows unhindered. Is it my fault the poor keep breeding? Is it Her Majesty’s fault her subjects lack responsibility? No. I say it again, hunting with foxes is the only way these people can be curbed. Listen, we are not monsters. The parents are allowed to keep their spawn for seven years, then when the child is able to run at a decent lick, they are released, free to take their chances and, frankly, if they are unable to outwit a team of ravenous foxes, society is better off without them, what!”
“Thank you, Minister.” The presenter looked directly into camera two. “That’s all the time we have for this week. Join me next time when I’ll be asking the Archbishop of Canterbury why straight men are barred from joining the clergy.”