It’s downright shameful that Theresa May has promised a free vote on fox hunting but not on a Brexit deal

I don’t know many people ‘just about managing’ who feel the need to dress up in scarlet jackets and chase after omnivorous mammals, but I know a lot of those people whose lives would be seriously be affected by the disaster of a hard Brexit

If election depression has not already been officially recognised as a national epidemic, it ought to be. Jeremy Corbyn has made it clear he won’t resign, no matter how badly he loses to Theresa May. And now, just to make it absolutely clear she’s not going to be outdone when it comes to making us all put our heads in our hands, the Tory leader has announced that, once elected, she is going to allow a free vote on fox hunting.

Yes, fox hunting. I don’t know many people “just about managing” who feel the need to dress up in scarlet jackets and chase after omnivorous mammals, or how the repeal of the 2004 Hunting Act could possibly help “the many, not the few”, but what strikes me, quite simply, is the irony in this unlikely pronouncement.

Theresa May will allow MPs the right to vote with their consciences on this issue, but not on Brexit, which will have such an incomparably greater effect upon our country’s people –  rural and city-dwellers alike – as it puts at risk our economic stability and our strength on the world stage.

The debates on Article 50, which took place in the Commons and the Lords as a result of the long and arduous legal action that I and others fought, first in the High Court and then the Supreme Court, saw members on both the Conservative and Labour benches whipped into voting according to the commands of their leaders, rather than their consciences.

The majority of MPs and peers never believed that Brexit was in the best interests of the country and this made the debates peculiarly strained and angst-ridden occasions. Who can forget Margaret Beckett’s tragic assertion that while she believed the consequences of the policy would be “potentially catastrophic”, she would nevertheless vote for it? Or Ken Clarke, turning to old and valued friends, and telling them they were entering the world of Mad Hatters?

Let us put aside party politics, and accept that the leaders of the two principal parties no longer appear able to see the wood for the trees – certainly not if there is a fox running through it.

They appear to have lost all sense of self-parody. They are “penny-wise and pound-foolish”, focusing all too often on what is unimportant while ignoring that an MOAB – a Mother Of All Brexits – is heading at speed in our direction.

All the while, highly prized, tax and cash-generative companies and citizens are voting with their feet. Even Goldman Sachs, whose employees Theresa May had warned in a secret speech in May last year that Brexit would result in companies leaving the UK, has now accepted London’s status as a financial hub could “stall”. Along with other banks, it is planning to relocate thousands of its people.

Irony may be lost on Theresa May, but it is not lost on voters. That is why campaigning for tactical voting and a high general election turnout is now more important than ever. We as voters who care about the future of our country need to see a free vote at the end of the Brexit negotiations, not just on a gentrified sport.
Re-posted from The Independent