Tory donations linked to hunting policy

By staff

David Cameron’s agriculture spokesman received considerable donations from critics of the hunting ban just after attacking it.

Nick Herbert received £24,500 from seven different donations, including £1,500 from gun sellers William and Sons, £2,000 from grouse-shooting magnate Michael Cannon and another £2,000 from a 47,000-acre hunting estate in Sutherland, according to research by the Guardian.

Mr Herbert announced at the Petersborough foxhound show that the Tories would back a free vote on the issue, a week before the donations were made.

There is no indication Mr Herbert broke the rules, which stipulate that MPs must register donations in members’ interests and then refer to it before making a parliamentary intervention.

But the revelation will increase speculation on the Tories in an area which Labour strategists believe the party to be vulnerable. Many in Labour want to try and attach Cameron’s upper class background to the party’s image, and see the hunting policy as an ideal way to do it.

But the Tories are playing down the policy, which only amounts to a free vote with no debate preceding it.

Tory insiders say enough time has already been spent debating the issue when the ban was originally voted in, and Tory strategists, basing their reasoning on a Countryside Alliance report, do not consider it an issue which determines voters’ party choices.

Mr Cameron has been clear about his support for hunting since early in his political career.