The Conservative Party neglects the views of pro-hunting voters at its peril.
David Cameron, as a former huntsman, deer stalker and occasional game shooter, ought to know better than most that those who take part in country sports consider hunting in particular to be a way of life, rather than a casual pastime.
The fact that hunting has flourished under the 2004 ban is proof that hunts up and down the country are not giving up on hopes of a repeal. Most are marking time, hunting under the restrictions imposed, until full hunting is restored.
In Mr Cameron’s favour, of course, is that no one but the Conservatives are likely to bring about that change in the law. But complacency could cost him dear and lose him 500,000 crucial votes in rural constituencies that he must win.
If he decides – or is advised – that hunting is best left off the political agenda when he is drawing up the next Tory manifesto because more people find it distasteful than want it restored, he is making a big mistake. He will anger more voters than he will please. For most voters, hunting is not a central issue. For the hunt community it is number one.
Pro-hunt supporters already feel let down because the PM failed to put a vote on repeal to Parliament this term. They grudgingly accept that, as things stand, the numbers don’t stack up. But if hunting isn’t in the Tory manifesto, many will switch to Ukip.