1. Dec, 2017


It’s that time of year again: the Tory party is attempting a detox. This week the prime minister’s chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, called Conservative MPs into a meeting and informed them they were all going to be much more caring from now on. According to a briefing document they will be caring more about housing, schools, and tackling injustice – but most of all they will be caring about the environment, and all the animals who live there.

The party has of late been on a particularly unwise bender when it comes to seeming not to care about animals. And this in Britain, a country with a proud history of sending its eight-year-olds down mines, up chimneys and to grim boarding schools – all the while sobbing uncontrollably should a pet dog get ill.

Last week a bungled announcement about animal treatment led to fake claims that the Tories had ditched recognition of “animal sentience” in UK law. This came after the prime minister omitted ivory bans from her manifesto, and then proceeded to announce a free vote on fox hunting. (A Tory source says letters MPs get from constituents concerned about foxes outnumber those they get about Brexit at a ratio of 13 to one.)

Rebranding the Conservative party as ‘caring’ is tricky enough. Imagine trying to do it with Liam Fox and David Davis in your cabinet, writes political journalist Martha Gill