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Sunday, 22 September, 2002, 18:15 GMT 19:15 UK
Q & A: Impact of protest
The March for Liberty and Livelihood through London on Sunday was attended by thousands of countryside supporters from across the UK and even abroad. The BBC's political correspondent Guto Harri explains what difference, if any, the protest could make.

What sort of message do you think the marchers have sent to the government?

Tony Blair can hardly ignore this. He has not been at Downing Street on Sunday. If he had been, he would have seen the numbers crop up close to 400,000.

Is Tony Blair likely to be swayed by the marchers' points?

He would argue and he will tell you, that he does not need this march, that he is aware of the concerns.

He is even aware of the argument against the ban on hunting. He has listened to that.

What is the government's stance on hunting?

I think it is fair to say what Tony Blair and the government are aiming for at the moment is a compromise on hunting, essentially to allow hunting to continue in some shape or form.

The problem of course, is that that compromise has to be accepted by Labour MPs and there is a huge majority among them who think this issue is a lot more straightforward and can't see why they can't go for an outright ban.

Could a compromise with the government be possible?

The true test of this march will be whether it affects those Labour MPs so that they accept the compromise, which I think the government is already bracing itself for.

Prince Charles has been reported as saying if country people had been any other minority the government would have done more - what is their response to that?

Downing Street will not discuss any correspondence between the prime minister and the Royal Family, neither will the royal palaces.

But I think it is safe to assume that Prince Charles is here on Sunday in spirit at the very least.

One friend said: "He hunts, what else do you need to know?"

He has spoken out for farmers in the past and has given money to farmers after the foot-and-mouth crisis and for people here they clearly feel he is on their side.

Is this a mark of the support against a ban on hunting?

It is a sign for Tony Blair and the government of the range of powerful forces that they are up against, both popular and privileged if they actually press ahead with a ban on hunting.

It is a ban which Labour MPs are adamant they want and about which Mr Blair now feels very uncomfortable.


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22 Sep 02 | Scotland
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