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Last Updated: Saturday, 11 September, 2004, 22:54 GMT 23:54 UK
Hunt protest outside Cherie party
Protesters made their point outside Cherie Blair's birthday party
Protesters made strategic use of placards to highlight their stance
Pro-hunt campaigners have staged a demonstration outside Cherie Blair's 50th birthday party at the prime minister's country house at Chequers.

During Saturday's peaceful protest, two of the 150 demonstrators were invited inside to talk with Tony Blair.

Emma Pearce, a master from the Vale of Aylesbury Hunt, said she and Polly Portwin from the Bicester Hunt had a "cordial" meeting with the PM.

The unofficial protest was against a proposed ban on hunting with dogs.

"It was cordial, we sat down, he was willing to negotiate," Ms Pearce said.

"He understood our point of view and we discussed the different sides, the position he was in and the position we were in."

She added: "He said he would vote for a two-year delay which is an amendment to the Bill."

Commons leader Peter Hain has said a vote on hunting will take place on Wednesday, but the ban could be deferred for two years.

Downing Street confirmed that Mr Blair had met with leaders of the local hunt and "had made clear that he recognises that this issue brings strong feelings on both sides and that people have a right to protest in a peaceful way".

The demonstrators waved placards outside Chequers among the tractors, horse vans and Land Rovers belonging to guests at the party.

Cherie and Tony Blair
The prime minister is never totally on holiday and even on holiday we were accompanied by an office
Cherie Blair

One anonymous demonstrator posed in front of the gates wearing only a Tony Blair mask and carrying a pro-hunting placard.

Anne Corbett, 50, from Hemel Hempstead, Herts, stood next to him with the words 'Blair all' written on her chest - and a strategically placed placard.

The demonstration is the latest in a series of protests outside Tony and Cherie Blair's homes.

On Friday, around 150 protesters gathered outside their constituency home in County Durham.

And on Saturday about 200 pro-hunting demonstrators, including riders in full hunting regalia from the South Durham Hunt, also staged a peaceful protest outside the Blairs' Trimdon Colliery home.

Philip Hague, a huntsman of the Vale of Aylesbury, Garth and South Berks Hunt, believes other unofficial demonstrations are likely to follow.

He said: "The Countryside Alliance are at the top of the tree of all of us but people are going to demonstrate and do various things without the Countryside Alliance, it's gone beyond now."

Outlining the nature of future protests, he said: "It's not going to be violent, it's just keeping the message up, the momentum up and stepping up the campaign - at every opportunity we will make our presence felt."

He added: "This is not just a campaign, this is our way of life."

The protest slowed traffic along the country road leading to Chequers, with increasing numbers of demonstrators emerging from cars.


SEE ALSO:
Hunting ban to be debated by MPs
09 Sep 04  |  Politics
Hunt debate 'threatens key bills'
05 Sep 04  |  Politics


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