Owen Paterson, the former UK Environment Secretary, has revealed that dropping proposals for an ivory ban in the 2017 Conservative manifesto contributed to the drubbing the Conservative Party received in the last general election.
During Monday nights second reading of the Ivory Bill, Paterson told Parliament that he and Lord Hague “came up with a text” following discussions with antiques traders and NGOs such as Stop Ivory and Tusk.
He then read out the omitted text: “In response to overwhelming international opinion … we will proceed with our commitment to introduce tighter legislation to close the domestic ivory market with appropriate exemptions covering objects of artistic, cultural and historical significance. We will further commit to support the range states of species impacted by illegal wildlife trade, in particular for elephants, rhinos and tigers and will continue to oppose any call for resumption in trade of products from these species.”
Paterson then told MPs: “When we see the number of people who have signed the petition and who have reacted, we see that had that been in our manifesto, the result of the election a year ago might have been different.”
Environment Secretary Michael Gove added: “The Bill gives us in the United Kingdom an opportunity to play our part and to show leadership.”
Theresa May’s failure to promise an ivory ban proved to be the most shared story about the Conservative manifesto, seemingly all the more bizarre when you consider she offered a free vote on the fox hunting ban.
When senior Tories realised the scale of the backlash on ivory, they took measures to reintroduce a ban this year.