The ban on hunting with dogs looks like being a fiasco. The repeated insistence by the police that the new law has a low priority virtually sends a signal to hunts that they can do what they like and get away with it.

They need not be over-scrupulous in handling hounds to prevent the accidental pursuit of a fox.

Even if the police adopt a firm line, their lack of power to enter property virtually ties one hand behind their back. While probably no hunt will in future move off blatantly in search of a fox, a trail can be laid to what would have been the chosen spot. The "accidental" hunting of a fox seems unlikely to be a rarity.

But it can also be predicted that if the ban is unenforced there will be violence in the countryside. Going back far beyond the present Government, the House of Commons, the democratic forum of this country, has voted ten times to abolish hunting. The current Act was subject to 250 hours of debate.

Most crucially, behind the ban lies more than a century of campaigning. If all that effort turns out to have been for nothing or very little, the reaction of those who have taken the campaign to the hunts, out in the fields on many a bitter or dank winter's morning, is not likely to be mild.

I have no link whatsoever with any anti-hunt protestor. Nor do I condone violence or extreme animal-rights' acts like the desecration of graves.

But only flat-earthers can fail to see that hunting's day is done. The Tories promise to repeal the ban. But this would merely lead to a much tighter ban, probably limiting the number of riders and hounds, firmly divorcing flushing from exercising, and introducing monitoring.

If hunts are wise they will recognise that the present arrangement offers the best guarantee of their long-term survival. It is therefore in their own interest not to test the new law to its limit - their present policy - but to respect its spirit and co-operate in achieving its aims.

Meanwhile, a remark by Angus Collingwood-Cameron, North-East Director of the Country Land and Business Association (the Country Landowners' Association in less squirearchical garb) merits attention: "We think it should be landowners, not central government, that make decisions about what happens on their land.''

If that happened, hunts would soon have much less countryside in which to operate. Planning laws were introduced in 1947 to stop the sale of land that threatened to line every rural road in Britain with ribbon development.

But for our planning laws, aided by the protective endeavours of the National Trust, there would now be no lakeshore or hillside not plastered with villas, or any clifftop not free of bungalows and caravan parks.

Here in the North-East, cheques waved by Wimpey and the like have brought the last Tally Ho to scores of fox coverts and countless acres of prime hunting country, squeezing, for example, the Cleveland Hunt ever closer to the point of non-viability. For a host of reasons, Britain's land is too important to be left to the landowners.

Brooklyn... Romeo... Cruz. Given their aversion to straightforward names, isn't it astonishing that the Beckhams haven't yet deed-polled themselves into something far more exotic than David and Victoria?