HAMPSHIRE fox hunting enthusiasts are demanding the ban on their sport is lifted after Tony Blair admitted it had been a mistake.

The former Prime Minister confessed in his memoirs that he had been “ignorant” about hunting with hounds and the importance it has within country life. Hampshire hunt activists have welcomed his admission, but expressed their frustration that his Labour Government pressed ahead with forcing the ban into law.

They insist the “masterly British compromise” Mr Blair said he negotiated has left no one satisfied.

In his book, titled A Journey, the controversial former PM revealed bringing the ban into force in 2004 is one of his greatest domestic regrets, but said he underestimated the strength of public feeling about fox hunting.

He wrote: “The passions aroused by the issue were primeval. If I’d proposed solving the pension problem by compulsory euthanasia of every fifth pensioner I’d have got less trouble… by the end of it, I felt like the damn fox.

“I had a complete lapse. I didn’t ‘feel it’ either way. I didn’t feel how, for fox hunters, this was part of their way of life. I didn’t feel how, for those wanting a ban, this was fundamentally about cruelty. Result? Disaster.”

Graham Ferris, secretary of New Forest Hounds, said the Prime Minister should have known the ban was wrong.

He said: “To suggest now that what’s on the statute book is a satisfactory compromise is far from the truth because it makes historical forms of hunting illegal. Obviously we’re pleased that at last there’s the recognition that it was a terrible mistake and all we can hope for is that the coalition Government will repeal the law as soon as possible.”

Tory New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne said he wished Mr Blair had realised his mistake sooner.

He said: “It’s what we’ve said all along, but sadly the damage has been done. I’m looking forward to voting to repeal the ban.