The Tories may have to reappraise their views on foxhunting after a poll found most voters were turned off by it.
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague appeared to confirm that hunting would be back if the Tories won power again, a position which contradicts previous policy statements.
Tory officials had previously assured journalists that the party would allow a free vote on the subject, but without any debate beforehand.
However, a YouGov poll of 2,015 found around 70 per cent of the public is against repealing the ban.
Fifty-nine per cent said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who backed hunting.
Fifty-six per cent said they associated the sport with a "nasty party" and not "compassionate Conservatives".
The League Against Cruel Sports' Douglas Batchelor said: "These figures show just how out of touch the Conservative party is. It is the nasty party on hunting."