Decision making by politicians, on the basis of what newspaper editors want, never ends well. The latest, and most egregious example, is the proposal by the Tories – which, of course, they have no chance of getting past their Coalition partners – to amend our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in a way that will bring a favourable reaction from the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre.
The front pages have been adulatory, from “Human Rights Madness to end” in the Express, “Rights Act In The Bin” from the Sun, and “A New British Bill Of Rights” in the Telegraph, to the preposterous “In a triumphant week for British values, Tories unveil plans to give Parliament and judges the right to ignore the European Court and its crazy decision making ... End Of Human Rights Farce” from the Mail.
Those studying the proposals have been less than impressed, with Dominic Grieve demonstrating why he was deemed surplus to requirements by Young Dave and his jolly good chaps. You can see a variety of adverse comment from Adam Wagner at the UK Human Rights Blog HERE, Carl Gardner at Head Of Legal HERE, and Jack Of Kent HERE. So what are these rights that the press so detest?
Those rights were summarised in a lecture by the late Lord Bingham. His words deserve reproducing in full, and so I do so here.
“The rights protected by the Convention and the Act deserve to be protected because they are, as I would suggest, the basic and fundamental rights which everyone in this country ought to enjoy simply by virtue of their existence as a human being.
Let me briefly remind you of the protected rights, some of which I have already mentioned.
The right to life.
The right not to be tortured or subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The right not to be enslaved.
The right to liberty and security of the person.
The right to a fair trial.
The right not to be retrospectively penalised.
The right to respect for private and family life.
Freedom of thought,conscience and religion. Freedom of expression.
Freedom of assembly and association.
The right to marry.
The right not to be discriminated against in the enjoyment of those rights.
The right not to have our property taken away except in the public interest and with compensation.
The right of fair access to the country’s educational system.
The right to free elections.
Which of these rights, I ask, would we wish to discard? Are any of them trivial, superfluous, unnecessary? Are any them un-British?
There may be those who would like to live in a country where these rights are not protected, but I am not of their number.
Human rights are not, however, protected for the likes of people like me – or most of you. They are protected for the benefit above all of society’s outcasts, those who need legal protection because they have no other voice – the prisoners, the mentally ill, the gipsies, the homosexuals, the immigrants, the asylum-seekers, those who are at any time the subject of public obloquy”.
Everybody has rights. The idea that this is some kind of variable proposition should fill the press with horror, because any Government proscribing any of those rights could use the power to go after them. Yet the right-leaning part of the press cheers on the Tories, while urging readers to “look over there” at the Royal Charter set up as a result of the Leveson recommendations.
As you can see, the Tory HQ press Twitter feed gave away the real reason for this move: deliberately conflating the ECHR with the EU as a means of garnering cheap publicity and electoral advantage. For that reason alone, the Tories don’t deserve to be elected next year. Nor does any other party that would trample on our liberties for the sake of getting a few more bigots on board.
This proposal should not be cheered. It should be put aside, never to see the light of day again.