Monday, 29 August 2011

Dave vs. Nick; Alterations to the Human Rights act.

Since the Conservatives gained a majority in parliament there has been a worry that the Human Rights Act may suffer a redraft or complete revision. The first was when Priti Patel asked in PMQ's;

"When will the government overturn the Human Rights act?"

More than a few Libdems began to worry what they had got themselves into but all went quite on this front until recently, with the bout of Civil disorder which gripped the country. Reports of offenders hiding behind the Act and using it to escape justice has lead many to question its use in public life and legislation it is, in the words of Jack Straw;

"A Villians' Charter."

David Cameron has in the past called for the act to be scrapped completely in the past (  and then on 21st August Mr Cameron wrote an article on change and what the Coalition was going to do to try and rectify the situation. (

There are some concerning sentences;

There are problems in our society that have been growing for a long time: a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense of individual rights come before anything else.


I am determined we get a grip on the misrepresentation of human rights.


sense of personal responsibility that has been eroded over the years by many things, ... to the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights.

These are all quite vague and alarm bells are ringing in the Liberal world that the Right are going to meddle to everyone's detriment. After all the Individual has the right not to be trampled on by the state and that a person's rights are there to be protected before it is trampled on by the larger state.

It would make sense that the riots and the civil disorder act as a catalyst or spark to bring about change to the act, when public feeling is against the perpetrators. It is a way to get public and media support, the kind of reaction that looks like an understandable knee jerk. We've also seen these in the form of evictions of
rioters from Council housing and harsh sentences that have come out in subsequent trials.
The Spectator also points out that Cameron may be playing to the crowd somewhat... He talks of fighting Europe to rectify the European Court of Human Rights - Boo Europe!!!
He neglects to say that actually they are two different bodies. To alter the ECHR you need the backing of 47 member states rather than the 27 involved in the EU.

Worried? I was... then Cue.... NICK CLEGG!

Nick's comments in the Guardian are very reassuring. He sounds like the reasonable half of the debate, explaining what his interpretation and the party's stance (hopefully) will be standing for rather than the rant of the right playing to the crowd. He outlines that the act has been misused in the past and very famously lambasted in the media, often used by money hungry lawyers who will take a hyped up cases. It is these loop holes need to be closed, the act needs to work for everyone
and that the balance of between individual rights to the rules and laws of society balance needs to be readdressed. He also talks about the paranoia of officials who do not want to break the human rights act, the Policemen who went to go and get a KFC meal for a fugitive who claimed it was his human right, law enforcement is scared not to act at times and enforce the law. We as a society will continue to lose out if law breakers are able to call upon a misrepresented act.

He reassures the party faithful that we stand for strengthening the commitment of the human rights act and the rights of the small person against oppression by the state. He talks about the way that the act has helped people already;

Preventing local authorities from carrying out surveillance of law abiding families,

Removing the innocent from the DNA database,

Stopping rapists from cross examining their possible victims.

He states;

The reality is that those who need to make use  of human rights laws to challenge the decisions of the authorities are nearly always people who are in the care of the state: Children's homes, mental hospitals, immigration detention. They are often vulnerable, powerless or outsiders and are sometimes people for whom the public feels little sympathy. But they are human beings, and our common humanity dictates that we treat them as such.

In a similar vein to his article in the Orange Book, he talks about reform of the ECHR but from within the system with everyone's support and for the benefit of everyone. These are our rights, the law should benefit the many not the few and that the state should be able to act to protect the majority.

In short I am more confident in the changes knowing that Nick and the parliamentary party will not back changes in specific rights (Theresa May's aim), or alter the way we work with the ECHR, which appears to be Mr Cameron's aim or even to leave the convention altogether which is an aim of the far right and some backbenchers! If we were to back down on these, if we allow the Conservatives to achieve any goals that would threaten the very existence of Human rights and personal freedom from state interest - We might as well pack up and go home, it is the very foundation of the party and THE cornerstone that once removed will bring down the house of Gladstone, and rightly so.

He has managed to get the commission into a "Bill of rights" almost solely with Liberal Human rights lawyers Phillipe Sands, Lord Lester and Helena Kennedy! This will guarantee that we will keep our rights and that the party will maintain its dedication to rights and Liberalism laid down in Mills and Liberal philosophers who

Whilst David Cameron postures and talks of the Right's aims and wishes, whether he is playing up to the crowd or whether he truly believes that this sort of change is what is needed, I can feel safe that Nick's words explain the bluster and his calm and reassuring article belays all fears that a state where the Government and its bodies DO hold ALL the power will not and cannot exist. He once described the party as the heirs to Mill, Lloyd George, Keynes, Beverage and Grimmond, I hope that we can carry on their grand legacy of Liberalism and not succumb now to external pressure.

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