Do you remember the British police state of 1998? Do you remember churches, mosques and synagogues being boarded up? Do you remember the closed, juryless courts arbitrarily condemning people to death by hanging? Do you remember Angela’s Ashes tossed onto towering bonfires? Do you remember policemen beating teenagers for listening to Oasis? Do you remember the places in your town where you weren’t allowed to go? Or the people you weren’t allowed to mix with? Or Employ? Or marry?
No, neither do I. In fact the country I remember in 1998 was doing pretty well as far as human rights were concerned and a large chunk of the world, including some cultured corners of Europe, admired the UK as a beacon of liberty and justice. The howls of indignation from the Left at the idea the Conservatives are ’Scrapping human rights’, a laughable charge which cedes almost supernatural power to the Tories, is both inaccurate and dangerous and just another example of Left wing scaremongering from a fragmented, bruised opposition that simply seeks to smear rather than engage in a process of debate.
The Conservatives are not scrapping human rights; they are trying to replace the 1998 Human Rights Act. For the vast majority of British citizens the Human Rights Act made absolutely no difference to their life, in either a practical or theoretical way. Our rights were protected in innumerable ways in English common law and whilst it may have made sense to bring those rights together the sweep of the HRA was far too broad and the terms far too vague for it to be the conclusive piece of human rights legislation that it was intended to be.
It also inadvertently created a constitutional anomaly. As a product of the nebulous nature of the HRA it places judges above politicians in terms of actual law making. The ambiguity of the HRA means that their judgments are not simply establishing precedent, they are in fact defining, even shaping, law. Some may think it a good thing that there is a body above politicians, a higher authority supervising their dirty, grubby world but never forget that we elect MPs to make the laws we want and a chap in a funny wig should never be able to breach this time-honoured custom.
You are worried about elitism? The Conservatives are just a bunch of toffs who don’t understand the real world? Compared to the collective bevy of high court judges the Tory front bench looks like the cheap seats at the World Darts Championships!
I don’t need the ‘Usual suspect’, left wing ‘Slebs’ telling me how wonderful the HRA is, I understand it has protected and defended some of the most vulnerable people in our society. This is to be applauded and celebrated. But if we are to accept individual cases where the act has worked well they must also accept the individual cases where the act has failed.
It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to uncover cases where the HRA has protected terrorists, violent criminals and sex offenders in a way that is wholly incompatible with British values. With this in mind surely it is right to seek to improve our human rights legislation so we can achieve the dual aims of protecting the weak whilst dealing firmly with the social deviants who have abused the very notion of civil liberties.
The HRA is not a sacred cow; it is a curate’s egg and we cannot continue to pretend that it is a flawless piece of legislation and carry on as if everything is ok while the will of the people is ignored by judges protecting the rights of those who have completely disregarded the rights of others.
Scrapping the HRA will be no mean feat; especially when the SNP plan to do all they can to once again defy the democratic will of the British people, but the imperfections of the act are so glaring it would be negligent not to even attempt to improve on it. The blind support of the left for the HRA is even more alarming when you consider they are not prepared to enter into any debate to create a superior alternative. This displays the sanctimonious arrogance that the left is increasingly comfortable with and provides further proof of just how far their beliefs are from the beating pulse of our nation.
The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty