Human Rights - A Call to Arms

Human Rights - A Call to Arms

This comment piece appeared on Lib Dem Voice in May 2015 and can be found here.

“David Cameron will launch a 100-day policy offensive…” states the Sunday Times, reporting on the Conservatives’ predicted assault on Europe and Human Rights just days after they secured the most surprising election victory in living memory.

While Liberal Democrat and Labour Party opinion-formers are calling for internal debates on the future of their respective parties, the Conservatives are moving in and preparing to push through legislation that is dangerous, destructive and most of all, frightening.

The Human Rights Act (HRA) should be esteemed as highly as the NHS. Receiving Royal Assent in 1998, the HRA is, in my view, the cornerstone of our liberal and democratic way of life. It protects our basic freedoms, our right to life, privacy and fair trial and protest. Conservatives, in their somewhat warped sense of reality, disagree. They believe that the HRA gives too much power to the EU, saying it gives the British Government little say over how it can deal with issues surrounding terrorism and other criminal matters.

They are wrong.

The Human Rights Act, OUR Human Rights Act, is used to protect people from an overbearing and overly intrusive Government. There are hundreds of examples that can be used to show how precious this legislation is for every citizen in our country.

Human Rights have been used as a way to end the holding of DNA and fingerprint details of innocent children and adults by the police force; they have been used to inform massive changes to the way social services’ procedures are used to protect children at risk of abuse; they have been used to protect the freedom of the press, particularly in terms of keeping sources anonymous; and they have also been used to stop the illegal and unjust detention of people against their will by our security services.

As a resident of the great city of Liverpool, I know too well how badly the state can let its people down, – the people it is supposed to protect and care for. The evidence that has come to light, and is still being disclosed, surrounding the events of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, shows us that people need protection from those in power and those who may not use our police and security services as honourably as they are intended to.  The victims of that awful tragedy, and their families, were badly let down, and it goes without saying, their Human Rights were ignored completely in the aftermath.

We cannot allow Britain and its people to be in a position where their rights and freedoms can be ripped apart by their Government. But if we continue on this current path, that is what may happen.

Quite rightly, after a terrible election defeat, there are calls to look internally and debate the future of the Liberal Democrats. We face a leadership election and possibly a large inquiry on the future of our messaging, policies and direction. The Labour Party, another organisation that values the Human Rights Act, is going through a similar internal debate.

My concern is that while these two groups in Parliament rebuild and rebrand, the Conservatives are mobilising. Already, Michael Gove, Archbishop of the Cameronite Right, has been installed as Secretary of State for Justice with orders to scrap the Human Rights Act in favour of a ´British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities´. We need to make sure that our elected champion, whoever that may be, is ready to walk into battle against him. Our activists need to be armed and ready with petitions, leaflets and scripts ready to take this fight to the streets and communities they represent.

All this cannot be achieved unless we look forward and avoid getting swamped into a navel-gazing exercise on why we failed in May 2015. Yes, I agree we must have that discussion, there are answers needed as to why we fared so badly in the General Election, but we need to debate with the enemy also: that is ultimately the most important aspect of what we, as a party, do.

I want to end by saying that I believe Human Rights to be the very foundation of any Government. People should be allowed to protest, allowed to challenge and allowed to speak their mind. They should be allowed to live, allowed to have a private life and allowed to think and believe what they want. All of this, all that makes us human, needs to be protected.

That is why we, as a party, must do everything we can to defend our Human Rights Act. For all those that it has helped, for all those that it will help in the future, they need us to stand up and be counted.

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