Human rights, political wrongs

David Cameron, the new Tory leader who enjoys travelling by dog-sled to show us how gree his credential are (after polluting the atmosphere flying to this photo op and back of course) continues to show that he is trying to become Tony Blair. Chillingly Blair commented a few months ago that he would consider ‘re-writing’ the European Convention on Human Rights where incovenient ideas like freedom, liberty and being innocent until proved guilty got in the way of holding people without charge for long periods of time for that old chestnut which some believe justifies any action – for the protection of the realm.

Now Cameron’s latest PR stunt is to say that he would consider withdrawing from the Human Rights Act as well and replacing it with some other legislation. Given how many of our senior politicans have displayed a cavalier attitude to civil liberties (for our own protection, of course) does anyone trust these politicians who are so two faced they would make Janus blush to re-write the legal protections for our citizens? Especially as they move to force biometric ID cards upon us – am I cynical to think they would love to re-arrange the Act so they can make more use of the sensitive data such a scheme will allow them to gather on us all? Perhaps I am a little cynical, but certainly not paranoid – when political leaders want to bring in heavy-handed ID schemes and threaten to re-write our civil rights legislation it ain’t paranoia, it is fact.

A lot of this, of course, is simple posturing for the tabloid presses to make Blair and Cameron (delete as applicable – if only we could) to make them look tough on crime and potential terrorists (you know, terrorists like those folks the Met keep arresting then finding out much later were ordinary folks – yeah, let’s give them more power to do more of that!). I’m not actually certain that a UK government can withdraw from this legislation since it is part of a wider European Union system, so I suspect it is a lot of hot air. Also the European Convention on Human Rights was enshrined into Scots law along with the establishment of the Holyrood Parliament, so no London government can overturn that law in Scotland. So if some Westminister nupty was stupid enough to try and force the issue they would end up with different legislation in different parts of the UK, rendering it even more farcical. Attempts to force the Scottish parliament to toe the Westminister line would precipitate a constitutional crisis.

So if it is just posturing why get worried about it? Well for starters it is chilling that any democratic politician would tell the mass media they think they should get rid of legislation which protects the civil liberties and rights of citizens, even if they don’t actually intend to go through with it. Secondly it sends a dreadfully wrong signal – they are clearly indicating to the population that human rights legislation is some bogus scheme dreamt up by liberal loons who care more for potential criminals than for law abiding citizens.

Yes, some folks have used loopholes in the legislation to escape prosecution when they were clearly guilty, but this is not unique to civil liberties laws – the phrase the law is an ass was around long before this Act was brought in. Lawyers have exploited loopholes and odd interpretations of the law for centuries to serve their clients regardless of the actual moral right or wrong of their actions. To select human rights legislation as the new bogeyman which will free evil terrorists to murder us all in our beds is not only misleading it is dangerous and sends out a dreadful signal to people. And to toy with such ideas simply for some politician to get a few inches in the weekend press is despicable.