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|Posted: Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:14 am Post subject: THE PRIME MINSTERS FUTURE LIES IN DISMANTLING HUMAN RIGHTS
|Home News Britain's future (and his own) rests on Mr Cameron dismantling the pernicious Human Rights Act
By Stephen Glover
Last updated at 7:55 AM on 16th August 2011
David Cameron has had a good week. He has supported — some would say initiated — robust action against the rioters, and struck a note of calm and measured defiance.
Yesterday, he offered a more detailed analysis of what he called ‘a moral collapse’ in our society, and promised to tackle the social problems which he believes lie behind it.
Although Ed Miliband scornfully dismissed the Prime Minister’s ‘knee-jerk gimmicks’, it was a speech more of ideas than of specific proposals, gimmicky or otherwise.
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He recited a long list of well-meant intentions which the great majority of people will endorse. Our streets must be reclaimed. The Government will do all it can to strengthen families and parenting. He spoke of ‘an education system which reinforces the message that if you do the wrong thing you’ll be disciplined’.
All highly laudable aims, though there is certainly room for doubt as to whether they will ever be translated into action. My heart slightly sank when Mr Cameron boasted that last week he had set up ‘a cross-government programme to look into every aspect’ of gangs and gang culture. Will anything useful ever come of these doubtless protracted deliberations?
Equally, my scepticism meter rose sharply when he spoke of ‘scrapping the paperwork that holds [the police] back, getting them out on the streets where people can see them and criminals fear them’. This and the previous government have made similar pledges innumerable times, and little or nothing has come of them. I am not sure why we should believe it will be different on this occasion.
Maybe it will be, though. Faced by unprecedented levels of lawlessness, perhaps the cautious, conservative leviathan of government will finally stir itself into addressing social ills which, as the Prime Minister admitted yesterday, have been festering for decades. But it will take remarkable political will and determination to reverse the harmful policies of the past 30 years.
One crucial test of this government’s good intentions is whether, as Mr Cameron intimated yesterday, it will get to grips with the Human Rights Act. He said it was ‘working to develop a way through the morass by looking at creating our own Bill of Rights’, before adding that ‘we will be using our own chairmanship of the Council of Europe to seek agreement to important operational changes to the European Convention on Human Rights’.
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The malign influence of the Convention extends far beyond last week’s civil unrest. Hundreds of foreign prisoners, including some murderers, have been allowed to remain in this country after release from jail on the grounds that they have a right to a ‘family life’ in Britain. The Government has also been told it cannot deport known terrorists.
Almost unbelievably, only a few months ago a prisoner sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for burglary and dangerous driving was released after one month because judges declared that his human rights had been breached.
Almost unbelievably, only a few months ago a prisoner sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment for burglary and dangerous driving was released after one month because judges declared that his human rights had been breached.No less disturbingly, the European Court of Human Rights has insisted that the Government must grant prisoners the right to vote, and continues to do so despite our elected legislature, the House of Commons, having voted by a whopping majority of 212 against the proposal.
It takes little imagination - as Mr Cameron is evidently aware - to see how the Human Rights Act might be used by canny and unscrupulous lawyers to undermine new measures intended to uphold law and order. I expect some of them are already dreaming of how they will spend the extra proceeds.
For example, the Prime Minister’s idea that social media be shut down during disturbances might be challenged under the Act. Plans to withdraw welfare benefits from convicted rioters, or to force people to remove face masks during civil unrest, might well also be resisted.
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As it happens, I have severe reservations about the idea that culprits and their families be thrown out of their council houses, because it seems wrong to penalise innocent people — say a looter’s parent or child — for the crimes of another person. We may be sure that this proposal would also be challenged under the Human Rights Act.
These and other measures introduced by our elected representatives to deal with our own social problems could fall foul of the Act as it stands. Mr Cameron’s apparent intention to do something is welcome, but in view of his many previous so-far-unfilled commitments to replace the Act, it is difficult not to be a little sceptical.
Even yesterday his phrasing was ambiguous. On the one hand the Government is ‘looking at creating our own Bill of Rights’ (a bit evasive, I’m afraid to say) while on the other it is going ‘to seek agreement to important operational changes to the European Convention on Human Rights’. Doing both at the same time hardly makes sense.
Will he do either? Mr Cameron’s problem is that it is difficult, if not impossible, to rein in the European Court while remaining part of the Convention. The inescapable logic is to withdraw, and create our own Bill of Rights, but that is not a measure which Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are likely to support.
For the Lib Dems are great fans of the European Convention, partly because it is European, and partly because they strongly approve of codifying Human Rights. They take little notice of Lord Carlisle, a Lib Dem peer and authority on terrorism, who has said Britain’s inability to deport dangerous terrorists on account of the Act has led to a growing threat to public safety.
Here is the nub of the problem. Speaking on home turf in his Oxfordshire constituency, Mr Cameron was able to sound bold, and to refer to the kind of changes he would like to bring about. But when he returns to the real world he will find he is opposed by Mr Clegg and his timid crew on the Human Rights Act, as well as on many other issues.
My only hope is that the Prime Minister was not cynically appealing to a gallery full of Tories, tossing some ideas in their direction to make them feel good, while knowing in his heart that very few of his proposals will be acceptable to his Lib Dem colleagues.
I would like to think, at what is still a very dark hour for our country, that he not only believes what he said but that he is determined to introduce the reforms that he knows are needed — stronger policing, more discipline in schools and measures to strengthen the family. Much of this, of course, will not be possible unless he deals first with the Human Rights Act.
David Cameron is likely to be frustrated by his Coalition partners, and also held back by a conservative and naturally cautious civil service. The task he outlined yesterday for himself and the Government is immense.
It is not too much to say that not only his political future, but this country’s future as well, rests on his determination to do what he said must be done.
More sound bites from Camerloon, time to get out of the EU and the Human rights rubbish.