If Theresa May was hoping that her speech to the Tory faithful in Manchester last week would simply soothe the grassroots’ nerves and lull them into thinking the government were the party of common sense, I suspect she may be disappointed. For rather than cheer the masses into mindless positive campaigning, she opened up a can of worms.
Politics and politicians appear to have a penchant for cats, but May’s speech highlighted the lack of real depth in the Conservative Party’s policy on the Human Rights Act when it was revealed that her example was taken from speech I gave in Eastleigh over the summer and reproduced here on this website.
I am aware that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but when it comes to human rights and how these are dealt with in UK legislation, we are speaking of an issue that is nearly universal in its implications, not a gesture that panders to the party faithful. By citing a case plucked from my own speech, Ms May played into the hands of the Liberal Democrats and local MP Chris Huhne by providing them with a win-win situation when, inevitably, the Tories fail to deliver on this issue. They get their way; the EU continues to govern us, and they can say that their presence in the coalition soothed any ultra controversial ideas the ‘wicked Tories’ may have had.
The reason I made that speech—the reason I am leader of a party which supports leaving the ECHR behind—is because I am a believer in liberties which are all encompassing. I loathe the idea that those in power wish to list people’s rights in legislation as if anyone needed the permission of MPs or, even worse, MEPs, to exercise the rights intrinsic to them as human beings. The idea of codifying rights should not be a political talking point or an exercise to be undertaken in pursuit of electoral gain. However, neither should the concept of what constitutes a “human right” be imposed on us by an unelected, external judicial system.
Forget cats for the minute. When discussing the Human Rights Act, we are talking about legislation which prevents this country’s judicial system from taking steps to protect law-abiding citizens—the only purpose for which a justice system is fit. In 2003, Iraqi asylum seeker Also Mohammed Ibrahim killed 12-year-old Amy Houston in a hit and run. He also had previous convictions for drug possession, property damage, harassment, and burglary. Yet because of the “rights” he was entitled to under the Human Rights Act and the ECHR, a seven-year battle to have him deported failed. His “right to a family life” was considered more worthy of protection than the rights to life and to property due to law-abiding citizens. This is what Chris Huhne, by refusing to even debate the issue, is supporting.
I could list many examples where the rights of hard-working people to go about their lives without fear of harassment and injury have been cast aside in the protection of the dubious and contradictory human rights of the HRA and the ECHR, but what I would rather do, what I feel is more important, is to highlight what can be done about it and why, if people passionately care about changing this situation. The answer is not with Theresa May and the Conservatives. Her speech simply highlighted her unwillingness to act, even though she has your democratic mandate to act. And it highlighted the unwillingness of her party to act, even though they are the party of Government. When the Home Secretary admits publicly that her government is not able to protect you, despite the fact that it wields all the power it needs to do so, then the Conservative party is not the party that will uphold and defend your rights. Nor will Chris Huhne and the Lib Dems, who refuse to acknowledge these contradictions and injustices, nor the Labour Party, who were responsible for the travesty of introducing these injustices into the body of British legislation.
The solution is with a party that wants this country to make its own laws. A party which believes that human rights are not there to be waved like a carrot at election time or chopped and changed whenever it suits the people who happen to be in power.
Because the fact is, rhetoric aside, whilst we are signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act remains on the statue books, there is nigh on nothing we can do to ensure that our true, universal human rights are protected and upheld: the rights to life, and to freedom, and to self-determination, so that no one’s human experience is put at risk or brought to a premature end because criminals’ “rights” were considered more deserving of defence.
All of which means that despite Ms May’s speech, and despite the resulting twitter gaff, neither the Conservatives nor Chris Huhne and the Lib Dems can be expected to deliver anything of the sort, when neither is prepared to bring the fight to the effects of the ECHR and the blatantly unjust outcomes resulting from it.
We can look forward to many more outrages, where British citizens are sacrificed at the altar of European “rights” to anything and everything, unless we face the facts about where our laws are made and hold ministers and MPs to account.
Nigel Farage is Leader of the United Kingdom Independence party and is one of Eastleigh’s MEPs. He stood as the Ukip candidate for Eastleigh in 1994.