The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and its associated Court in Strasbourg is a favourite Aunt Sally of right-wing Conservative MPs and Britain’s tabloid Press (which these days, alas, includes the broadsheet Daily Telegraph), but unjustly so. The Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, as it is more formally known, has since its drafting in 1950 and later adoption by the Council or Europe done a huge amount of useful work in promoting the Rule of Law throughout Europe (including Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey; only the dictatorship of Belarus is outside the fold), as well as providing individuals who feel their rights have been violated by their own State to seek redress. Despite the fact that the Court is a separate institution from the European Union it still gets tarred with the Brussels brush by virulent Europhobes, who seem to believe that the United Kingdom has completely abandoned its national sovereignty to foreigners — not that many of these anti-Europeans seem particularly worried about the fact that US influence is far more marked in various aspects of British public and foreign policy, not to mention our culture. Two things have been like juicy bones to these frothing xenophobic hounds. First, the Court’s ruling that it was wrong for the UK to deprive all prisoners of their rights to vote, no matter how short their sentence or trivial their offence. Theresa May could easily have got round that issue by accepting that prisoners with a sentence of less than six months should still retain their vote, but others not — a compromise that would have satisfied Strasbourg. The other even more famous ECHR “outrage”, of course, relates to the prolonged delay in the expulsion of the vile Islamist extremist Abu Qatada because there has not been up till now a credible assurance from his home country, Jordan, that evidence that might be used against him in any trial in Amman would not have been obtained by torture. Now I, like almost everyone in this country, long to see the back of Abu Qatada, who has milked the system here, including claiming benefits. But we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater by saying, oh well, as he is so wicked it does not matter if witnesses against him have been tortured. When we accept that, then we surrender our commitment to human rights (as the last Labour government alas did, with respect to extraordinary rendition). Moreover, it is utter nonsense for Theresa May to float the idea — seized on by relish by some of her backbench MPs and the right-wing Press — that Britain could temporarily withdraw from ECHR so it can expel Abu Qatada, then reapply once he is out of the way. Anyone who knows anything about International Law and diplomacy knows that is shamelessly playing to the gallery while undermining the very foundations of our credibility as a nation. What is really lacking, I believe, is a concerted campaign in Britain to champion what the ECHR actually achieves, in which politicians, NGOs and the enlightened media should participate. It is not just the future of our involvement with the Strasbourg Court that is at stake but our values as well.
Posts Tagged ‘Theresa May’
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 10th June, 2013
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th November, 2012
During her two years at the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone did great things to promote the equalities agenda, even if she and Theresa May did not always see eye to eye. The Equal Marriage consultation was a real win for the LibDems within the Coalition, and to his credit David Cameron “got” the issue, even if some of his backbench headbangers didn’t. So there was initially some disquiet among LibDems when Lynne was moved in the ministerial reshuffle earier this year to the Department for International Development (DfID). However, as Lynne made clear at an informal briefing to the International Relations Committee (IRC) of the Liberal Democrat Party in Westminster this evening, she has taken equality issues along with her (with the PM’s blessing), and it is especially important that she is able to champion the central role of women in development. She has just returned from a mission to South Sudan, which was rather jumping in at the deep end, though other states she has visited this year include Kenya and Uganda, and Africa is now central to her remit. DfID has of course been directed to phase down its involvement in India (now one of the BRICs) but Africa remains a main area of concern, not only for the traditional problems of famine and disease (including HIV/AIDS) but also for the way that women are excluded and often oppressed within many African societies, including through the persistence of female genital mutilation (FGM). It was interesting that FGM was a major topic in the discussion after Lynne’s presentation at the IRC, but then it is a quintissentially Liberal issue, relating to human rights and gender matters as well as to health. Lynne was a shadow International Development Minister some years ago, so she is not entirely fresh to the field. But it is clear that Africa is offering her a steep learning curve, from which both she and Africa’s development should ultimately benefit.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 10th July, 2010
Lynne Featherstone, LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and now the Minister of State for Equalities and Criminal Information (sic), was the guest of honour at Sutton Liberal Democrats’ annual garden party this afternoon, in the spacious garden of perennial host Jayanta Chatterjee. In keeping with the Coalition Government’s new age of austerity, she arrived not in a chauffeur-driven limousine, but by train, like me. And from her description of life in the Home Office (up at 5.30am and only to bed at midnight, day after day) her tasks are demanding, despite the assiduousness of her civil servants. Far from being under the kitten heels of Home Secretary Theresa May, Lynne has been doing her best to stamp a LibDem tinge on her department’s policies; bilateral relations with her boss are in fact very cordial. Lynne was suitably prominent in last Saturday’s Gay Pride March — seemingly part of a new girl band, half-dancing alongside London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, Party President Ros Scott and London’s LibDem MEP Sarah Ludford. Lynne said that the only thing that impressed her children about her new status in life was the arrival of the first lead-lined wooden red ministerial box. The civil servants will be making sure those ministerial papers keep coming.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 14th May, 2010
About a hundred Liberal Democrats from across South East London gathered at the St John’s Church Hall in Downham (Lewisham) this evening, to hear and ask questions about the agreement the party has made to enter into government with the Conservatives. Originally, Simon Hughes was scheduled to speak, but he was reportedly asked onto the BBC’s Any Questions programme at short notice, so his fellow MP Tom Brake ably took his place. I was expecting some unhappy voices among party members and activists, but actually the tone of the discussion was very positive and Tom’s argument that a full deal with the Conservatives was really the only viable option, particularly given Labour’s lack of genuine interest in a deal, was persuasive. One questioner expressed dismay at the appointment of Theresa May as Home Secretary, given her record on equality issues, but I was able to share today’s news that LibDem Lynne Featherstone has been appointed Minister of State at the Home Office, with special responsiblity for Equalities, which is a much more reassuring prospect. The big question, really, is how William Hague will behave as Foreign Secretary, but even on Europe, it looks as though the Tories have been tamed somewhat by the LibDems. There are issues (such as Trident replacement) on which there was no agreement between the two sides, so LibDem MPs will have to abstain on any related vote, but Tom Brake assured us that that won’t stop us arguing the case against, both in parliament and in the country.
Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 20th July, 2008
Today’s ‘Observer’ has the story already highlighted by Mark Pack on Liberal Democrat Voice that the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Watford, Ian Oakley (who is a councillor for Northwood in the London Borough of Hilingdon), has resigned his candidature, following his arrest on Friday in connection with a prolonged campaign of harassment against Liberal Democrats in Watford, including criminal damage. The first-rate LibDem PPC for Watford Sal Brinton has been amongst those who have received poison pen letters and worse, in this marginal seat. In this country, of course, someone is innocent until proved guilty, so I shall say no more about the particular case of Cllr Oakley, who has been released on bail, and I will wait for the outcome of the police enquiries. However, as LibDem activists in various parts of the country are well aware, there are indeed certain individuals and groups within the Conservative Party that haven’t yet embraced David Cameron’s campaign to rid the Tories of their reputation of being the ‘nasty party’ (an astute epithet, for which we have to thank the Conservative MP for Maidenhead, Theresa May). In recent years, there have been useful groups calling themselves things like ‘Militant Watch’ and ‘Fascist Watch’, monitoring and exposing extremist political activists. Perhaps we should establish a ‘Nasty Tory Watch’ group doing the same sort of thing. I am sure David Cameron would be most grateful.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Conservative Party, David Cameron, Ian Oakley, Liberal Democrat Voice, London Borough of Hillingdon, Mark Pack, nasty party, Observer, Sal Brinton, Theresa May, Watford | 1 Comment »