Friday 17 December 2021

Wrong About Rights?

What is so wonderful about the Human Rights Act, anyway? It has not prevented the enactment of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act, or of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act. It will not keep the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill off the Statute Book.

It does not preclude the Home Secretary from stripping people of their British citizenship, nor will it stop her from soon being able to do so without even having to tell the people affected. It presents no obstacle to vaccine passports. It is doing nothing for Julian Assange. It has done nothing against the austerity programme, which has led to the distribution of Red Cross food parcels to our starving compatriots. Every bad thing that Priti Patel has already done, she has done while the Human Rights Act has been in force.

I myself was convicted after the judge had specifically directed the jury to "disregard" the concept of conviction beyond reasonable doubt. Like Claudia Webbe MP, I was then convicted of, and I was imprisoned for, the offence of harassment, to which there is no defence, since it consists in having made the complainant feel harassed. What matters is that the complainant is sufficiently well-connected that the Crown Prosecution Service will take up the complaint. In Webbe's case, she was convicted of this by a salaried employee, sitting alone, of the same State that had brought the prosecution. None of this is any sort of breach of the Human Rights Act.

Nothing that was largely written by David Maxwell Fyfe ever did have anything to do with the Left. Not the European Union into which he so castigated Anthony Eden for not having taken Britain at the start. And not the European Convention on Human Rights, either. There was a reason why its incorporation into British domestic law was never attempted by any Labour Government until that of Tony Blair.

It duly proved useless as civil liberties were shredded; it was the dear old House of Commons that stopped the detention of people for 90 days without charge. And it duly proved useless as the poor, the sick and the disabled were persecuted on a scale and with a venom that had not been seen since before the War, if ever. That persecution continued into and as the age of austerity, which has been resumed at the start of this horrendous winter with the cut to Universal Credit by the partying Department for Work and Pensions. Against austerity, human rights legislation has been of only the most occasional use, if any. That has always been the intention. 

In May 1948, the pompously self-styled Congress of Europe assembled in the Hall of Knights, in The Hague. Addressing that assembly, Winston Churchill called it "the Voice of Europe". But in fact it was mostly made up of politicians who had recently been defeated at the polls, of the representatives of Royal and Noble Houses that had fairly recently been dispossessed at least in political terms, of the likes of Churchill who fell into both categories, and of people whose lives' work was trying to delude themselves that so did they.

In the name of the order that had held sway for a century between the defeat of Napoleon and the First World War, their aim was very explicitly to check the Social Democracy that was sweeping Western Europe at the time. The material that they produced had that intention, and it has had that effect. Lo and behold, Blair had it written into British domestic law. 

And lo and behold, the body that he created for its enforcement, when it has not been sacking its black and disabled staff first, and when it has not been failing to find anything wrong with the Government's handling of the Windrush scandal, played a key role in bringing down Jeremy Corbyn. Not that Corbyn helped himself by backing down when he ought to have been fighting back. But "Equality and Human Rights"? What equality, exactly? Which human's rights?