Tuesday 7 March 2023

Fair and Patient?

Suella Braverman holds no terrors for those of us who came to Britain on a big boat. Can I be bothered? Not with the Illegal Migration Bill, no. In anything like its present form, if it at all, it will never become law. People who wanted something even more draconian would need to hold out hope for a Labour Government, since Yvette Cooper’s objection today was that Braverman was not going far enough, with Stephen Kinnock touring the studios to reiterate that point.

Thankfully, the people at whom Braverman was aiming will not have noticed. All that they will have heard will have been that a Labour Government would let 100 million people into Britain. Cooper was first elected in 1997 with a majority of 15,246, and it was 14,499 as recently as 2017, but last time it fell from that to 1,276. In 2024, there will be 100 million reasons to say goodbye and good riddance to the Wicked Witch of the Work Capability Assessment. But if there were any Illegal Migration Act, then it would look nothing like today’s Bill.

The European Convention on Human Rights has not prevented the enactment of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act, the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act, the Nationality and Borders Act, the Elections Act, or the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. It will keep off the Statute Book neither the Public Order Bill, nor the Online Safety Bill, nor the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, nor the National Security Bill. No one seriously imagines that a Labour Government would repeal any of those.

The ECHR does not preclude the Home Secretary from stripping people of their British citizenship, now without even having to tell them. It has presented no obstacle to vaccine passports. It is doing nothing for Julian Assange. It is not breached by the Trade Union Act 2016. Most countries that subscribe to the ECHR already have identity cards. Thus defined, Keir Starmer is indeed a human rights lawyer.

Nothing that had largely been written by David Maxwell Fyfe ever did have anything to do with those of us who sought to strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty. Not the European Union into which he castigated Anthony Eden for not having taken the United Kingdom at the start. And not the ECHR, either.

There was a reason why the ECHR’s incorporation into British domestic law was never attempted by any Labour Government until Tony Blair’s. It duly proved useless as civil liberties were shredded; it was the 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. Long before Brexit, Covid-19, or the invasion of Ukraine, even as Red Cross food parcels were distributed to our starving compatriots, human rights legislation was 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, the order to which the Reichsbürger would wish to return, 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?