Thursday 29 June 2023

Defying Convention

Not even the brilliant mind of Suella Braverman could convince anyone that Rwanda was both a demi-paradise, and so horrific that no one would ever run the risk of being sent there.

But as for the European Convention on Human Rights, it has not prevented the enactment of the Public Order Act that Labour has entirely predictably promised not to repeal, despite the fact that even the Police have apologised for arrests made pursuant to it, which had led to no charges so pursuant.

You have called us cranks and worse for years when we have pointed out that most Labour MPs and the whole of the party’s staff were well to the right of at least half of Conservative MPs and comprised a downmarket reserve team for when the Conservatives needed an occasional spell out of office. Well, here we are. Again.

Of course, nor has the ECHR prevented the enactment of the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act, of the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act, of the Nationality and Borders Act, of the Elections Act, or of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. It will keep off the Statute Book neither 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, either.

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?