24 March 2009

Bill of Rights II

It just won't go away - this whole idea of giving Britain a simple document a la American Bill of Rights instead of the multitude of parliamentary statutes and international human rights law that we currently enjoy

This is borne out of the general public disdain for the 1998 Human Rights Act, and partly from Labour's ideas for constitutional reform

Unfortunately Labour's constitutional reforms have been consistently half-hearted, and half-baked - they never bothered reforming the House of Commons as promised, because the flawed electoral system benefited them the most, their House of Lords reforms were a slight prod at the unelected chamber of hereditary peers - another baby step towards their demise, and devolution left the system even more unfair than it was before, (and don't forget cash-for-honours)

So forgive me for being a little sceptical - these are after all the people who introduced the blooming Human Rights Act in the first place, not that I'm taking issue with that here - but it is unpopular and I dislike passing massive constitutional change if it's not asked for by the majority

and that brings me to my main beef I guess - Labour have never held an absolute majority of voters, no party has - and to write a document that underpins a country's constitution based on the views of a minority is not a good idea - it needs at least a level of consensus from the politicians, letting Labour simply write it is not a wise move, and deeply unfair to the majority of people in this country (all the more so, when you consider Labour's polling stats)

Now what is wrong with letting them write "freedom of speech" and "freedom of assembly" etc? you may ask

Well, nothing - I could quite happily agree with that, if it was a very broad, simple document like the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) - only it isn't

Have you actually read this thing? Straw wants to make it a bill of 'rights and responsibilities' - right...

From the Gruniad:
By emphasising responsibilities, the green paper suggest it might be possible "to end a me society as opposed to a we society in which an unbridled focus on our own individual rights and liberties risks overtaking our collective security and well being". It suggests that responsibilities are entrenched in the British law, but not clearly expressed leading "to a selfish and aggressive assertion of rights in a way which may damage others enjoyment of their own rights".

What? So you want a statement of fundamental rights to attempt to influence people's behaviour? A child could see the ridiculous flaws in this - a right to free healthcare, the responsibility for parents to help a child's education.. etc etc

Now we may all agree on the free healthcare bit - but that's already broaching into dangerous areas of politics - something that's only come up in the past century and could cause all sorts of problems down the line, but "obey the law", "pay taxes" and 'not claiming benefits if you can work' (paraphrase) are all ludicrous - these aren't rights, they are expectations of behaviour - yet more nannying and telling us what to do - a Bill of Rights protects you with rights (the clue is in the name!)

Straw himself reckons there is a broad agreement in the country on 'progressive' (i.e. centre-left) politics - it is incredibly selfish to try and foist an ideology on the whole nation

Jack Straw has pretty much been the only person in Brown's government that I have ever had respect for - he is the only senior politician with any sort of 'constitutional conscience', if you will

and yet he does this - in effect the creation of a written constitution that solidifies left-wing principles into British law - not a simple statute (I presume, although the HRA is, so why not..?)

This is utterly daft - a Bill of Rights should contain the most fundamental of rights in it - no slavery, torture, detention without trial - freedom of speech, privacy, press etc etc - these protect us, this current proposal is just a rehash with a load of partisan politics thrown in

In fact it doesn't even include such things as right to a fair trial or habeus corpus - something which is no doubt down to Jackboots' little rebellion over it last year

That is of course the ultimate irony about this affair - Smith, and her predecessors (like John Reid) have never had much time for human rights and this government have done their level best to remove most of them - do I need to mention where they have broken the most fundamental of rights? Freedom of speech - a host of measures against hate speech, this rather handily worded article points out the most recent case

Then there's attempts to increase detention without trial in the name of terrorism, the invasion of privacy (CCTV and ID cards, not to mention increased powers for councils to enter your home), freedom of protest (with permission), being complicit in torture - need I go on?

So at least Jacqui Smith is consistent, she doesn't want to be held down by human rights, and yet is one of the head honchos of a party trying to give us a new version of a Bill of Rights - I mentioned I was sceptical at the start, I'm actually downright terrified now

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