Do I have to preface this post by saying that I’m not trying to take away anybody’s human rights? Probably. Emotions are running very high on this issue and that’s mainly down to the usual partisan rubbish that insists on labelling things as black and white or, to put it bluntly, right wing=bad and left wing=good. I loathe that kind of narrow mindedness.
By wanting to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), I am not saying I don’t want the rights it covers to be enshrined in law. I’m saying I want them to be enshrined in our law, I’m asking for the sovereignty of British courts, parliamentarians and, yes, voters, to be accepted. It’s true that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) makes plenty of good decisions but it also makes decisions which many people find abhorrent. Invoking the ‘right to a family life’ should not allow terrorists and rapists to remain in our country but the cases have been well-documented. And, no, I’m not saying that some people aren’t entitled to this mythical ‘family life’ but I am saying that there needs to be a balance between the rights of that individual and the rights of their victims and potential victims. Too often, it seems, the ECtHR throws its weight behind the individual. Which, of course, is its job but, sometimes, there is a wider picture which it fails to accommodate, quite possibly because it is so distant from the average British taxpayer.
Most, if not all, of what the ECHR stands for is already written down in our legislation, if not in that specific form then in various acts which have been passed over the years. For example, I’ve seen tweets passing me this weekend suggesting that trans people only have rights because of the ECHR. Well, what about the Equalities Act? And if it doesn’t already cover it then the answer is simple – we update our laws to accommodate anything which has slipped through the net. What’s so difficult to understand about that concept?
There’s the notion that if it comes from somewhere beyond our shores then it’s automatically ‘better’. I don’t like that idea, and not because I’m a ‘swivel-eyed loon’ or whatever you want to call me, but because I recognise the disparate nations that institutions like the ECHR have to draw together. I’ve seen the argument that we have to be in the ECHR because otherwise we’re setting a bad example and putting ourselves with Belarus as the only country on the continent which isn’t a part of the convention. Well, firstly, if we have the rights enshrined in law anyway then why do we need to be? Secondly, since Russia are part of the Council of Europe and so the convention, any idea that the states inside the ECHR are setting a ‘good example’ to those outside is laughable to the point of hysterical.
The amount of Tory-bashing going on around this issue is ludicrous. ‘The Tories want to take your human rights away’ is fairly typical of what I’ve seen. And, yes, I’m sure that minorities within the party would like to get rid of certain aspects of legislation but I’m betting that factions of the other parties also have their pet grievances. Do not accuse me of agreeing with the way this government has attacked welfare claimants and don’t accuse me of being blind to ‘the truth’ about what right wingers want. The ‘truth’ is a hell of a lot more complicated than many on the left allow for. Things aren’t black and white, Labour are not the white knights barging in to protect of the black depths of Tory devilry. They’re just not.
I’m not trying to take anybody’s rights away but I do want British people to have control over their own lives. Sovereignty and human rights is a viable path. I wish we could stop the screeching and realise that.