The Witchfinder challenges Theresa May about her desire to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
Theresa May wants Britain to abolish the Human Rights Act 1998. We can pretty much only do this if we withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights and the Court. She wants that option on the table. As a moderate Conservative, what does the Witchfinder think?
Well certainly, your hooded correspondent agrees that their is little to be found either in the Convention or even classical morality that supports the European Court ruling against depriving prisoners of the right to vote. Certainly there has been a regrettable preoccupation, from some quarters, with the rights of terrorist sympathisers like Abu Hamza. Indeed there is much perverse in our country – for example the excellent Anna Raccoon once posted a deeply insightful piece on how much worse we treat the elderly than prisoners.
The Witchfinder has always regarded the European Convention on Human Rights as unacceptably vague and open to perverse, self-serving interpretation. However the simple question to Mrs May is this – With what do you intend to replace it?
It is all very well saying we shall have a constitutional convention – many people throughout history have written of how they think society and our systems of justice should be run – to say the least these are contentious topics.
The Witchfinder thinks that a constitutional Bill of Rights should be simple, short and clear. We need a set of rules to underpin our society of the day, yet reflecting timeless values such that the instrument will endure and not be regularly changed. We need constitutional law to protect free speech, to guarantee access to justice and to protect the weak, the vulnerable and the mentally ill or incapable.
Can the coalition government deliver this? Has it? Is this a country where we value free speech or do we seek to constrain our journalists? We need a constitutional law to guarantee access to justice, yet this government has united such disparate bedfellows as the Guardian and the Daily Mail in opposition to its plans for secret courts. Do we protect the weak? The vulnerable, mentally ill and incapable? Pretty much “no”.
So the Human Rights Act has not solved our problems. Could a Conservative Government under Mrs May?
This is where Mrs May needs to show she can do better. If she wants the Witchfinder’s vote in a future Conservative Leadership election she will need to set out her plans for reforming the HRA 1998. Your humble inquisitor lacks the hubris to draft his own British Constitution, but has written at length on the rights of the mentally ill and incapable, and on the subject of access to justice.
It is, all things considered, easy to knock. Any one can point to the injustice of spending more than two million pounds on Abu Hamza. Anyone can point to a piece of paper and suggest burning it. Hell, the Witchfinder buys petrol in bulk. Emundabo illos in ignis is the easiest thing in the world to say and almost as easy to do. However successful government and successful party leadership depends on more than that.
Can Theresa May tell us what comes after the fire?