(really) Small Politics

“This is electioneering on the backs of Europe’s most vulnerable. Under these plans human rights would be reserved for only those people the Government decides should get them. This is a blueprint for human rights you would expect from a country like Belarus.” – Tim Hancock, Amnesty UK.

“Puerile” “highly problematic, to put it mildly” “unworkable”

These are just a few of the adjectives experts and lawyers have used to denounce the Tory plans to repeal the Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights unless they get certain exemptions. I can think of a few countries that would like to withdraw from various international conventions on human rights or to have special exemptions. Yeah… is that the company we want to keep? And while we are members of the UN Human Rights Council? While we presume to stomp around the world making speeches and dropping bombs in the supposed defence of human rights?

“Limiting the application of human rights law to ‘serious’ cases and making them subject to ‘civic responsibilities’ is really a way to restrict rights to people the Government likes. Rights will be rebalanced to fit with the ideological leanings of one section of the Tory party.” – Adam Wagner, human rights barrister.

Apart from the very real and chilling problems with the proposals, as explained by a number of legal experts (such as in this article by Democratic Audit), I find the short-termism of the Tories quite breathtaking. They just want to win the election, to hell with what they do when they get there. They don’t even seem to have a reason to get there other than they want to or feel that they’re owed a shot at the big time (I’d say the same is true of the other parties, apart from the Greens).

They’ll promise to withdraw from the EU, roll back the human rights regime, probably even bring back the death penalty if that’s what it takes. Some of them might then do that awkward thing where they campaign against their own proposal, but in reality what will probably happen is that given the chance they would just follow through – regardless of the consequences, regardless of the cost, to satisfy a demented but vocal section of Little England and its super-charged allies in the press. The contrast with the inspiring and fundamental debate that Scotland had just last month is breathtaking.

These policies are basically drawn up with Farage and the Sun in mind (and the crazy wing of the Tory party, which, quite frankly, is eating the rest of the party up anyway).  But we would all have to live with it. And there will be fewer avenues to address the lies of austerity and miscarriages of justice. I don’t want to have my rights and defined by a small section of the Tory Party, the Daily Mail and UKIP. Human rights are there precisely for those who are marginalised and vulnerable. The reason most of us never need to claim them is because we have them already, and we are fine. But the poisonous Tory rhetoric which saves its arrows for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised (and, yes, even criminals, whose human rights we preserve because they are human not because they “deserve” anything) is creating a crueller, smaller-minded country.

This is small politics that makes moral pygmies of us all.

Populism dressed up as “common sense” leaves us all naked.


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