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I guess seeing the back of Farage was too much to ask

Nigel Farage said in his book that he would cease to be UKIP leader should he not be elected as an MP as it would not be credible for him to run the party without sitting in parliament. His own constituency of South Thanet rejected him and voted Tony. He said at the time that he was "a man of his word" and he resigned, however the party chairman refused to accept the resignation; which leads to three observations:
  1. The UKIP is really that unable to find anybody else to lead the party?
  2. I guess this means that Farage is not a man of his word?
  3. How can we take UKIP seriously if their leader can't even sit in Westminster?
So... Farage is still around. Oh well.

Are we not humans? Do we not have rights?

So no sooner has the dust settled from sweeping the halls used as polling stations, did Mr Cameron in his role as solitary Prime Minister (no coalition this time) appoint Mr. Michael Gove as Secretary of whatever department would be responsible for the dismantling of the UK's affiliation with the European Convention on Human Rights. Well, that would be the Secretary of State for Justice. Evidently an oxymoron.
Remember, this is the minister that wanted to provide a copy of the King James Bible to every school (eventually done with private sponsorship) so that everybody could benefit from (and I quote) its literary riches, plus permitting that same year, three schools to be approved to teach "Creationalism". There's just nothing sensible to say about Creationalism. As for the bible? Yes, it is a very important book in publishing history - but this is Britain, dammit, it isn't as if we are lacking literary riches... Austen? Shakespeare? Dickens? Brontë(s)? Woolf? Orwell? Kipling? Huxley? Carroll? Browning? Keats? Douglas Adams?

This is the minister who used private email addresses (some suspect to avoid FOI requests), plus his staff expiring old emails (some suspect this may be so they simply wouldn't be available any more for FOI requests). This information is listed in detail on Wikipedia; plus a rather interesting anecdote where he describes a utopia in Iraq following their liberation: When the world goes into recession, Iraq is likely to enjoy a 10% GDP growth. Alone in the Arab Middle East, it is now a fully functioning democracy... Fast forward past the birth of the Islamic State and remind me, which Iraq is this we're talking about?

This is the minister that, writing in 1998, would appear to want to reinstate hanging as a punishment - and while he has a point that a harsher sentence may concentrate the law to apply itself more effectively than at present, the problem with hanging is that there is no "oops, we got it wrong, you're actually innocent" option. A person hung is a person dead. The end. So to make these sorts of comments, even if it was in jest, say, you can see why it has come back to bite him on the ass. Especially as this is the man now tasked with replacing the European Convention on Human Rights with "something better".

Technically, he wants to make decisions of the European Court no longer binding over the British supreme court, and to prevent the European Court from ordering changes in British law. If this plan does not succeed (and there is no reason to believe that it would as it effectively renders the European Court impotent and is a very bad precedent to set), then Britain may well withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.
When you look at things a little deeper - what this really means is that the government will be required to withdraw from the ECHR because it isn't the Human Rights Act (1998) that requires the judgement of the European Court to be binding. It isn't EU membership that requires the judgement of the European Court to be binding. It is article 46(1) of the convention itself; which Britain signed up to in the '50s.

Just for clarification - the European Convention on Human Rights is NOT the European Union. While the ECHR is a prerequisite for EU membership (and all 47 signatories have voluntarily accepted it (with varying degrees of success)), the ECHR predates the EU and is a separate thing from the EU.

The convention, which has its cases heard in the European Court of Human Rights, is open to any European citizen who feels that their rights have been violated by a state party. Judgements where violations have been found are binding on the states concerned. Interestingly, the idea of the convention was led by a British Tory MP back in 1949. Back then, the British government expected citizens to have rights and that the rule of law will be followed.

The convention provides for:

  • The right to life
  • Prohibition of torture
  • Prohibition of slavery and forced labour (except, for example, work expected of prisoners)
  • The right of liberty - prohibiting unlawful arrest, the right to justice, etc.
  • The right to a fair trial
  • The presumption of innocence
  • Prohibition of retroactive sentencing. If I wear an orange hat today, and it is made illegal tomorrow, I can be arrested if I wear one tomorrow, not because I wore one today. In essence, things that were not illegal at the time but are now cannot be taken into account.
  • The right of privacy, a private home and family life and correspondence.
  • The freedom of thought and religion.
  • The freedom of expression provided that it does not conflict with national security, crime, etc. This is the "you can tell the Prime Minister that you think he's a twat but you can't shout FIRE! in a crowded theatre" scenario.
  • The freedom or assembly, association, and making trades unions etc - again provided it doesn't conflict with public security. A march in support of X is acceptable, a not.
  • The right of (normal male-female) marriage when the national age of consent is reached, along with the right to start a family. [the court has so far omitted applying the article to same-gender marriages]
  • Prohibition of discrimination - race, colour, gender, religion, upbringing, blah blah blah.
  • Free and fair elections.
  • That these rules can be overridden in cases where there is a viable threat to the nation - you probably can't help but discriminate against a person when they're the enemy and you're aiming a rifle at them...
  • A state CAN restrict the political activity of foreign nationals, however the foreign nationals of other member states are not to be considered "aliens" in this respect.
One thing that is clear from reading the Wiki article on the convention is that the cases mentioned at all "<name> vs <country>". The convention is not so much there for quarrels between you and me as it is for protecting the state (the government) from infringing upon our rights. I can decide to be Shinto. You can round up some friends and hand out leaflets in London. We can both dye our hair animé blue. Sure, everybody else will think we're nuts, but we are afforded the liberty to do with without discrimination or arrest. This is Europe, not a despot "people's republic".

The convention asserts that the rights should be included in British law. Thus, it is not necessary for a person to go to Strasbourg, they can often get justice from a British court following the same rules. The convention also requires all public bodies to abide by these same human rights. This means it isn't just the government itself, but also local councils, the police, the NHS, etc. Something that is currently unclear is if these public bodies would be required to uphold human rights in a British "bill of rights".

So the government wants to do away with the convention and replace it with "something better". Something, it seems, that the government will be able to determine whether or not the rules apply. We should not lose sight of the horrible irony of planning to strip British citizens of the rights applied to every European (and finally signed into law by Labour in 1998) in the same week as celebrating VE Day.

Forgive me for asking what is an obvious question, but if the government makes the rules and the government decides if the rules apply, exactly how does one hold the government to account if one's rights are violated?

I can see that for every lengthy and embarrassing hook handed cleric, there is massive potential for abuse of people's rights - especially the silent victims, something the ECHR has given a voice to. Will the UK introduce new laws to replace the articles of the convention, or will it just be assumed that it is okay to search and arbitrarily arrest black people because, you know, white people never commit crimes do they? At this time, there has been no published version of the planned British bill of rights because... well... read the list of rights above. Which ones of those would you be happy to forgo? For every high profile case, there are many smaller cases that benefit from the provisions of the rights.

The only way for the current Tory plan to work is to actually withdraw from the ECHR itself (to annul article 46(1)); and upon doing that will most likely be required to withdraw from the Council of Europe (note: this is not "the European Union" either).
This will mean that following the second world war, the countries of Europe have grouped together to provide a charter of rights and a way for citizens to exercise them. The only European country not a part of this is Belarus. Apparently Russia and Turkey have accepted the ECHR, though I'd take that with a pinch of salt in Russia's case...
...and some 70 years later, for some bizarre reason, one of the founding architects of the convention itself wishes to strip its citizens of the rights and ability to exercise them, and stand alone from the numerous countries pledging to provide fundamental human rights to their citizens.

The convention is not there to be abused by the well-paid lawyers of high profile people, the convention is there for every single one of us.

And that is exactly who ought to be worried right now.

Every. Single. One. Of. Us.



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Zerosquare, 14th May 2015, 05:32
Hello Rick, 
Is your email address at the top of the page still correct? I sent you an email a few days ago but I wasn't sure the address was current.
Jess, 15th May 2015, 16:47
This and the snooper's charter and the migrants and everything, I wonder if the idea is to taint everybody's misconceptions of the EU even more and then hold a referendum with a guaranteed result? 
If not that then we will surely have to erect signs at the airport saying "Welcome to Britain, this is a police state, watch your step".

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