Labour brought human rights to the UK – now we must defend them

The Tories' plans are a direct attack on basic freedoms



David Cameron has chosen to make one of the first acts of his new government destroying the Human Rights Act – but Labour’s deep disappointment at the election result must not diminish our determination to oppose it from the outset.

It was British civil servants who played a key role in drafting the original European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in 1951. It was Labour Britain which was responsible for bringing these human rights home with the introduction of the Human Rights Act in 1998.

If anyone on the Labour side feels half-hearted about this battle, then it should be sufficient to remind you that the new justice secretary, appointed by David Cameron to axe the act, is none other than Michael Gove.

We helped found the Labour Campaign for Human Rights to show that this is not a legal or academic debate, but a direct attack on rights precious to the mass of people in Britain,who Labour must always represent.

The Dowler family given false hope for the life of their daughter by the actions of irresponsible journalists; the air hostess who won the right to wear the Christian cross at work; the learning-disabled people seeking protection against physical and sexual abuse hidden away in private care homes, have all won important legal victories because of human rights.

Tories want to smear the act by associating it with undermining the fight against terrorists, conveniently forgetting that the delay in extraditing Abu Hamza was less to do with the Human Rights Act, than with home secretary Theresa May’s astonishing failure to lodge the legal claim to do so within the requisite timescale.

Human Rights are about upholding the rule of law, and it is ironic the Conservative Party – which likes to portray itself as a party of law and order – is so willing to risk this.

For Labour, the defence of human rights must remain a cornerstone of our politics, and is central to the fight against discrimination in all its forms.

The Human Rights Act has been a vital tool in the fight for rights the LGBTI community. One simple example of this can be seen in the changes in UK law to allow gay members of the armed forces to be open about their sexuality.

The right to protest is sadly one which we may be forced to exercise more not less in the years ahead, and the restrictions of the miner’s strike are ready to leap off the stage of Billy Elliott back in to the politics of today.

Do our friends in the press really want to support demolition of their freedom of expression? The ruling in the European Court of Human Rights showed that forced disclosure of journalistic sources would have a chilling effect on press freedom.

Don’t we live in a better society, where local authorities, the NHS and the police have to ask themselves whether their decisions and actions might violate the fundamental rights of the people we are all supposed to serve?

And, of course, removing the HRA will mean citizens have to endure a slow judicial process at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg instead of raising cases in domestic courts – Labour’s reason for passing the act in the first place.

Tory plans for a British ‘Bill of Rights’ are hopelessly muddled, either suggesting the changes they plan are merely cosmetic, or detonating a suicide bomb against the European Convention itself.

It is further evidence that Mr Cameron is endangering both Britain’s position in Europe and the unity of the United Kingdom itself, irrespective of his protestations otherwise.

Human rights are for everyone.

None of us know when our lives might suddenly fall apart because of unreasonable actions outside our control, and when we might rely on legal protection to assert our own innocence, to protect ourselves or those who we love.

The narrative of the Conservatives is that people do not deserve rights. Let them be accused and see if they might be happy to be powerless in response. On abolition of the Human Rights Act, it is Labour who must accuse them.

Claude Moraes MEP is chair of the European Parliament Justice, Civil Liberties and Home Affairs Committee, and Richard Howitt MEP is Labour’s European spokesperson on human rights and founder member of the Labour Campaign for Human Rights

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30 Responses to “Labour brought human rights to the UK – now we must defend them”

  1. wj

    It was the Labour government that gave us the European Arrest Warrant that put a hobnail boot through our established system of law. It has also made our governments subservient to a supranational system of law imposed by unelected judges.

    The ‘rights’ culture has silenced Free Speech and discriminated against religious conviction and the main beneficiaries have been the offended victim chasing legal parasites.

    How can we expect people to bother visiting a Polling station every 5 years when the cross that they put on a piece of paper is meaningless and any law produced under any manifesto can be overruled.

  2. RoughSleeper

    Like I said to Starmer, you can’t jump on the bandwagon of the day that is most convenient to yourself, and then be taken seriously.

    If you now stand up for Humans Rights & democracy, to oppose the Tories, you must also stand up against your own actions against them under ‘New’ Labour.

    Or, as I said to KS: How dare you have the gall to jump on this bandwagon, for political promotion, when you were in power, directing the ‘putting on the streets’ anyone that, progressed a case to the ECHR exposing abuse of the law, and coverups?

    If the behaviour of all politicians sicken us, then this must make us absolutely retch!

    I was/am one of your victims.

    Lets get back to ‘True’ Labour; truth; no more coverups (Westminster, or other); stating what you stand for, laws that you will pass, laws that you will repeal, before an election; State being subservient to, and obeying, democracy. Then we, the public, will have a party to believe in, and the Tories won’t have a look-in.

    (8.5656 x 10K hours expertise, Boots on the ground, @ 1.5747 pence/day)

  3. Gerschwin

    This is taking the piss. Tony Blair did not get out of bed one morning and discover this thing called Human Rights. He decided UK law and UK courts were not fit for purpose for reasons known only to him but I suspect because it enablde him to define rights and thereby limit them, and inflicted this upon the UK, meantime he passed laws banning people from demonstrating outside Parliament and enabling the police to prosecute people for wearing T-shirts Blair didn’t like – what a duplicitous cretin. What Gove propose is that UK law courts and UK law are fit for purpose and that we should do this our way – and he’s absolutely right.

  4. Selohesra

    There is more to Humam Rights than the Human Rights Act. Britain is quite capable of establishing appropriate rights answerable to British courts

  5. Cole

    Yes, we really want some Bill of Rights written by the Tories. Do you think people are stupid?

  6. Cole

    Oh rubbish. The authoritarian Tories just want to attack our freedoms. They were at it after 2010: gagging laws, secret courts, snoopers’ charter. Now it’s about to get worse.

    Don’t you get it: Conservatives hate freedom except when it comes to making money.

  7. Gerschwin

    All of which are absolutely essential, especially gagging laws – Charities have no business political campaigning and should have their charitable status removed if they do, starting with the RSPCA.
    The really scuzzy one was the foul, cynical, evil one the Labour PIErty tried on – ID cards. Thanks to the freedom loving Tory Party ID cards are now consigned to the waste bin of tyrants where they belong and where incidentally we also find the Labour PIErty – where they also belong.

  8. Gerschwin

    Exactly 9,347,304 of them.

  9. Gerschwin


  10. Kyle Anderson

    Its true… they hate and want to cause misery and suffering, enslavement to anyone they can’t make money from …They want to build private prisons so that they and their chums can buy shares in them. After that, they want to imprison as many people as possible in them, send the bill for keeping them there to the government and make private profit on the back of the (almost entirely risk-free) “enterprise”. And if you think all that is a dark joke, look to America, where the intellectually enfeebled, Socially Retarded British Right Wing find all their ideas. This is Big Brother brought forward… the Radicalization is the same thing… Terror? Any type of critique or dissent means you are a threat to the crooks, liars, wimps and misfits … putting Democracy at risk… what fucking Democracy? There isn’t a Statesman among any of them on the green benches save for the SNP… politics is over and has been since Bliar… All you have are Rent Boys and Lobbyists for Corporatism, Privatization and Special Interest Groups … we’re on our way back into the dark ages again… and this one will make the last look like a Kids Playground, because there are so many more tools and smoke and mirrors to fool and decieve people… these bastards have positioned themselves, have all the money, and soon enough will be able to have robots and computers executing all manual Labour jobs… so what about US? These misanthropes look at you only as expendable, can they make money from you? If they can’t bend over for, extort from or sell arms to you, what good are you? n you are a burdon to them and must be punished… People don’t know what they are seeing, reading, hearing, eating… its so out of control and it WON’T change unless there are serious revolutions and Mussolini style oustings… Remember Mao, its no picnic.

  11. Cole

    You mean the 37% of those that both to vote. Such a mandate!

  12. Cole

    You don’t even know what the gagging law covers, do you? It impacts campaigning groups that aren’tcharities, as well as things like blogs. It was a heavy handed and quite effective attempt to shut people up before the election.

    Of course charities shouldn’t participate in party politics and no-one suggests they should. But are you seriously saying they shouldn’t campaign on issues like poverty? Maybe you think they should just hand out alms to the deserving poor or be there to give tax breaks to private schools and establishment think tanks.

  13. Gerschwin

    ‘ Maybe you think they should just hand out alms to the deserving poor ‘ Correct.

  14. Gerschwin

    Bless. I’m sure Mummy will kiss it and make it better Cole.

  15. Cole

    Well that’s the Tory view. As is hatred of our freedoms and a deeply authoritarian streak (with a few honourable exceptions like David Davis).

  16. Selohesra

    No not all people – but judging by your facile remark you are!

  17. Cole

    Which is a kind of pathetic way of ducking out of a discussion. But we know right wingers loathe debate and fill their scummy ‘newspapers’ with smears and lies.

  18. Selohesra

    And people wonder why the Left got shafted out of sight at election!

  19. Selohesra

    Charities that get government funding should not be called charities – they are quangos

  20. Gerschwin

    Whatever Cole. It’s too late to complain about the electoral system now and I’m quite sure had there been a Lab/SNP coalition you wouldn’t have given me any sympathy if I complained about a stitch up so guess what? You’re not gonna get one from me. You keep blaming the newspapers and I’ll keep watching you chaps on the opposition benches. Marvellous.

  21. Gerschwin

    At least try and be original.

  22. Cole

    Usual non argument. And you Tories do hate our freedoms, hence your Putinesque legislation.

  23. Cole

    Remember 1992? The Tories thought they would be in for ever. Then came 1997…

  24. Gerschwin

    Yeah I know Cole and I’ll bet it’s already crossed Cameron’s mind. But times have also changed, thanks to the SNP Labour now starts any election with -55 odd seats – that’s one hell of a handicap. Add to that the UKIP factor eating away at Labour in the north and then that there just is no obvious leader, back in ’92 Labour had two stand out men (Smith and Blair), throw in boundary reform as well (that’s roughly +20 seats to the Tories) and frankly – you’re screwed.

  25. Kyle Anderson

    And will continue to be, thanks to the people believing lying Rent Boys

  26. Gerschwin

    Same again Cole. Try and be original. Present an argument.

  27. Selohesra

    Is that a Chukka reference? If not you have lost me

  28. steroflex

    Human rights =Nonsense on stilts.
    You write a list. Lovely. What have you left out? Why?
    How do you propose to implement them?
    Wouldn’t Human Responsibilities be better – expecting everyone to respect other people rather than telling them to make up a wish list and then go about getting their rights at the expense of everyone else?
    PS The law courts badly need reform. Family Courts? Secret. Double jeopardy – removed. Extradition – allowed to USA and Europe. Jury – removed in certain cases. European court – backlog, dodgy judges, very dodgy decisions based on Human Rights.

  29. SarahTShields

    ☞☞☞$77 /hr 0n the computer@me14//



  30. Gerschwin

    Shhh…don’t tell Labour Sarah, they don’t like people making money.

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