After coming out in support of the EU, the home secretary needs to win back the Tory right wing
Image: Policy Exhange
The Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday declared that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights (EHCR). Her stance has provoked outrage from the opposition benches and disagreement from within her own party.
Given that the ECHR has helped to prevent the abuse of children, deaths in custody, torture, homophobia and illegal stop and searches, it’s hard to see how May’s comments could be about defending justice.
Indeed, they may have less to do with human rights than with her bid to become Conservative Party leader.
This is not necessarily surprising – the Tories know a secret. They know that with their policies angering teachers, doctors, local authority workers, legal aid workers, charities, the fire service, midwives, people with disabilities, people who need tax credits to survive and many others, that the only way to stay in government at the next election is to pander to those voters who believe the UK is better as far away from Europe as possible.
May has chosen to support the ‘Remain’ campaign because she knows it would be catastrophic to our economy to leave – she knows driving the UK into a black hole of fiscal uncertainty would prevent her from ever becoming prime minister.
However, by backing the European Union she must now scramble to win back the confidence of the party’s right wing. To do this she needs to espouse anti-human rights rhetoric and make the front pages of the right leaning tabloids.
It seems unlikely that she could even pretend to actually disagree with the improvements the European Court of Human Rights has made to the UK. Does she wish the court hadn’t said the UK was wrong not to allow gay people into the armed forces? Does she we wish it hadn’t said the UK was wrong to allow children to be hit?
The reality: May is worried that by not joining the likes of Gove, Farage and Johnson in the Leave campaign, that she will have lost her appeal to core right wing voters. By breaking rank from official Government policy, she is hoping to reposition herself again as a hard-nosed Tory.
She is happy to pull up the drawbridge on European influence, even though it has had a profoundly positive influence on our country.
Of course we mustn’t forget her short term goals either – pushing through her data surveillance agenda. Many people believe that the Investigatory Powers Bill breaches people’s right to privacy because it gives the Government a blanket power to retain their data without them needing to be under suspicion of crime.
With the European Court of Human Rights set to review those laws and delivering a judgment later this year, perhaps it’s not just her leadership she’s worried about.
Tom McNeil is Director of Human Rights Act Campaign at Labour Campaign for Human Rights