Human Rights Act: A thoroughly Churchillian piece of legislation…

Peter Oborne has an Op Ed in today’s Guardian (opposite, in fact, a nicely edited piece of my own condensed thoughts on Lisbon), doing what he is so good at: upsetting a few conventional applecarts, ahead of a book co-written by Jesse Norman and himself for Liberty published later today:

Conservative critics are wrong to say that the rights of the act are in general socioeconomic entitlements. In fact, they are absolutely fundamental to the British common law tradition. They include the right to life; the prohibition of torture, first enacted by the Long Parliament in 1640; rights to liberty and security of person; the right to a fair trial, which dates back to Magna Carta; the right to respect for private and family life; rights to freedom of expression and religion; and the right to freedom of association. These rights are not radical: they are deeply Conservative.

And finally, the act itself operates in a peculiarly Conservative way. It confers no new right that has not already been long recognised in common law, or to which parliament has not already long committed the UK. Its rights are not inviolable, but can be set aside at will. Where there is an inconsistency of law, it leaves it to parliament to decide how to resolve that inconsistency, and only if it chooses. A more Conservative approach could hardly be conceived.

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  • Winston is my hero

    A refreshing contribution to this debate which will hopefully open up the rather limited Conservative discourse on rights.

    If only Unionism could follow suit and recapture some of its historical zeal in protecting human rights. Sometimes we forget that Unionism and Protestantism have a proud tradition of standing up for the rights of the vulnerable and countering the excessive powers of the State. Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine are just two examples who challenged orthodoxy and defended individual human rights.

    Who is prepared to carry their torches from the current crop of Unionist activists?