Our second chapter looks at the myth of a common law protecting the freedom of us all. The record shows pretty well the opposite.
I hope you enjoy your stay with us on Fantasy Island. Where are you, you might well ask? How did you wash up here? On 18 May 2016 the United Kingdom government announced that it was bringing forward proposals for a new Bill of Rights for Britain. This would inevitably entail the repeal of the country’s Human Rights Act, a law passed at the start of Tony Blair’s time as Prime Minister, back in 1998. Now if you think this is odd, then it is: Britain is a democratic country and we have all got very used to thinking of human rights as among the things that democracies protect. Now of course the government says it wants even bigger and better rights, especially tailor-made for the British, but by the sounds of what they are planning this will entail in practice removing the rights of many, or at least making the assertion of their rights very much harder.
How have we got to this pass? The trouble with the Human Rights Act the government want to ditch is that it has suspect origins –based as it is on a European Convention on Human Rights that was agreed in 1950, and reliant as well on that treaty’s European Court of Human Rights, based in Strasbourg. Now many of the Conservatives who run the country at the present time have a huge bee in their bonnet about Europe: they hate its intrusion into the affairs of our ‘scepter’d isle’. They want out of this Europe as well as the other one on which as I write battle also rages. That is where the plan comes from – it has been brewing for years and is finally albeit slowly coming good.
This web site is a snapshot of a book that will be coming out in a couple of months about the UK human rights debate we are now as a country embarking on. On Fantasy Isle has the subtitle Britain, Strasbourg and Human Rights. Now a word about me and my perspective right at the start. I am very sceptical of the reasons given for repealing this law – in fact I think they are made up of a mix of misinformation, errors of fact and spurious assertions about the dangers of universal human rights.
In the book I go through the fantasies that drive the debate here – I think the best way to understand what is going on is to see it as driven by multiple fantasies, about the greatness of Britain, the majesty of its common law, the hopelessness of the Europeans, and much else. After reflecting on these fantasies I set out the facts about the Human Rights Act – not ‘facts as I see them’ but simply ‘the facts’ – about the sort of impact the Human Rights Act really has, not on the imagination but on real people. Then at the end I reflect on our various possible futures, especially the one that awaits us when we are shorn of our formal human rights protection.
Every week I will be setting out here excerpts from the book, working my way through its various sections (fantasies, facts and future). I’ll also be commenting on the debate as it proceeds. The whole point of this is also to involve you, the reader. You will be able to comment on everything you read here, and I will absolutely promise to reply (unless what you say is really off the wall, or an advert for your business, or something startlingly offensive).
So unpack your bags, stay as long as you like, read or write as much as you like, here On Fantasy Island! You can read Chapter 1: Why The Human Rights Act Matters now.
18 May 2016