Tuesday 4 October 2011

Appeal to Ken Clarke - Join the Liberal Democrats

It's Conservative Party conference, and somewhat predictably, they're going at it hammer and tong at the Human Rights Act combined with another of their pet hate subjects, immigration. First Theresa May, a Home Secretary that occasionally threatens to make David Blunkett and Jack Straw seem reasonable, briefs in interviews with the press that she thinks the Human Rights Act is stopping us from deporting people, then she goes on to set-off Immeowgrationgate by claiming that a Bolivian man was only allowed to stay in Britain "because he kept a pet cat".

Never mind, of course, that she'd lapped up a craven Daily Mail article which massively distorted the truth of the matter (that the cat was merely one element of extensive evidence put forward alongside being in a long-term relationship that proved residence in the UK had become integral to his family life per Article 8 ECHR). Facts are an inconvenience for this Home Secretary. She's the same Home Secretary who stymied efforts to reform control orders properly and whose response to the riots was to knee-jerk into the default "flog" setting on the Tory bandwagon.

Never mind, too, that it's not the Human Rights Act that prevents the UK from deporting people. The Human Rights Act is substantially a domestic enforcement of the provisions of the ECHR to which we are a signatory. It is the interpretation of the substance of that document, and not the Human Rights Act itself, that gives rise to deportees being deemed to have had their right to a private family life infringed.

If the UK still wanted to deport these people, it could do so with astonishing ease. All it would take is an Act of Parliament (with sovereign force...) expressly empowering the Home Secretary to deport certain classes of persons notwithstanding any potential Convention breach. This would still lead to Strasbourg cases and damages payments being made relatively frequently, but that's no different than if they were to "get rid of the Human Rights Act" as either way they'd be denying individuals the right to a domestic remedy per Article 13.

If anything, wholesale repeal of the Human Rights Act would be even worse as it would expose them to more Strasbourg cases, and increase litigation costs across the board. Any replacement "British Bill of Rights" would have to confer exactly the same human rights or even make them more robust than the existing set-up, for this not to be the case. If it's to be the same: what's the point? If it's to be stronger: why get rid of the Human Rights Act at all: surely it would just need supplementary legislation or amendment?

Unless, of course, she actually wants to withdraw from the ECHR, the international treaty we the UK were largely responsible for drafting to restore basic liberty to a post fascist Europe? Well that would give us about as much credibility in the international human rights movement as Belarus, the last European dictatorship (save the Vatican...), or Russia and Turkey, whose pervasive disregard for the ECHR sees them account for over two fifths of member-state violations.

But it's not even that I'm finding so incredulous. What is incredulous, is that Ken Clarke, for all his public opposition to, well, just about everything Theresa May and the Tory flog-ems have ever said, is still in the Conservative Party. With Number 10 backing May on the specifics and many others being wheeled out to back her nonsensical stance, it seems clear that Ken Clarke's political sympathies are not shared by his peers.

I'm sure it's been suggested to him before, but the time may come when Ken Clarke makes a stand and joins the Liberal Democrats. Even Nick Clegg nominated him for the 6th Lib Dem in the Cabinet at our party conference, such as is his steadfast support for Lib Dem causes within the Cabinet. On so many policy areas his positions are more instinctively within the liberal tradition than a conservative or authoritarian one his Tory colleagues have to offer. Pro Europe, pro the Human Rights Act, pro sentencing reform, relative economic moderate, supported more liberal approaches to drug addicts in the prison system and more besides.

He's not perfect. His links to BAT will probably rankle a little with some in the Lib Dems and his loading of the justice cuts onto legal aid is certainly not a liberal response. Further, as has been suggested elsewhere in the past, he may advance liberal causes more effectively as an unsackable Tory within a Coalition than he would as an out and out Liberal Democrat. But a cheeky defection a few months before the 2015 election would serve as a massive morale boost to the Lib Dem campaign, help us to show the public why we're different and better than our Coalition partners and not just their lapdogs, and most importantly, he would be a political heavyweight with liberal leanings at home in the UK's only truly liberal party.

Go on Ken. You know you want to...

Oh, and I couldn't let this post end without showing you live footage of Theresa May's plan to deport every last cat owning Bolivian and subvert those sneaky Europhiles...


  1. He played an active role in the No to AV campaign. It would be difficult for Lib Dems to accept him after that.

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