One of the most controversial policies in the Conservative Manifesto is to scrap the Human Rights Act and replace it with a ‘British Bill of Rights’. The respected Jack of Kent legal blog argues here that it is unlikely they will be able to achieve this, yet the mandate is there and, sadly, popular sentiment is behind it.
Rightly, the vast majority of the Left is against this move. However, there are two big problems with how they are going about their opposition. While there are of course respected figures and commentators providing solid, evidence-based criticism, large amounts of ‘activism’ boils down to shouting ‘TORIES WANT TO TAKE AWAY YOUR RIGHT TO LIVE AND BREATHE’. This is not going to work. People are not going to believe that the Tories want to lock up the majority of the nation, torture them and then murder them as part of their long-term economic plan, in no small part because they aren’t. What they will believe, however, are the claims in the tabloids that the HRA is some kind of ‘terrorists’ charter’ only used by suicide bombers and paedophiles. The Left would do well to employ themselves pointing out the positives of the Act and the succour a Western nation withdrawing from it would give to dictators elsewhere rather than engaging in senseless scaremongering about the Tories.
Yet there is a far greater problem with the Left’s opposition to us scrapping an act enshrining freedom of speech and thought. While there are some passionate defenders of these principles on the Left, such as Nick Cohen, James Bloodworth, Maryam Namazie and Peter Tatchell to name but a few, we cannot deny that our name has been too often hijacked by a vocal minority of far-leftists, University student groups (and even academics), and postmodern relativists in left-wing sections of the media. Just take the largest terrorist atrocity on western soil this year: the Charlie Hebdo shootings. What should have been a unanimous expressing of horror and solidarity at the murders of (left-wing, anti-racist) cartoonists by religiously driven killers turned into a PEN boycott and Laurie Penny labelling the deceased ‘racist trolls’ before their bodies turned cold.
All of the early victories of Left liberalism were based on the fundamental principles of freedom of thought, expression, religion and speech. It’s how we stopped the Church imprisoning and torturing people who questioned them, how we gave the vote to women and working-class men and how we legalised homosexuality. We only achieved this by being a voice of freedom as a principle in the face of a conservatism governed by superstition and tradition.
Sadly, we have increasingly abandoned this tradition. Every time we shut down a campus debate, every time we no platform a speaker, every time we say a person tweeting ‘#killallwhitemen’ can’t be prejudiced, every time we judge what rights a person has based on their race, gender or sexuality rather than simply their existence is another nail in the coffin for us being able to defend humans from the forces of repression. This is why people like me have been going on about these values for so long. If you are surprised by the fact that, when it comes to the crunch, people aren’t willing to listen to someone who defends these rights only when it benefits them, don’t say we didn’t warn you.