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Our human rights should not be used as a political football

From their recent announcement to abolish the Human Rights Act (no doubt with an eye on losing votes to UKIP) it seems that the modern Tory Party is now even too extreme for Sir Winston Churchill.

The Human Rights Act was passed by Labour in 1998 to incorporate the post-war European Convention on Human Rights, inspired by Churchill and mainly written by British lawyers, based on a long tradition of civil liberties going back to Magna Carta. The British had recently fought the Second World War for democracy and freedom and were determined that never again would human rights be abused in the way they had been under Communism and Fascism.

The whole point of the Human Rights Act is that it is there to protect the rights and freedoms of ordinary people against government abuse. Human rights are universal: they protect everyone regardless of race, gender, wealth or political views. That can sometimes be uncomfortable as human rights make no distinction between ‘nice’ people and ‘nasty’ people but believe that everyone has the right to fair and equal treatment. All of us are vulnerable minorities at some point in our lives.

I recognise that many people were angry when the Human Rights Act was used to protect Abu Qatada from extradition to Jordan. However, once you start to decide who is worthy and who is not of protection you start on a slippery slope that could end at the gates of Dachau. The Human Rights Act has been used to provide justice for rape victims, to give us the right to have children, to protect victims of domestic violence, to support our freedom of speech and the right to protest, to protect our soldiers serving overseas, to stop local councils using CCTV to spy on us and many, many others.

Perhaps one of the greatest ironies was when The Sun celebrated the threat to axe the ‘hated’ Human Rights Act whilst at the same time using that very law to protect their own journalistic freedom. Even on their own side such distinguished former lawyers as Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve are horrified by a Tory government playing politics with the very human rights that Churchill’s generation fought to protect.

Dr Matt Lamb, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wyre Forest.

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