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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Beware of the kitten heels

I am not entirely sure what kitten heels are but I do recognise a gaff when I see it, and Home Secretary Theresa May committed a whopper during her Conference speech yesterday.

As the BBC report Ms. May claimed that an illegal immigrant avoided deportation because of his pet cat. She told the Conservative conference the ruling illustrated the problem with human rights laws. However, it seems that she did not check her facts.

As the Guardian says the original reports of the court case make it clear that the appeal was actually a dispute about a rule which dictates that if someone is settled in the UK in a relationship for more than two years without enforcement action, then they automatically have a right to remain.

They say that the cat was mentioned in the appeal and the judge's decision, as evidence of the man's relationship, not as a reason in itself. They add that original reports from the 2009 case also make it clear that the cat was only mentioned in passing and wasn't the reason the man was ultimately allowed to stay.

This though is a bit more than a gaff. The Home Secretary has undermined her own case against the Human Rights Act by demonstrating the mythical nature of many of the cases she and others use to support their argument. For that at least, we should be grateful.
I can't see even the Tories repudiating the European Convention.

A UK 'Bill of Rights'... whatever that means, will only replace the Human Rights Act not the Convention itself, which brings rights issues within the purview of the UK courts.

It will take us back to pre-1998, when cases had to be taken to the European Court (of HR) in Strasbourg, delaying justice by about five years, and costing tens of thousands of pounds. Only the very wealthy and those (few) who qualify for legal aid would be able to seek a remedy against the UK.

The UK was one of the first to ratify the Charter, but the last to incorporate it into UK law via the Act. Britain/UK has been a pretty illiberal nation state down through its history.

Cameron is demonstrating the weakness of the UK's (unwritten) constitution. The HR Act has no status as a higher form of law, and can be amended or repealed (theoretically) by a simple majority in Parliament.

That would also apply to any Bill of Rights which could be watered down at a Tory government's whim at any time.

Prior to 1998 UK citizens had few if any rights as opposed to liberties.

What good are rights if a remedy is difficult or impossible to access?

The Tory philosophy is essentially repressive. It's a party which favours the wealthy propertied, business, and landowning classes at the expense of the rest of us. Self-interest is dominant in such thinking, as amply demonstrated under Thatcher's premiership.

I'm not confident that Clegg will be up to the mark in defending us from the worst that Cameron and his ilk are capable of doing.

So far, the fiasco of the AV referendum and its use by the Tories to discredit electoral reform, has done us no favours. It bodes ill for the future.
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