Dave the Leviathan

For a perfect example of how confused David Cameron’s speech on human rights yesterday was, you need look no further than Iain Dale’s blog:

David Cameron is getting excellent coverage this morning for his Human Rights Act policy. I just heard Baroness Helena Kennedy saying positive things, which is deeply ironic considering she was one of the prime movers behind the original legislation.

There’s nothing “ironic” about Kennedy supporting calls for a Bill of Rights, as that is what she and Charter88 were calling for in 1998. The HRA was regarded by them as a compromise.

What is “ironic” is that both Kennedy and David Davis’ Representative On Earth seem to like what Cameron was saying. One of them is surely going to be deeply disappointed. My suspicion is that it will be the Baroness as I think I can just make out the high-pitched screeching of a dog whistle.

Rebekah Wade can quite clearly hear one. She reckons that what Cameron is proposing accords entirely with the Currant Bun’s “string’em up” campaign. The rhetoric is all there: he isn’t calling for reforms of the HRA, but to scrap it. This nonsense about the Strasbourg courts backing off from countries with their own Bill of Rights (only if they believe that the Bill of Rights is worth the paper its printed on, Dave). And to many Tories, the Bill of Rights is something that came down from Mt Sinai in tablets of stone circa 1689.

Meanwhile, Cameron is trotting that old canard about having to balance security and liberty. To be fair, he’s probably only saying it because Blair said it first, but it is still utter balls. Was it safe to live in Saddam’s Iraq? Is it safe to live in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe? Blameron’s logic would have you believe these were paradises of security. Karl Popper may as well have never existed as far as these two are concerned: political theory begins and ends with Hobbes for them.

The fact is though, liberty buys us security. It isn’t a perfect trade-off but if people are free, by and large they behave responsibly. If people are treated like impudent children, they behave like impudent – or if you go too far, traumatised – children. Politicians who believe otherwise are potential tyrants who deserve to be treated with nothing but contempt.


  1. Of course the 1689 Bill of Rights was passed by Whigs in the bitter opposition of the Tory Party of the day, demonstrating that the Tories don’t actually know what a principle is if it came and punched them in the face.

  2. Yes it’s undoubtedly a way of saying to the right that he will scrap the HRA and make them expect a wish list. Politically, there’s finite value in attacking him for that- it’s what his targetg audience want to hear.

    The politically stinging response is to point out that once again he is telling us what he is against without any really specific idea of the content of what he will replace it. That’s fundamentally dangerous. I don’t intend to be histrionic if I pray in aid that it was the fascist political tactic to be against everything unpopular and then give a lot of people a very nasty surprise as to what they got instead.

    It’s just like Blair and I wonder if “just like Blair” is the slogan we should repeat to the electorate whenever we find Cameron’s name is mentioned? (Based on a point you made to me the other day, James).

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