Is the Human Rights Act a Tory cause?


I'm intrigued to hear that "the is a thoroughly conservative document", according to in a published today by Liberty, and summarised in the Guardian. What on earth does this mean?

Oborne and his co-author Jesse Norman argue that the is conservative in both its scope and its operation. They say that the rights embodied in the act are "absolutely fundamental to the British common law tradition", and that "the act itself operates in a peculiarly conservative way" by granting parliament the final power to decide whether our rights are compatible with other areas of law.

It's a brilliant move by Liberty to take the debate to the Tories in this way. Having prioritised the repeal of the Human Rights Act (HRA), David Cameron must now explain what it is about these ancient Conservative rights that so offends him. As the says, Cameron's promise to repeal the HRA "provides lovers of liberty, on both the left and the right, with reason to regard him with suspicion". I couldn't agree more with Oborne and , director of Liberty, that the HRA offers far greater protection for our fundamental rights than any alternative bill of rights.

I am amused, however, to hear that the HRA is a Tory document. For Oborne, the act is valuable in the limitations it places on the power of the state. For me, it's valuable because of the responsibilities it imposes on the state. The HRA doesn't dictate the size of the state; but it does spell out its fundamental role: to mitigate the imbalances in power which could otherwise lead to oppression and injustice. For me, this is neither a Conservative nor a Labour document, but the bedrock of democracy, whose aspirations should be shared by the members and leaders of all mainstream political parties in the UK.

So it's ingenious of Oborne to open up the debate in this way across party lines, but I hope that it's only the first step towards a broader coalition of human rights advocates, who can spell out once and for all that rights do not belong to the right or left any more than they "belong" to paedophiles or terrorists. They belong to all of us, and we play political football with them at our peril.