From the super-soaraway Currant Bun:
The centre-right Policy Exchange has urged the Government to give the Strasbourg court an ultimatum - two years to stop interfering or Britain pulls out of the Convention.
The only surprise about today's blanket coverage (in the usual places) of the Policy Exchange report casually suggesting a return to fascism is that it's taken them so long. It was obvious for years that Tory opposition to the European Convention on Human Rights was driven largely by the realisation that an independent check on power would act as, um, an independent check on power when/if they got back in and wanted to enjoy themselves by attacking and marginalising groups of people they dislike. They are Continuity New Labour, and I don't recall Tony Blair being too enamoured of judicial oversight and my long-term prediction that someone would eventually introduce a Dangerous Judges Act to muzzle the judiciary is still valid. Truly the Heir to Blair has firmly got his jackboots on.
What's not clear is why now. Obviously the prisoner's votes issue has been grossly mishandled - Cameron's bizarre decision to say 'I don't like it but I have to do it' does nothing for his image as the man in charge, as well as inviting every wingnut in existence to woof about how Something Must Be Done To Make Us More Like Belarus And Less Like Belgium. There's been an inkling over the last month of the nailed-on certainty of a perfect storm where Cameron's new BBC-approved spinmeister has to bury a bad news story every day for a week (at a guess; education, health, military, crime, economy). Then there's Dispatches tonight on Murdoch, the Met and phone hacking plus the various storms over selling off forests, closing libraries, buggering up the Coastguard, cutting helicopters for the Army etc. Oh, and no one's muzzled Toby Young yet. I really can't work out why a week of heavy duty hard right hate headlines would be so eagerly grabbed by the Coalition's PR people just now. Perhaps, in the end, the need to get the Mail and Telegraph yobboes back onside finally outweighed any sense that a coalition with principled advocates of individual freedom might make a cogent argument in defence of individual freedom.
Moving back to PX v. ECHR, what we're left with is a story generated by wanktanks and retailed via the Murdoch press suggesting that Cameron give 'the Strasbourg court' (what, not the Council of Europe?) a two year ultimatum to 'stop interfering'. Let's explore this.
First off, Strasbourg doesn't often interfere - since the Human Rights Act it doesn't have to because that transferred the powers from non-British judges sitting in Strasbourg courtrooms down to British judges sitting in British courtrooms. This can only be considered a bad thing if you oppose the whole principle of British judges sitting in British courts on British cases having the power to criticise primary legislation or strike down secondary legislation. If you do oppose that, you're effectively arguing that the modern centralised State, as represented by its Government, should be all-powerful and unchallengable, a view that had a thorough testing in the field from about 1917 to 1990 and was found wanting on a number of occasions. It's also completely at odds with any notions the Coalition might have had of delegating or giving up powers or reducing the power of Big Government in any meaningful way. What's the point of the bottom-up Big Society without judicial protection against state interference? Finally it's the precise opposite of the entire raison d'etre of the Liberal Democrat Party, which in many ways makes their reaction worth watching - I recall that retaining the HRA might well have been a red-line in the Coalition Agreement. Could Nick Clegg and Lord Carlile really lead an ostensibly liberal party through the lobbies to reverse 70 years of progress and return unaccountable power over the individual back to the Government of the country who successfully exported the opposite idea in the first place? I'd like to think not, on the whole, but the alternative is backing Clegg to put backbone into a wilting Cameron in the face of his own party, pet think tank, UK spooks/securocracy and the entire press pack baying for more totalitarianism.
Of course, all this would be much harder if the media, particularly the BBC, had successfully challenged the myth that the ECHR was anything to do with the EU, rather than being Sir Winston Churchill and (Nuremburg prosecutor and Tory Home Secretary) Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe's attempt to inoculate Europe against totalitarianism. Rule One applies - if anyone calls for UK withdrawal from the European Convention on Human Rights it's because they want to do something currently blocked by the European Convention on Human Rights. The question is what. Slavery? Torture? Banning trade unionism? Crackdown on freedom of expression? Massive expansion of police powers to ban free assembly? Given the past history of Policy Exchange's extremist rhetoric as well as the neocon tendencies of Michael Gove etc. it could quite possibly be all of them. Personally I'm going for slavery.