Now that the pantomime of the Opening of Parliament is over it’s worth looking at what they are up to – because as we know the spectacle of people who look like rejects out of Blackadder Series 2 masks a far more serious intent. As braying begloved socialites in tiaras have a ball, and the Dimbleby Set mutter in solemn tones on state-telly, cold hard politics is afoot. It was a quiet mixture of fantasy, avoidance and repression.
Political Scrapbook notice that the Tories can’t make a decision on Heathrow, but say they will build a Spaceport by 2020. We will wear Jetpacks. The Canary notes that while everyone was watching the Queen’s speech, the Tory electoral fraud scandal is growing.
Meanwhile Kate Allen from Amnesty UK said: “Hillsborough shows how vital the Human Rights Act is to ordinary people when all other avenues of justice fail. We mustn’t let politicians tear up those hard-won protections. Walking away from the Human Rights Act would also threaten to bring down the crucial peace agreement in Northern Ireland. The government should leave the Human Rights Act alone – it’s ours, it’s working, it’s needed.”
“These diverse organisations speak as one in defending the Human Rights Act. They join all the devolved administrations, all major opposition parties, Conservative rebels, anti-apartheid activists and thousands of ordinary people in opposing divisive and discriminatory plans to replace human rights with Government-sanctioned privileges. There is a long struggle ahead, but as the chorus of condemnation grows, how much longer can the Government refuse to listen?”
The Queen has announced (again… and again) that the government will bring in a British Bill of Rights. They did it last year and they’re doing it again. Except they’re not. Amnesty and 135 organisations have pledged to fight the (re)announced proposals.
These diverse organisations speak as one in defending the Human Rights Act. They join all the devolved administrations, all major opposition parties, Conservative rebels, anti-apartheid activists and thousands of ordinary people in opposing divisive and discriminatory plans to replace human rights with Government-sanctioned privileges.
The British Bill of Rights was a manifesto pledge, but is opposed by civil liberties groups who think it will restrict freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which is incorporated in UK law under HRA.
Our rights are being used as a political football in the High Tories internal feud over Europe.
Nicola Sturgeon said yesterday: “I have made clear that the Scottish Government opposes any weakening of human rights protections – not just in Scotland, but across the whole of the UK. My administration has been elected to take forward a progressive agenda – embedding human rights in everything we do, not seeking to erode safeguards which matter to everyone in society. And I have also made clear that UK legislation which attacks human rights cannot expect consent from the Scottish Parliament.”
Judith Robertson, chair of the Scottish Human Rights Commission, said: “There is no appetite in Scotland for regressive changes to our human rights laws. People and organisations in Scotland are far more concerned with questions of how to better fulfil all human rights in practice, in people’s everyday lives. Continued threats to the Human Rights Act by the UK government must not distract from this important challenge.”
It’s not even constitutionally viable. As the SNP’s Joanna Cherry had to explain human rights are a devolved issue. If the UK Government wants to repeal the Human Rights Act and legislate, it will need the consent of the Scottish Parliament, which, given the level of opposition, it certainly won’t receive. Even with the Tank Commander’s revival.
Next up we can see that the same spurious rhetoric about schools is being used about prisons. The Queen’s Speech included the lines that “we will give unprecedented freedoms to prison governors, including financial and legal freedoms, such as how the prison budget is spent and whether to opt-out of national contracts; and operational freedoms over education, the prison regime, family visits, and partnerships to provide prison work and rehabilitation services.” What does this actually mean? It’s part of that raft of rhetoric about ‘decentralisation’ and ’empowerment’ that we’ve been hearing for ears which actually means ‘sell-off’ and privatise, do it on the cheap and cut-corners.
As the Canary puts it: “Prison staffing levels have been cut by 30% since 2011. Overcrowding is at unprecedented levels, with more than 12,000 prisoners being held two to a cell designed for one. Prisons are now so overcrowded and underfunded that violence and self-harm are rife, and riot squads are called out daily.”
It’s just the next part of the wholesale transference of public bodies into private hands. Why does that matter for prisons? Because private companies shouldn’t be able to lock people up, as they have an entirely different set of motivations and ways of working, and stemming from this their track record is appalling, No doubt given a good bit of tabloid treatment about how easy prison life is and a suitably moronic public debate framed by a sort of backward Victorian approach to crime and punishment it will be pushed through.
Tottering along in tiaras while our human rights are being assaulted, it’s Parody Britain at its worst. An ancient elite run by a modern cabal ushering in policies they barely comprehend while playing fancy-dress.