Over the weekend we saw an announcement that Teresa May was contemplating leaving the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) which was welcomed by a reasonable amount of people. However I don’t think personally that these people have actually thought about the ramifications of such a move.
Now I can understand why some people may be a little annoyed at times with the ECtHR, occasionally it throws up decisions that some people don’t like especially when it comes to things like deportation of terrorists and alike.
However I think this is a knee-jerk reaction, we get a few results which some people disagree with and this has resulted in calls to leave the court. However if you looked at the UK courts you would see a lot more decisions each year and over time that you disagreed with which have an impact on much more people. But the ECtHR has done a lot more good than the few odd outlying cases that have caused so much anger towards the court.
Now let’s just for two minutes consider what the implications of such actions would be. The UK’s Supreme Court is not like any other in the western world, unlike France, Germany, Spain or the USA to name a few, it has no powers to strike down any laws that parliament makes. Now the ECtHR can’t do this either but a judgment against any Government is in effect very similar and will result in a change to the law.
So without that safeguard it makes parliament supreme, it means that the elected officials answer to no one there is no checks and balances to prevent them doing what they want with the law. A government with a large enough majority could rule without any question and pass any laws it wanted to running roughshod over yours and mine rights.
Now is that really a situation that you want to be in?
Now let’s say the next prime minister after having left the Council of Europe is not to happy with criticism of his actions or his beliefs. So to stop this happening he introduces an anti-criticism law which makes it a criminal act to criticise publicly and privately the actions of the government and re-introduces strict blasphemy laws.
Now none of the UK courts can do anything, they have no power to overturn the laws and can only follow them as they are written down. So you have just had your free speech heavily restricted and there is nothing you can do about it.
With Human Rights law you would be able to challenge such a law and the courts could find in your favour which could prevent you getting a criminal record. But without it, you are wishing away your liberty all because you didn’t like how they ruled on a few cases. Is it really worth risking your liberty because you dislike half a dozen judgments?
While the ECtHR may not be perfect, as no system with humans in can ever be, is it really worth going the nuclear option because of it? As after all the ECtHR has done a lot of good that benefit you more than it has done to harm you.
For example; Ireland v United Kingdom says the government can’t lock you up without trial, X.,Y. and Z. v. United Kingdom says that families do not have to be related by blood to be considered families under the law. Lustig-Prean and Beckett v United Kingdom says discriminating against people in employment due to sexual orientation/race/gender and so on is illegal. Then there was the Spycatcher case which the UK had tried to suppress the memoirs of an ex-MI5 office, that the court stopped. Malone v Metropolitan Police Commissioner which involved phone tapping of people by the police.
The list could go on and on with cases from all 47 member states to show just how beneficial the court has actually been in protecting your rights and liberties as individuals. Leaving while it may give you some misguided sense of success in the short term will eventually lead to a less free society with less rights and more power in the hands of the government with the ability to take your rights away with even more ease.
So before you praise this as being a great thing, just please stop and think of the consequences that will come about as a result of it.
Now this whole anger at MP’s renting out their second homes whilst renting a property themselves isn’t really an issue in my opinion. Now we can all, I think, accept that the majority of MP’s need a second home of some sort to live in around the London area so that they can go to work in Westminster as well as working in their constituency.
Now if we go back to the situation in say 2005 there were MP’s that were taking advantage of the rules and bending them as much as they could without breaking them to maximise their ability to build up a property portfolio at the expense of the tax payers. Though they did nothing strictly wrong, it was an abuse of the system which ultimately led to the new system we have now. This stops an MP being able to claim for mortgage payments on second homes in and around London.
So MP’s now have 2 options to cover the cost of their accommodation in London they can rent a property or they can stay in a hotel and have the cost of that picked up by the tax payer (up to £200 a night). Which I think most of us would consider a reasonable alternative to the previous situation.
However we now have the problem of those MP’s who own a second home and who could live in them, but would be at a detriment to themselves if there is a mortgage on the property. As not only would they be paying for one on their main home in their constituency, like the majority of everyone else who owns a property; but they would also be paying for a second mortgage too.
Now if I and I am sure many of you, were in the position where you are faced with the position of being worse off financially you would do all you could to mitigate the financial loss to yourselves. Which in this situation would mean the obvious renting out the second property you own to cover the payments of your mortgage on it. Which then means, although you own the property and are renting it you are not making any profit on such as the rent pays the mortgage.
So to then subsequently claim rent for living in another property is not leaving you financially better off at the tax payers’ expense, but leaves you in the same position as every other MP claiming rent for a place to live in and around the London area.
So when I look at this hysteria about the whole situation I really think it’s a lot of fuss over nothing. Unless people can prove that beyond all reasonable doubt that these MP’s in question are actually making a profit from the state for what they are doing. Such as they own the property outright with no mortgage on them, then I would accept that they are playing the system in an immoral way. But to do such you would need the financial records of the MP’s doing it to show such and personally I am not sure how you would be able to get hold of those legally that easily. Also remember one of the key principles of English law that a person is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, not by the media and mass hysteria.
Of late all you have really heard from the Labour party and the left in general is complaints about reforms to the NHS, which are long overdue. They have done as much scaremongering as they possibly can about how the NHS will change in to some American System and if you can’t afford to pay then you will basically die in the streets.
However if we cast our minds back to 2010, the Labour party themselves were saying that reform was needed and that bringing in private companies to the NHS would benefit the system and make it better for everyone. Yet now in opposition they apparently just want to oppose everything that is being done, regardless if it’s needed or will benefit society.
Anyhow back to the point, the NHS I think everyone approves of and likes; and its always the corner stone of any general election campaign. As you can win over some swing voters by saying you’ll pump in x many millions of pounds to cancer treatment or maternity care.
However come 2015, the Labour party have put themselves in a very tight corner. For them to be able to legitimately use the NHS as a campaigning tool, there is only one situation that they will be able to legitimately use; and that is that the NHS is in a worse situation than it is now be that patient care has got worse or its costing a lot more money to operate the NHS than now with increased bureaucracy. If the changes do very little and its much about the same as it is now, then they have no grounds if the NHS is more efficient and treats patients quicker, patients are happier or it saves money then they have shot themselves in the foot.
The point of an opposition party is to oppose things that are bad for the country, where as the NHS reform is much needed. However Labour seem to think that they can win votes by just opposing everything the government does which will win them the hard-line socialist vote who are inherently opposed to any Conservative policy, which they already have. Their other policies are either about as coherent as a very drunk person or as easy to find as a needle in a haystack.
As a person interested in politics I find the Labour position bemusing at best and confusing at worst. As a member of society I am shocked especially at their stance on the NHS, as it’s almost as if they are willing the NHS to get worse in that people are suffering more, waiting longer and in some cases dyeing when they didn’t need to; that stance to me I find particularly abhorrent. As a conservative I encompasses all of those points, however although there is a sense of inevitability of the result of the next general election I think we need to tread carefully as a Conservative majority is ours to lose at this point and we need to keep highlighting the inherent flaws that permeate through the current opposition that we face.