Instead, there was a vague commitment to replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights, and a promise to consult with the public. There really wasn’t much more than that. This is what the government’s briefing document said:
There has been some celebration from those who were worried that Chris Grayling’s (the former Justice Secretary’s) radical October proposals would be pushed quickly through Parliament. But in retrospect, that was always very unlikely. The plans were Mr Grayling’s, including the part which would, if implemented, have almost certainly led to the UK leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. So when Michael Gove took over, it was natural that he would want to put his own print on the proposals.
Perhaps more importantly, Mr Gove will have picked up quickly how difficult it would be to implement such radical reform plans. He faces several major hurdles including opposition in his own party the devolved nations and a growing movement of MPs and public who completely oppose repeal of the Human Rights Act.
Over To You, Mr Gove
Image Credit: Wikimedia
So where does this leave us? For those who want to protect the Human Rights Act, there should be no celebration. A quick, radical bill is likely to have been defeated easily. A longer process, involving a consultation that may or may not be listened to, is more likely to lead to the major changes that the Conservatives have repeatedly promised.
Some are suggesting that the reform may never happen. I disagree. The Conservatives have said that is what they are going to do and they have the team in place to make it happen. Michael Gove is an experienced operator and his team, particularly new junior minister Dominic Raab, are knowledgeable enough to take on the opponents. What they need now is a strategy which will bring back on board some of the waverers in the Conservative backbenches. That is probably achievable if the Grayling proposals are toned down, particularly in relation to leaving the European Convention on Human Rights. They will not be difficult to tone down.
How long will it take? At least a year. But this government has five. So those talking about “long grass” should still keep a careful eye on the garden.
A Long Road Ahead
So those who want to keep existing human rights protections will need to dig in and maintain some of the momentum generated during the last few weeks.. As for RightsInfo, we are built for the long road. We will keep providing clear and reliable information on why human rights matter, with a view to slowly but surely helping to build support for human rights in the United Kingdom.We have some fantastic plans for the coming months. To paraphrase the Prime Minister today – watch this space.