Mutiny in the ranks

DAVID Cameron was overjoyed to win a narrow majority in the general election and immediately set out a 100-day offensive with a raft of new, drastic austerity and other measures to make the rich people richer and to screw poor and working people.

But he may be having second thoughts about some of his ideas as he is finding opposition from some unexpected quarters that highlight the weakness and isolation of his position.

He made the abolition of the Human Rights Act, passed by Labour in 1998, priority in his manifesto and now faces a rebellion from his own backbenches. And with such a slim majority it would take only a handful of rebels for him to lose the first important vote of this Parliament.

The abolition of the Human Rights Act would exempt the Government from implementing rulings from the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR). This is not the same authority as the European Union. The EHCR was set up just after the Second World War and Cameron’s predecessor Churchill was among its main initiators.

Abolishing the Human Rights Act, a task given to new Justice Secretary Michael Gove — who in 1998 called for the return of hanging — could lead to Britain being expelled from the EHCR. A former aide to Gove has warned the Government it stands less than a five per cent chance of carrying it through.

The Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is also expected to meet fierce opposition to the plans when he attends a Council of Europe meeting of foreign ministers next week.

Plans to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a “British Bill of Rights” were first unveiled at the Tory conference last October after a long-running dispute with the Strasbourg court over the right of prisoners to vote.

The Tories said that any future judgment that British law was incompatible with the EHCR would be treated as “advisory” and could be ignored by Parliament. But the plans face strong opposition from both the legal profession and senior Conservatives including the former Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke and the former Attorney General Dominic Grieve. Grieve has described the proposals as a “recipe for chaos”.

Hugh Tomlinson QC, an expert on human rights law and founder of the United Kingdom Supreme Court blog said the proposals were “fraught with legal and political difficulties” which appeared to be “insoluble”.

“Not only will ministers have to deal with domestic constitutional problems of scrapping the Human Rights Act which is incorporated into the Scotland Act and Good Friday Agreement but the international ramifications are also profound.”

The second looming rebellion comes from Tory local authority leaders, who have joined with their Labour and Liberal-Democrat counterparts in warning Chancellor George Osborne that that another round of funding cuts would devastate local services and harm the most vulnerable in society.

In a letter to the Observer, council bosses representing every type of local authority in England and Wales, as part of the Tory-controlled Local Government Association (LGA), say they have already had to impose cuts of 40 per cent since 2010 and cannot find more savings without serious consequences for community life and social care, and knock-on effects for the NHS.

The letter was signed by the leaders of all 375 county, district, unitary and metropolitan councils, as well as London boroughs and Welsh councils.

A third rebellion has come from the Police Federation, which has warned that further big budget cuts will compel police forces to adopt a more violent, “paramilitary” style of policing.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation, says service is “on its knees”, and told the Guardian that more cuts would be devastating: “You get a style of policing where the first options are teargas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which are the last options in the UK.”

Home Secretary Theresa May has accused the Police Federation of using “over-the-top rhetoric” in their predictions that cuts would lead to chaos on the streets.

So in spite of Cameron’s victory divisions within the ruling class and the organs of state are opening up. And of course huge economic problems are looming in the shape of toxic debt And a housing bubble that must burst sooner or later.

Cameron has few allies in Parliament, in the international arena or anywhere else much. His best friend Murdoch will struggle to get him out of this. Why should Murdoch care? He will not be here much longer.