Cameron climb-Down on Human Rights Act

by Daphne Liddle

DAVID Cameron has been forced to postpone his manifesto pledge to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights, which was dropped from the measures announced in the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday as she opened the new session of Parliament.

But Cameron has made up for this set-back with new swingeing attacks on the unions and the right to strike and on political activists — described as “domestic extremists”. And there will be a punitive campaign against illegal immigrants.

Top of the list of measures was the commitment to a referendum on whether or not Britain should remain in the European Union. This was a manifesto pledge forced on Cameron to try to stop Tory voters defecting to the United Kingdom Independence Party.

And though in Parliament there will be a strong majority in favour of staying in the EU, which will include Labour and the Scottish National Party as well as the Tory leaders, in the country as a whole it will be a different matter.

Ukip hits the headlines as the major campaigner against the EU and there is a danger that all who oppose the EU will be portrayed as following Ukip.

But the EU is an imperialist structure created by capitalism for the benefit of capitalism. It is not democratic and it works to undermine workers’ rights, wages and conditions. There are many good reasons to leave the EU without racism or xenophobia being any part of that.

All the workers of Europe would be better off without the EU — certainly those of Greece, Spain and Portugal would. Britain leaving would weaken the EU and its ability to support and pursue United States imperialist intervention in Ukraine.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is a different body, set up after the Second World War. And for the time being David Cameron is stuck with its Human Rights Act remaining on the statute book.

It is woven into the structure of the Good Friday Agreement and Scottish devolution and both these measures could be torn apart if the Act is repealed. Many senior Tories and legal experts are warning against repealing it.

Cameron said the issue had been deferred for further consultation. But in 2010 he set up a group to draw up an alternative British Bill of Rights, hoping to have it ready as soon as he had a full Tory majority. As one commentator said, that he still cannot go ahead with it speaks volumes.

A new Bill on strikes by workers in “essential public services” — health, education and transport — will rule that they must have a majority of at least 40 per cent of all those eligible to vote as well as winning a simple majority. It is unlikely that even one of Cameron’s Tory MPs was ever elected with a majority of 40 per cent of all those entitled to vote.

An Extremism Bill will “promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism”. New anti-extremism measures include: banning orders, to allow the Home Secretary to ban extremist groups; Extremism Disruption Orders, a new power for law enforcement to stop individuals engaging in “extremist behaviour”, and closure orders, to allow the police to shut down premises “used to support extremism”.

Ofcom will have new powers against “extremist broadcasters”. Under a new set of employment checks, bosses will be able to check whether an individual is an “extremist” and bar them from working with children.

This takes existing “anti- terrorism” measures further by criminalising people for openly disagreeing with the Government. When speaking of these measures they focus on various Muslim groups, stoking Islamophobia but from experience we know these sorts of measures are likely to be used against peace activists.

Anti-austerity campaigners, anti-fracking campaigners and many more will be in their sights. A number of journalists have already been included on the “domestic extremist” lists simply for taking pictures and reporting protests and demonstrations.

Proposed new measures on immigration will criminalise illegal immigrants who are working, allowing the state to seize their wages and their bank accounts.

This will leave illegally trafficked migrants even more dependent on the underworld circles who exploit them, rendering them virtually slaves.

None of these obscene bills is law yet. We can and must fight them tooth and nail with no question now that our class is under serious attack. The façade of bourgeois democracy is melting revealing a very nasty reality of impending fascism.