Yesterday was a long, utterly ridiculous day in what has thus far been an interesting, if uninspiring, election campaign. Certainly not a good day for Gordon Brown after dubbing a slightly batty woman from Rochdale 'bigoted', prompting all hell to break lose.
The 24 hour news channels certainly did their jobs and filled vast acres of air time with vacuous comment. Had Francis Urquhart been the prime minister, I'm sure he would have arranged a train crash just to divert the media's attention.
For me, the final straw was seeing the ghastly Quentin Letts be sanctimonious about being rude to people. That really is too much.
Light relief, though, was provided by a taxi driver who turned out to come straight from the pages of The Sun.
Gordon Brown was a ‘plonker’ – hard to disagree at this point in time – and he did have the decent to admit he was far too rude to people to stand for election.
‘But it’s just ridiculous,’ he blustered.
‘We need to get back to Thatcher and the days of Churchill.’ It was so reassuring to have a taxi driver espousing the traditional mantra of taxi drivers across London.
I couldn’t help but engage in debate. ‘You know the Human Rights Act?’
‘Well, Churchill inspired much of that,’ I said.
‘Yeah, but he didn’t have all this nonsense,’ he rebutted.
‘No, he only had the Nazis to deal with.’ It made me laugh.
It is interesting how Winston Churchill is so frequently invoked as a bulldog Britisher fighting a stout battle against those nasty, land-grabbing Europeans. While it could certainly not be suggested that the gruff old war hero ever envisaged a European Union as large and unwieldy as the one in Brussels and Strasbourg, he certainly understood the importance of the united, and peaceful, Europe.
Churchill was a key figure in the United Europe Movement and in 1946 he declared 'WE must build a kind of United States of Europe'. Just imagine the kind of outcry such a comment would trigger from today's Conservative Party and its slavish press.
Another interesting feature of the Tory Party's plans were they to get into government is their commitment to dismantle and replace the Human Rights Act. Such proposals have their cheer leaders on the Tory right, but in an excellent essay published in The Guardian last October, the often thoughtful Conservative polemicist and commentator Peter Oborne highlighted this desire as a grave mistake, betraying Winston Churchill's legacy.
'The rights set out in the Act are taken directly from the European Convention of Human Rights, which was signed by the UK in 1951. They were inspired by a Conservative politician, Sir Winston Churchill, and drafted under the guidance of another one, David Maxwell-Fyfe (later Lord Chancellor Kilmuir) in the face of considerable opposition from the Attlee government. The act should thus be regarded as the creation not of New Labour, but of the Conservative Party.'
He argues that the rights enshrined in the Act are 'absolutely fundamental to the British common law tradition'. They include the 'right to life; the prohibition of toture, first enacted by the Long Parliament in 1640; rights to liberty and security of person; the right to a fair trail, which dates back to Magna Carta; the right to respect for private and family life; rights to freedom of expression and religion; and the right to freedom of association'.
He argues these rights are 'not radical; they are deeply Conservative'. North Briton would certainly query this last point, but it is beside the point here.
Oborne pleads with the Conservative Party to stake its claim for the Act. Instead, however, Cameron and his party want to paint the Human Rights Act as a piece of foreign piece of interference, to shore up its anti-EU vote in the face of UKIP. Any replacement legislation might be perfectly acceptable but clearly obviously pointless. The full article can be read here.
Sadly, my taxi journey was not long enough to delve into such details.
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