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Nick Clegg is defending his career - not human rights

Staring into the abyss of a sudden general election which would surely banish the Lib Dems to the parliamentary wilderness for a generation, Nick Clegg has resorted to picking battles with the Conservatives whenever possible.

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Long road back for Clegg
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Frank Manning
On 26 August 2011 15:55

Nick Clegg has written an article for the Guardian today defending the Human Rights Act, in a vain attempt at rescuing his political career.

After the spectacularly embarrassing defeat in the AV referendum and the disapproval from Liberal Democrat voters who believe he has sold their party out, Clegg was left with few options. Staring into the abyss of a sudden general election which would surely banish the Lib Dems to the parliamentary wilderness for a generation, he has resorted to picking battles with the Conservatives whenever possible.

The clearest example of this was the NHS. The reforms which the Lib Dems had signed up to were suddenly unacceptable when Clegg saw the reaction from the delegates at their party conference. By siding with the vested interests of the unions and a media bowing to public pressure, much needed reforms which took years to design were dismantled. The effects of this will be felt financially as well as in terms of quality of care for years to come.

The Human Rights Act is a contentious issue to debate for obvious reasons. Supporters denounce detractors as being ‘opposed to human rights’, a tag which few would enjoy. However, the problem is not with human rights but with the act itself and the way it is abused by criminals to their advantage.

There is a litany of examples where judges have given ludicrous justifications to allow criminals to stay in the country. A Bolivian immigrant managed to avoid deportation due to the fact he owned a cat with his girlfriend. Mustafa Jama was involved in the murder of WPC Sharon Beshenivsky in November 2005. Before the murder he had been considered for deportation, but despite having previous convictions for robbery and burglary, it was deemed ‘too dangerous’ in his homeland of Somalia to send him back. He evaded capture for four years after the killing by fleeing to the supposedly dangerous Somalia.

Public perception of the act is mixed and confused. Most people accept that there are certain unalienable rights that everyone should be afforded, however they are severely disturbed when foreign murderers and rapists are given indefinite leave to remain in the country due to their right to ‘family life’.

I don’t doubt that Nick Clegg cares about human rights, we all do. But he cannot honestly defend these perverse rules which leave the victims of horrendous crimes feeling abandoned by the rule of law.

Of course the Human Rights Act can claim a number of important victories, that is a part of its nature and it should be commended for that. However, it cannot be excused the abuses which it allows.

David Cameron can and should win this battle against Clegg, as long as he controls the narrative. As ever, vested interests will pop up to smear the Tories as heartless and uncaring. A British Bill of Rights will be a struggle to push through but for the sake of justice in the United Kingdom, it needs to be done. 

Frank Manning is a Researcher for the civil liberties pressure group, 'Big Brother Watch' and writes in a personal capacity.  

Read more on: Frank Manning, Nick Clegg, David Cameron, human rights act, NHS, Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, Mustafa Jama, British Bill of Rights, and justice
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