It’s not easy parodying this government

The government yesterday published a document entitled “Rights and Responsibilities: developing our constitutional framework”. Only seven backbench Labour MPs stayed to hear about that. Those absent made a wise call, as the Statement was beyond parody.

I give you a flavour from the supporting document:

” A declaration or charter of rights and responsibllities expressed as common beliefs might build on the precedent provided by the French Declaration of the Rights of Man or the Universal Declaraiton of Human Rights, both of which make reference to responsibilities as well as rights. Such a declaration would be intended to have no legal effect in the courts. It would enable Parliament to set out a comnmon and explicit understanding of the values underpinning reciprocal rights and responsibilities, including the rights of individuals, the responsibilities of public authorities to respect rights and the mutual responsibilities we owe each other as members of society. It could reflect the consensus which emerges …..”

When I asked Mr Sraw if we could have the referendum they promised on Lisbon as one of our rights, the answer seemed to be No. Apparently there is no responsibility on governments to do what they promise. Nor did Mr Straw rule out every citizen being sent a copy of Gordon’s little red book of citizens responsibilities (Number One the Citizen must pay all requests to keep the government in the style to which it is accustomed)


  1. Sue
    March 24, 2009

    We have few rights in the UK and they are declining daily, that’s why I live in Spain now.

    I’d be an alcoholic on anti-depressants if I’d have stayed in the UK..

    1. adam
      March 24, 2009

      Spain is better? Nope

  2. Ian Jones
    March 24, 2009

    They will need two sets, one for those with the rights and the other for the middle classes who seem to own the responsibility side.

  3. Blank Xavier
    March 24, 2009

    The Adam Smith Institute blog mentioned something about a Right to free healthcare and free education?

    Presumably they mean free at the point of use, which therefore means this Bill is *mandating State provided healthcare and education*.

    The methods by which the nation provides services is not something fit for something so fundamental as a Bill of Rights!

    Overtones of Venezula, frankly. “For your own good, as a Right, the Government will from now on agree as a Responsibility to take your money and decide who will give you health care, police services and education.”

    TBH, my take on this is that Labour have lost it – they know they’re hugely behind in the polls, they know the election is coming up, they *don’t know what to do*, so we’re into irrational behaviour terroritory – for what do you do, when you know you’re going to fail, and it’s heading towards you, and there’s nothing you can do about it? we don’t deal well with inevitable failure.

    I think they’re desperately doing more and more of what they seem in their collective subconscious to think is what people want from Labour – lots of “rights”, lots of big Government – centralisation and spending.

    Problem is is it that which has made them unpopular in the first place.

    I have to say, I really do feel like an exile now. The things I see being done by Labour, it’s a country I do not want to live in. You know the Policing and Crime Bill? the police will now have the power to *require* any licensed premises to install CCTV.

    So you’re sitting in your local now, with a pint and your mates…being watched on CCTV. By the police. All the time.

    What about our PRIVACY?

    We come down to the pub to see friends and have a drink. It’s our private business. What in the name of God is the Government doing giving itself the right to install CCTV in every single pub, bar and restaurant in the country?

    And who will pay for the installation? I think you know the answer! which means *we* pay, because that money comes from what customers are charged. Increase the costs of running a place, you increase the amount it charges.

    So *WE PAY* for the Government to watch us. Every evening, every day, all week, every month, all year long, year after year after year.

    The ASI blog made another good point, too; with all the targets the police have, what’s happening now is that they nab decent people who’ve committed a minor misdemenour, because that takes the least time and so is the best way to hit their targets. Real crime – which takes time and effort to solve – is on the back burner.

    CCTVing thousands of pubs and bars and shops? great way to find huge numbers of minor crimes – someone forgetting to ask for ID when a teenager buys a drink? you’re nicked, mate. And the numbers the Government publish look *great* while the amount of real crime in society is *increasing*.

    Be quite clear. All because a power is granted by a democratic process does not mean that power is democratic, just or fair. These new powers are unjust, unfree, unfair and oppressive. They contribute to a large range now of similar laws and powers.

    We are servile to the law – we are a Servile State.

    1. Susan
      March 24, 2009

      Absolutely spot on. The harm done to the country over the past twelve years will seem as nothing compared to what damage will be inflicted in their desperate run-up to the GE. And, don’t forget the CCA, waiting silently in the wings for the ‘right’ moment.

      I hope with all my heart that the next Conservative Govt, at the earliest moment, will set up a department to review and repeal the dangerous legislation inflicted upon us.

      1. mikestallard
        March 24, 2009

        I know what. Let’s eradicate teenage drinking by banning everyone selling it – like in Australia – (except for licensed bottle shops).
        If you want a drink, you can go to a licensed bar and drink there. If there is any disorder, the licence can be taken away and the Police know where to look for drunks.
        We could call these licensed premises “Public Houses”.
        Hey – wait a minute -………

    2. adam
      March 24, 2009

      and toilets. In schools too, in toilets and changing rooms/showers.
      Plus they will be training all the staff to be government snoops for no pay. That (words left out) Gordon wrote about it in the Guardian and got a mauling.

      Thats why that Horizon programme was on about nudity, dressed up as science. They are trying to convince people privacy is a bad idea.

      Any crimes they find with CCTV they never prosecute. Even serious criminal gangs who rape and murder only get a few years. Everyone who isn’t brain dead on Eastenders and Pepsi knows its a fraud.
      They made no announcements on those Luton protestors, perfect people for the databases and surveillance to pick up, they made themselves visible, yet nothing was done.

    3. APL
      March 24, 2009

      Blank Xavier: “All because a power is granted by a democratic process does not mean that power is democratic, just or fair.”

      On the contrary. Democracy without constitutional restraint is nothing less than the rabble. The terror during the French revolution was democratic.

      The one notable characteristic of Blair and Browns government is the total disregard even contempt for constitutional restraint.

      They are creatures, that live only in the present, the past does not concern them, they draw no lessons there.

    4. alan jutson
      March 24, 2009

      I say again, David Davis was right.

  4. Stuart Fairney
    March 24, 2009

    “Such a declaration would be intended to have no legal effect in the courts”

    And thus the value of the document in on phrase.

    1. Adam
      March 24, 2009

      You beat me to it Stuart. This is pure political positioning, so Labour can say to The Conservatives, ‘Yeah? Like, We’ve got a people’s rights thingy too innit! So like, whateva.’

      John Redwood, why did you put yourself through listening to this utter tripe from HMG?? I’m sure the good people of Wokingham wouldn’t demand it of you. It can’t be good for their MP’s health.
      This is a good example of why MPs are paid quite a lot of money. Having to listen to Government statements of this quality is totally beyond the call of duty.

  5. Mark Brentano
    March 24, 2009

    I think the whole notion of human rights would be less risible if the legislative status of ‘human’ was questioned, and possibly replaced by ‘national’ or something equally localised. In what way can a charter of rights be produced which would apply equally to citizens of Minsk, Harare and Sutton?

    1. APL
      March 24, 2009

      Mark Brentano: “In what way can a charter of rights be produced which would apply equally to citizens of Minsk, Harare and Sutton?”

      Not the sort of rights the government is thinking of. Rather the sort of rights that have been enshrined in our current constitution for three hundred years and that this government takes every opportunity to ride roughshod across.

      Last night on the C4 news was the story of ‘Q’. A man who may or may not have been a terrorist threat, our government decided he was and placed such onerous restraints on his freedom of association, movement and commerce to have made his life almost impossible.

      This is the result of Gordon Brown and Tony Blairs anti terrorism leglislation. The government does not have the courage nor apparently the evidence to bring their charges before a court, instead they choose extra judicial punishments. This is the sort of attitude that leads someone as hateful as Harriet Harman to jabber about “the court of public opinion”.

      Then they spout drivel about ‘human rights’. These people are dispciable!

  6. Mark M
    March 24, 2009

    “Such a declaration would be intended to have no legal effect in the courts”

    This almost sounds like the EU method of passing pointless laws. Initially, the law comes in to criminalise an everyday occurance, but enforcers are instructed not arrest anyone initially. This allows it to pass through because MEPs seems to think that a law that won’t be enforced is a good thing (it shows activity without any coinsequence, perfect). A few years down the line, when everyone has forgotten that it is a law, they tell the enforcers to act.

    Any chance of hearing why we now have a ‘policing pledge’? I’m sure everyone has heard the radio adverts. The police now pledge to listen to people’s concerns, act on them etc. It struck me that this is what they should have been doing anyway. Thus if they have to bring out a pledge telling us that is what they do, then we are to assume that previously they were not listening to people’s concerns, nor acting on them.

  7. James Matthews
    March 24, 2009

    Yet another opportunity for the government to pump out Labour Party propaganda at taxpayers expense. I remember, after Brown’s first Budget, being stunned by the partisan nature of a leaflet about it I picked up in the post office. All the upside highlighted, none of the downside included. In the intervening decade I’ve got used to it.

    Will the Conservatives be any different when in office? Rather to my surprise Boris has made a good start by dropping Ken Livingstone’s advertiser, The Londoner, rather than taking advantage of it for his own purposes, but Barnet’s magazine (which goes directly into the recycling bin) still sullies my doormat at regular intervals. The temptation to take advantage of the precedents, now they have been set, will be enormous.

    1. adam
      March 24, 2009

      I have seen communist propaganda and ‘The Londoner’ was exactly the same as that.
      i hear Red Ken has lost his part time job as BBC commentator and now wanders the underground (words left out).

    2. mikestallard
      March 24, 2009

      Here in Conservative Cambridgeshire, we get nothing through the door from the (Conservative) local government.
      Maybe it is because here in the fens, so few people can read…..

  8. Graham Hamblin
    March 24, 2009

    From 1959 I walked the streets in a shiny button suit and a big silly hat keeping order and used my discretion about where and when I intervened.

    Today with CCTV and hosts of council nose pokers etc etc, the police rarely leaving their comfortable offices and cars, there is no aspect of life that remains private, I despair at the state of this country.

  9. Mark Wadsworth
    March 24, 2009

    It is, actually.

  10. The Economic Voice
    March 24, 2009

    What is wrong with the UK concept of ‘you can do anything you like as long as it not forbidden by law’, then back it up with as few, but very well drafted, good laws as we can?

  11. Iain
    March 24, 2009

    I gather the Government also pushed through a bill to remove juries from Coroner courts.

    1. Stuart Fairney
      March 24, 2009

      Really chilling, just make sure the coroner is friendly and then you can do anything! I am sure you know what Lord Devlin said as long ago as 1956;

      “Each jury is a little parliament. The jury sense is the parliamentary sense. I cannot see the one dying and the other surviving. The first object of any tyrant in Whitehall would be to make Parliament utterly subservient to his will; and the next to otherthrow or diminish trial by jury, for no tyrant could afford to leave a subject’s freedom in the hands of twelve of his countrymen. So that trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than one wheel of the constitution; it is the lamp that shows the freedom lives”.

      Parliament is subservient, and now juries are diminshed. Desperate times indeed.

      1. Blank Xavier
        March 24, 2009

        Have you heard about the massive cuts in Magistrates Courts? London will go from having 30 down to 8. The justice service being provided is, it seems, basically going to be moved to the police, who will be issuing summary sentences.

        1. Stuart Fairney
          March 25, 2009

          The seperation of police and the courts seems so obviously important to ensure justice, that it is hard to imagine anyone arguing to the contrary.


      2. andy dan
        March 24, 2009

        The jury system is the biggest waste of time and money. It’s not even remotely fair. Juries tend to consist of groups who would either find nobody guilty, or everybody guilty. Many people cannot understand the concept of “beyond reasonable doubt”. People also cannot be expected to understand the technology being used, eg DNA amplification. I’m sure the lawyers love it because it wastes time and earns them more money. Just because something has been used for hundreds of years doesn’t make it an ideal system in the modern age. We’d be far better off with a system of professional jurors or “elders”. The judicial system is a place where large savings could be made following the next election.

        1. Stuart Fairney
          March 25, 2009

          Elders, eh. Why not a Star Chamber?

          The problem with professional jurors is the word professional. They would end up as whipped as MP’s

          Imagine monitoring of conviction rates by the government; why is such-and-such juror convicting at 45% when the average is 70%, the guilty are walking free, sack, or re-train him. Could you not imagine such a scenario? does that not chill you to the core?

          Independent jurors are the last guard in a free society, and if you cannot accept that, you gallop towards your own enslavement.

          Sure they make mistakes and take bad decisions. Better that than having Jack Straw, Jackie Smith or John Redwood deciding for us.

  12. chris southern
    March 24, 2009

    MagnaCarta1215 and the Bill of rights 1689 give us more rights that can not be taken away than any silly little non court recognised state non contract.
    Ah well, 12 more months living in the asylum, and then Mr Cameron has a LOT of work to do.

    Oh do i long for the day when parties do not control the future of a nation, and when the cabinet is full of people will real experience, relavant to the role.

  13. Johnny Norfolk
    March 24, 2009

    I think you are spot on about Lisbon. It will be rights that does not involve the government being open and keeping its word.

    just like labour a waste of time.

  14. oldrightie
    March 24, 2009

    Hah! They do a very good job on themselves, as you so succintly point out. The one sad parody is, of course, the state of The Nation.

  15. adam
    March 24, 2009

    Rights with responsibilities is an EU/UN citizenship mantra.
    I dont know if i am an EU citizen, i doubt it as i dont have the citizenship GCSE and havent passed through the swearing out ceremony as the children now have to. My instinct tells me it would be better to be a British subject/citizen

  16. mikestallard
    March 24, 2009

    On Labour List, there is a piece on the databases kept by the State at the moment. The general line is that this is an interesting new phenomenon which the readers might like to discuss. The article appeared in the Independent.
    It didn’t seem to create a lot of interest.
    One of the best declarations of rights and one of the very liberal constitutions of the 20th century was, of course, gifted to the grateful people of the Soviet Union at the very time when the Great Fear was raging in the 1930s.
    On this thread, I am with Blank Xavier: this government which started off so cockily in 1997 is now as rich in fresh thinking as it is economically.

  17. alan jutson
    March 24, 2009

    Its very simple to understand really.
    Change the Name of Labour Party to Communist Party and it all makes sense.

  18. Mr Ecks
    March 24, 2009

    They know very well what Jack …. can do with NuLiebores rights and responsibilities.

  19. Lola
    March 24, 2009

    Sort of O/T but has your party got anyone with any military experience in it who is cabinet material? You (i.e. us) are going to need it.

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