Protect your rights — vote the Tories out

Thomas Rawnsley, a young white man with Down's syndrome, sitting on a red sofa with his mother facing him from his left, and holding a baby girl in his right arm, supported by his mother.This will be the last blog post I make before the election starts tomorrow (Thursday) morning. The front pages of the two biggest-selling newspapers are full of propaganda against the Labour leadership, branding them friends of ‘jihadis’ and enemies of the state. It would also have been the 23rd birthday of Thomas Rawnsley, a young man from Bradford who died a miserable death in February 2015. He had been forced to live in a care home against his and his family’s wishes and had unexplained carpet burns on his body and died of heart failure. His inquest is yet to be held.

As a result of last weekend’s terrorist attack in London, in which three men used things available to all of us because they had no proper weaponry to kill and maim ordinary people, Theresa May has once again talked of changing human rights legislation to make it possible to lock up terrorist ‘suspects’ without trial. In the immediate future this is likely to mean ‘derogation’, or exemptions, from specific articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, the long-term plan is for the UK to withdraw from the Convention altogether and scrap the Human Rights Act which enshrines it in UK law. They believe they can do this with public support because the ‘average’ Briton — “mainstream Britain”, or to put it another way “normal people” — does not need to use the convention or the HRA on anything like a regular basis, if at all. Britain has not known dictatorship or occupation in living memory; this can be said of few other places in Europe.

The HRA and ECHR do not principally protect the rights of terrorists, or even suspected ones. The government succeeded in deporting a number of foreign terrorists and suspects under both Labour and the Coalition and has not been significantly impeded in pursuing changes to the welfare or immigration system. The Convention does protect the rights of disabled people, by giving them a right to life, to liberty and to family life. This has, on at least some occasions, prevented individual health professionals from keeping someone locked up indefinitely for no good reason. It forced a change in the law so that people with learning disabilities cannot be deprived of their liberty with no legal sanction. The rest of us have had this right since Magna Carta; it took until this century for the rights of the learning disabled to catch up.

As we have seen, Theresa May’s and David Cameron’s governments have been rather weak on security themselves, having cut front-line policing such that officers are having to work 16-hour shifts and that outlying areas are being left with reduced cover to protect central London. They are scrabbling around for mud to throw at Jeremy Corbyn; they say he is “buddies” with terrorists, yet they called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and called for his hanging in the 1980s. They have nothing to offer on security other than panic measures and tough talk; the security of disabled people, meanwhile, is being sacrificed — their lives, liberty and standard of living is anything but secure. Neither are the health services and education the rest of us need.

I will not be voting Labour tomorrow; the only meaningful opposition to the Tories here are the Lib Dems, and I will be voting for Ed Davey tomorrow. I urge readers to vote Labour if they can, or if they cannot, vote for whomever is not a racist and stands the best chance of unseating any Tory incumbent, or to support anyone who will defend Britain’s links with the European Union and everyone’s human rights and public services. We will only get one chance to do this; a Tory victory tomorrow will mean no election until 2022, when the country will be unrecognisable.

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