Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Wednesday 4 October 2006

Cameron's keynote conference speech generally hopeful

I'd say David Cameron's second speech to the Conservative Party conference, delivered today, was generally excellent - not a barnstorming performance, but a solid indication of where he wants to take the Conservative Party - and that mostly sounds very positive to me. The only part that made me wonder was his reiteration of his intention, if he becomes Prime Minister, to replace the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights. Now, so far as I understand it, the Human Rights Act was intended to incorporate into British laws the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms; prior to its incorporation it was necessary to take cases under that convention to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a cumbersome and expensive procedure which the incorporation of similar provisions into UK domestic law, in the form of the Human Rights Act, was designed to simplify. The Convention was written in the immediate aftermath of World War II, with the close involvement of British lawyers. Is Mr Cameron also proposing that the UK withdraw from the Convention, adherence to which is a prerequisite for membership of the European Union? On the assumption that the answer to that question is "No", I wonder what is the purpose of Mr Cameron's proposal; what is it in the Human Rights Act which he finds unacceptable and which is not already catered for in the Convention? Anyway, here is what he said on the matter:

"I believe that yes, the British people need a clear definition of their rights in this complex world. But I also believe we need a legal framework for those rights that does not hamper the fight against terrorism. That is why we will abolish the Human Rights Act and put a new British Bill of Rights in its place."

What is it in the Human Rights Act that is not in the Convention which inhibits the fight against terrorism? I need a lot more clarification on the SPECIFICS of what he wants to achieve.

However, in general and despite the important caveat I mention above I think the speech was otherwise very hopeful. As in his speech last Sunday he made specific reference to alternative family arrangements as acceptable, the first time a Conservative Party leader has ever made such a clear statement seeming to indicate that a genuine change has taken place in the Conservative Party's attitudes - even if the reaction of those in the hall to this was not one of universal happiness:

"There's something special about marriage. It's not about religion. It's not about morality. It's about commitment. When you stand up there, in front of your friends and your family, in front of the world, whether it's in a church or anywhere else, what you're doing really means something. Pledging yourself to another means doing something brave and important. You are making a commitment. You are publicly saying: it's not just about me, me me anymore. It is about we - together, the two of us, through thick and thin. That really matters. And by the way, it means something whether you're a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man. That's why we were right to support civil partnerships, and I'm proud of that."

To read much of the text of his speech, interspersed with commentary, at the ConservativeHome blog click here. The BBC has its analysis of the speech here.

As for me, I received a letter last week from the local Conservative PPC, Jamie Johnston, for this constituency in the Scottish Parliament election scheduled for May next year; for some weeks I have almost been ready to contemplate rejoining the Party, but wanted to wait until I saw what was said at the Conference before making any decision. I am certainly now even more inclined to rejoin, but will probably mull it over this coming weekend before making a final decision - I'll write about that here in due course, never fear.

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