Super Grieve strikes again: Tory human rights plans would be “devastating” for the UK

4 December 2014 by

Super Grieve (UK Human Rights Blog)Dominic Grieve QC was appointed as the Coalition Government’s Attorney General in May 2010. He remained in post until July 2014 when he was sacked. He said he would “happily” have stayed on, but the reality was that he could not support the Conservative Party’s radical plans to reform UK human rights law. 

Since then he has become a fierce and impassioned critic of the Tory plans, somewhat surprisingly given his public persona which is otherwise calm and lawyerly. He has produced two detailed, and devastating, critiques: the first in Prospect Magazine and then last night in a lecture at University College London. Both are highly recommended as measured and unarguably correct analyses of the Tory plan.

To my mind, Dominic Grieve QC is a bit of a hero. He has stood up for principle at the expense of his political career. He did not just resign in disgust, he then made it his business to explain to people – and particularly those on the Right – why the Tory plans would be “devastating both for ourselves domestically as it will be for the future of the Convention” (p.24).

A few tidbits from the speech. On motivations:

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion on reading the paper that the real problem for its authors is not so much the interpretation of the Convention by the Strasbourg Court or indeed our own domestic courts but the frustration that an international legal obligation prevents the UK government from being able to ignore judgments when it considers that they are adverse to its view of what is in the public interest.

On criticisms of the Court:

But I have to say that as a lawyer this is not the first time I have disagreed with a court decision in a case in which I have appeared. Courts are human constructs. Their decisions are as open to criticism as any other and lawyers and parties on the losing side will usually be discontented with the outcome. Yet in a number of key cases involving this country, the court has made adverse findings which an overwhelming majority would now conclude were correct

On the Court aggrandizing its jurisdiction (Lord Hoffmann’s criticism):

The implication if taken to its logical conclusion must be that Convention should have remained fixed in the moral and ethical norms of 1950. Judicial interpretation to reflect modern times is not new and is rooted in our common law tradition.

On a Bill of Rights:

Such a course may be strictly lawful, but its practical consequences are likely to be as devastating both for ourselves domestically as it will be for the future of the Convention.

On the international effect of the plans:

It flies in the face of all the good work done internationally by the UK government to promote human rights for so long. I have to say that as a Conservative this pains me. Whatever the challenges the Convention has posed and I accept that there are some proper grounds to criticise its operation, the failure of ambition represented in the Paper and the narrowness of its moral and political vision is very disappointing.

On why the Right should not support the plans:

I believe that those of us in the Party who see the maintenance and promotion of an international system of human rights as being in the national interest and entirely in keeping with a Conservative tradition of freedom under the law, will win that argument for the reasons I have given….but we must not stay silent

A swallow does not make a Spring, but at least there are some within the Conservative Party who are speaking out against the plans. Let’s hope others are listening. In the meantime, well done Mr Grieve.

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3 comments


  1. A couple of points.

    Politicians can be voted out for making bad decisions, but unfortunately the European judges cannot. It’s very easy for the judiciary to sit and make decisions without having to face the public’ ire.

    Grieve acknowledges there are problems with the Conventions operation, and yet did nothing to correct them when in office. It seems any attempt to reform the ECHR is seen as some sort of attack on the HR fraternity. I have said on here before that there is never any acknowledgement of errors, issues or poor judgements by the ECHR, there is just uncritical comment.

    Finally the term “devastating” from Grieve is somewhat of a gross exaggeration but typical of the reaction I mention above.

  2. stewilko says:

    Reblogged this on stewilko's Blog and commented:
    Well done Dominic Grieve, not only for standing up to this shower of idiots. I salute him for his ethical and moral stand. I have, with the aid of the many bloggers and brilliant sites tried to bring the many disturbing and disgusting policies of this coalition government. I have for many watched and took a modest interested in British politics. Although I may confess It is a very unprofessional view. I can honestly say that over the past forty years, including the Thatcher regime. The Pole Tax, Miners Strikes and arguments over war. This Conservative party and Lap dog liberal Democrats have broken every human and Civil rights laws. Their lust and drive for power and control is disturbing. I just cannot understand how they are allowed to get away with the level of changes they have completed. Hopefully 2015s elections will bring in a government with policies that enable the poor, disabled and many individuals this government targeted.
    Again I remind myself, bankers and other large companies caused the economic mess 5 or more years ago

  3. mikeponsonby says:

    Well said Adam, I agree that Dom Grieve QC is a Hero.

    Congratulations to Mr Grieve for speaking up in support of HRA 1999. I support his submission.

    Kind Regards Mike Ponsonby

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