Lord Lester lambasts Labour on human rights

by Stephen Tall on December 11, 2008

A month after Lord (Anthony) Lester quit his role as unpaid adviser to Gordon Brown on constitutional affairs, he’s broken his silence on the reasons for his resignation. In fact, ‘broken his silence’ doesn’t really do justice to his excoriation of Labour’s “dismal” failure to provide political leadership on human rights, branding Justice secretary Jack Straw as “lamentable”.

Lord Lester’s interview with The Guardian was published today to mark the 60th anniversary of the UN’s declaration of human rights. It’s well worth reading in full, but here’s an extract:

[Lord Lester] singled out the justice secretary, Jack Straw, for failing to produce a radical constitutional renewal bill or to defend the Human Rights Act. Straw angered human rights campaigners by giving an interview in the Daily Mail this week in which he said many people felt the act, passed by the government in 1990 while he was home secretary, was perceived as a “villains’ charter”. Lester angrily described the interview as a “sly attempt” to undermine public support for the act. Under the headline “Straw gets tough”, the Mail described his pledge to “reform ‘villains’ charter’ “.

Lester said: “The interview reports Jack Straw as blaming ‘nervous’ judges. In his effort to appease the editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre, the justice secretary has undermined the Human Rights Act. That is a lamentable departure from his predecessors as lord chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg and Lord Falconer, who staunchly defended the Human Rights Act.”

Lester went on: “In spite of its achievement in introducing the Human Rights Act, the government has a deeply disappointing record in giving effect to the values underpinning the Human Rights Act in its policies and practices. Through a lack of political leadership, it has also failed to match the expectations raised by the Governance of Britain green paper for much-needed constitutional reform.”

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Lester never should have backed Brown on 42 days. I’m sorry, but my confidence in him went at that point.

by Mark Wright on December 11, 2008 at 1:02 pm. Reply #

He speaks against 42 days quite eloquently here.

by Anonymous on December 11, 2008 at 1:51 pm. Reply #

(Sorry, the above anonymous comment was me.)

by David Matthewman on December 11, 2008 at 1:52 pm. Reply #

My bad – I was thinking of Lord Carlile!

by Mark Wright on December 11, 2008 at 2:03 pm. Reply #

What does everyone think about creating a human rights minister?

by James Schneider on December 11, 2008 at 4:14 pm. Reply #

A tabloid-whipping-boy minister? Suicide. As popular as a Minister for Tax.

by Mark Wright on December 11, 2008 at 4:59 pm. Reply #

I wonder if the damage Lord Lester has done has made up for the damage he did (at least according to some Lib Dems) in supping with the devil in the first place?

Maybe the whole thing was a clever ploy by Cowley Street!

James,

I’m not sure there would be much point. It would be difficult to identify what exacthly s/he was delivering so it would be more like a Human Rights Czar.

Without a department and budget ministers are just blow-holes. It wouldn’t achieve anything.

by Tom Papworth on December 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm. Reply #

Straw angered human rights campaigners by giving an interview in the Daily Mail this week in which he said many people felt the act, passed by the government in 1990 while he was home secretary,

Eh? Home secretary in 1990 was David Waddington. Human rights act was 1998.

by Alex Foster on December 11, 2008 at 5:25 pm. Reply #

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