There is one all too obvious problem in appointing a former Murdoch hack to the rank of Cabinet Minister: the temptation to brief a personal point of view to friends in the press can become overwhelming. And so it has proved with the Tories’ plans to repeal the Human Rights Act (HRA) and replace it with a “British Bill Of Rights”, which Young Dave has entrusted to his new Justice Secretary Michael “Oiky” Gove.
Gove is considered by his press pals to be some kind of ministerial miracle worker, on the basis that he did such wonderful things while in charge of Education. However, and here we encounter a significantly sized however, much of this reputation is down to yet more press spin and the cheerleading of his ideologically like-minded disciples, some of whom have been bunged significant amounts of taxpayer funds to start Free Schools.
The reality is that Gove was inept at Education, and continued to be inept as Chief Whip, his tenure in the latter job marked by the botched attempt to undermine Commons Speaker John Bercow, which also brought the Parliamentary career of William ‘Ague to a less than distinguished close. No amount of off-the-record briefing and spin could cover that up. But with the HRA, Gove appears to be still at it.
Hence the Telegraph claiming this morning that “May and Gove split with PM in human rights row” (for some reason the article supporting this headline is not currently available, but the Mail has lifted most of it). This holds, more or less, that “Oiky” has Theresa May’s support in a move to propose the UK withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), of which it has been a signatory for more than 60 years.
Yes, "Oiky", your fingers are all over it
And, as Jon Stewart might have said, two things here. One, the UK remaining a member state of the European Union (EU) without being a signatory to the ECHR would be a challenging proposition. And two, as Joshua Rozenberg pointed out today in the Law Society Gazette, “withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights - a threat made by the Conservatives in their policy paper last October - is firmly off the agenda”.
All of which begs the question: where did this largely fictitious story originate? As it gives the impression that Ms May and “Oiky” are making a bold move, of the kind that will find favour with the right-leaning part of the press, the conclusion has to be that someone rather adjacent to one or the other was behind it. And right now, my Occam’s Razor is leading to Gove. No minister is more adept at getting propaganda into the papers.
Why would he do that? Ah well. This is as much a shot across the bows of what the Tories see as “Judicial Activism”, which means the judiciary taking a view which may not be in agreement with party politicians. But being of independent mind is exactly what the judiciary is supposed to be. And if the lawmakers aren’t happy with the way their laws are interpreted, they should get off their backsides and draft better ones.
But that’s too much like hard work. It’s so much easier to leak to the press. Ho hum.
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