Coffee House

Clegg paints the world yellow

26 August 2011

9:10 AM

26 August 2011

9:10 AM

Nick Clegg laughed-off the dousing of blue paint he received in Glasgow yesterday, like one of Noel Edmonds’ unwitting victims.
Today, Clegg has turned into the grinning douser: drenching his coalition partners in yellow paint by saying that the European Convention on Human Rights will not be watered down.

Writing in the Guardian, Clegg says that the Conservatives are right to seek operational reform of the
European Court of Human Rights, but the common ground ends there. He says that “the Human Rights Act and the European convention on human rights have been instrumental” in
preventing injustices from council snooping to the misuse of DNA records and that the incorporation of human rights into domestic law was a “hugely positive step”.


Clegg’s emphasis and tone could not be further from that of David Cameron on the same subject at the
. Clegg adopts Cameron’s phrase “the misrepresentation of rights”, which Cameron defined as rights being used as “cover for rules or excuses that fly
in the face of common sense
”, and refashions it to mean “a culture of legal paranoia” that impedes policing and prevents prosecutions. The implication is that rights
do not need to change, but authority’s relationship with them does. He points to a recent example when the police delivered a KFC meal to a fugitive on roof on human rights grounds.
There is no right to fried chicken,” Clegg says.

Cameron has stressed that rights come with responsibilities. Clegg contests that, saying that a myth has grown “that no rights, not even the most basic, come without responsibilities;
that criminals ought to forfeit their very humanity the moment they step out of line; and that the punishment of lawbreakers ought not to be restrained by due process
.” Clearly, Clegg
believes that certain rights are inherent and that due process should be constrained by them. You could argue that, on the basis of this, Clegg is implicitly opposed to the recent spate of robust

The article is a mesh of dividing lines, not only on the interpretation of human rights law but also on the very nature of human rights. For Clegg, the European Convention and the Human Rights
Act are sacrosanct, something of which “we should be proud…and never abandon.” This means that the Liberal Democrats will oppose any attempt made to change the terms of
specific rights (an aim of Theresa May’s), to alter Britain’s relationship with the European Court of Human Rights (an
ambition of David Cameron’s), or to leave the convention (a dream of some Tory backbenchers). Clegg welcomes the commission examining
a British bill of rights, if only “to deepen our commitment to the protections of the Human Rights Act, and also to protect other British liberties, such as the right to jury
.” It’s also worth recalling that Clegg worked to ensure the commission was dominated by liberal
human rights lawyers
who share his beliefs.
Clegg has played an adept hand to frustrate the Tories so far. Now he has made a statement of intent with a great pail of yellow paint. It remains to be seen how the Conservatives will

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Show comments
  • Dimoto

    The coalition agreement set out important areas for action and reform – more than enough to keep an administration busy for five years.

    This is NOT a Conservative government.
    And certainly NOT a LibDem government.

    Why do the Conservatives and LibDems keep trying to shoe-horn in, new areas for action ?

    For God’s sake just concentrate on the economy, education and welfare reform and leave the rest for another day … and just tell the LibDems NO! when they start wittering about their Greenery BS, “mansion taxes” and the like.

  • Cynic

    To hear Clegg talk you’d think that Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus had never existed and that everything was dependent on the EU. We managed fine without the HRA – let’s go back to having our own system of Common Law which worked well for centuries instead of the Code Napoléon being imposed on us from outside.

  • Robert Eve

    Was a senior member of a coalition ever more hamstrung by a junior member?

  • London Calling

    Firstly I would like to congratulate Nick Clegg on his initiation into the Scottish clan, although traditionally spirals would have been painted on in wode rather than rushed splurges of acrylic Tory blue

  • Archie

    LibDem tail wagging Tory dog…………………….again!

  • Nicholas

    Publius – agreed! Poor choice of word.

  • Raffles

    I am with Vulture on the Libdems – totally out of step with the huge majority of public opinion on the three issues mentioned. Their conceit is extraordinary.

  • Publius

    @Nicholas (1.11pm)

    The only thing I would add, Nicholas, is that it is important to bear in mind that ideology* itself is part of the problem.

    [*Ideology is often confused by lazy journalists with ideas or thought. In truth, ideology is the enemy of thought. Ideology is a replacement for thought.

    Indeed, it is a sign of the Left’s dominance of political discourse that those opposed to the Left feel that they must have an ideology.

    To put this another way, ideology bears the same relation to thought as doctrine does to philosophy]

  • strapworld

    Vulture. I was a member of Ukip once. I hasten to add for a very short time.

    There is no doubt that they have a loyal following and many are former conservatives. But they do attract a large number of what I would discribe as nutcases. On the local structure I can honestly say it was a one very enthusiastic chap and equally earnest wife and three others! Some party!

    I attended their annual conference in Bristol and it was shambolic. The main discussion was the argument off stage between Robert Kilroy Silk and Nigel Farage. The chairman at that time was a former tory MP Roger Knapman (a rather less charismatic character than Michael Foot). Kilroy-Silk was a superb orator and Farage was typical of the old snake charmer. I counted about three hundred delegates which made me realise that ‘this lot’ had as much chance of winning an election as I have of winning the national lottery jackpot. I left.

  • Inminds

    Clegg is right about –

    “council snooping to the misuse of DNA records”

    Cameron & Co don’t understand these things.

  • Nicholas

    Strapworld makes an excellent point and I’m afraid, Vulture, that UKIP is no answer to the British Leftist Collective which has established itself so strongly in Britain but especially to the detriment of England. The right is too fractured and infested by cod-socialists to present any kind of viable counter-ideology.

    The latest inequality is that the EM fund will continue everywhere in the UK except England. This is supported it seems by most of the treacherous crew sitting in parliament who espouse “equality and fairness”. What utter bollocks.

  • Hard Hearted Romantic Perry

    How very fortunate for the Human ‘Rights’ Industry – the only growth area in the UK, – oh, that and the debt recovery industry.

    And how fitting the ‘article’ should appear now, what with the Basildon Baloney reaching a crescendo, and no doubt Clegg, the Night In Simpering Armour, rushing to the Rescue.

    Ho Hum

  • Mark Thompson

    My vomit is yellow. Enough said.

  • pharbitis

    jon dee: absolutely right!
    Clegg is working only for HIMself, HIS family and HIS future career in Europe after his defeat in 2015. Whatever he says is what Europe wants to hear which is usually diametrically opposite of what is in England’s interests. (Don’t know about Scotland et al – they seem to have their own agenda too.)
    This push-me-pull-you govt is fast alienating the supporters of both.

  • Cogito Ergosum

    It is one thing to demand a high standard of human rights within the UK. It is another to suppose that we can impose these rights on the rest of the world.

    We have the absolute right to deport foreigners on suspicion, rather than executing and trying them. If they complain about where they are going, the answer is that they should have thought of that before they annoyed us.

  • Vulture

    Not trying to be sarcastic – I just marvel at the number of times that you, Tim Montgomerie and other optimists keep writing : ‘This is Cameron’s last chance…now its time for Cameron to show leadership…’ etc. when you must all know by now that he can’t or he won’t.

    There are two things Conservatives can usefully do today: either join UKIP, or
    if that is a step too far, at least make sure that their Tory MP/candidate is an anti-Daveist who will overthrow him at the first opportunity in the way that Cameron’s soul-daddy Heath was ousted.

    As for the Lib Dems’ prospects: I’m beginning to believe that even my friend Norman Baker’s seat is in danger. They are out of step with Joe Public on three huge issues: the EU (love it); criminals & rioters (cuddle em); and foreign judges/laws ( obey em). You have to admire their consistency in being so utterly wrong about EVERYTHING.

  • michael

    ECHR …classic liberal bullshit: Empowering the evil, whilst disenfranchising everybody else’s civil liberties.

  • jon dee

    Is it unsurprising that Clegg’s accelerated confidence should allow him to give two fingers to Cameron while hugging the UCHR ?

    With no long term future with the Lib Dems and both eyes firmly towards a lofty role in the EU, he’s becoming demob happy.

    Couple this with wife Miriam’s expertise and reliance on EU law for a well-deserved and lucrative career, the interests of the Clegg household are unambiguously Europhile.

    Who mentioned the Kinnocks ?

  • disenfranchised


    oh, you old winder-upper, you…..

  • strapworld

    Dearest Vulture, Perhaps it is dealing with so many battered wives who did believe that their husband’s violence was a ‘one off’that makes me so ‘naive’.

    But, dear Vulture, your eagerness to be sarcastic overlooks the truth of my contribution.

    I do not believe that such a lame excuse of blaming the Liberal Democrats for his failures will result in the Lib Dems ‘annihilation’. Although I can see Cleggy losing both his leadership role and his seat.

    The sadness is that those on the right of politics in the country belong to so many groups or small and inconsequential political parties that a coherent message is never conveyed to the electorate. Only an amalgamation of them all under a dynamic leader could bring about a sea change in the political map of this country.

  • disenfranchised

    i wonder if the cleggs of this world were always pious, sanctimonious and righteous, or if the equality/diversity twaddle they eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner automatically makes them that way.
    if they can’t see what the bleedin’ yuman rites act is doing to this god-forsaken country, one could be forgiven for doubting their sanity…..

  • Lonesome Dave

    This Liberal party of useful idiots have simply outlived their usefulness!

    It’s high time we got rid of them and their 9% of the vote; they will be wiped at the next GE.

  • Dennis Churchill

    August 26th, 2011 10:36am
    Only when you are dealing with legislation passed by a sovereign legislature. Our laws can be overridden by the European Court so amending legislation could be ruled as incompatible with European law.
    We have different legal traditions to continental Europe which is why these laws cause so many problems.
    I would still like to be given instances where French judges ruled foreign criminals could not be deported due to their right to family life or other clauses.

  • Dennis Churchill

    This should please everyone who wants the UK to leave the EU.
    The Human Rights Act, as interpreted by our judges, is the best argument for regaining sovereignty.
    As Rhoda Klapp (August 26th, 2011 10:14am) writes we really do need these paid agents of the EU, particularly parliamentarians, to declare their financial interest. Possibly something could be done about the Chairman of the BBC Trust as well, afterall a £100K a year pension, dependant on supporting the EU, would normally be considered a risk of the appearance of bias.

  • alexsandr

    Mark Cannon@August 26th, 2011 9:24am

    Law is made by the legislature. it is then nodified by case law as precident is established. If the precidents are not as the legislature intended then the law was badly/sloppily created in the first place. and it is down to the legislature to amend the original act to make their will felt.
    So the HRA needs an amendment act to be more specific on how it is implemented, and to remove some of the silly precidents.

  • Nicholas

    It seems the colour yellow has been chosen by the wrong party.

  • Slim Jim

    I think Mark Cannon puts it very well. At the very least, the supporters of the current laws on human rights must acknowledge the fact that the spirit and intent of the legislation has been perverted to the point of making it seem to be against the public good, and therefore needs major amendment. Alas, Nick Clegg wants to play politics. Time to let him go…

  • Viv Evans

    There’s one argument Conservatives ought to use in regard to Human Rights, especially when so vociferously fought for and applied to criminals:

    What about the Human Rights of the victims of criminal acts?

    Victims’ Human Rights do not come into the equation, do they.
    Why should e.g. women live in fear because ‘human rights’ allow a rapist to go free and keep committing rape?
    Why should those who have suffered from arson and looting see the same criminals out in the streets before their victims have even finished re-build their lives?

    Why should those, who through their criminal acts have placed themselves outside the boundaries of civil society, enjoy the civil rights the rest of society enjoy, e.g. voting in elections? After all, the whole of society (us, the tax payers) pay for their crimes (police, courts, prisons). Not only the victims are damaged, the whole society is.
    After all – are our prisons resembling conditions in a GULAG, or aren’t they perceived as a rather cushy place, with free TV, gyms, food, heating, and drugs available?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Doesn’t he take money from a foreign power contingent on his behaviour? Or have I misunderstood a euro pension?

  • BenM

    Good stuff from Clegg.

    Rightly curtailing Tory idiocy on this issue.

  • Vulture

    RoJ is right and Strapworld is being his usual sweetly naive self.
    (His touching faith that Dave will make some hard and fast Tory decisions reminds me of a battered wife who, with her bruises still shining, believes hubby’s tearful assurances that it will never happen again).

    Clegg is incredibly convenient for Cameron. He can explain his failure to do anything remotely Conservative with the line that ‘Nick won’t allow it’. That way the LDs will cop all the blame for the Coalition’s cock-ups and face annihilation at the election. (Clegg won’t stand [ he would definitely lose in Sheffield] and will be rewarded with a Peerage and Lady Ashton’s EU job).

    In fact, Clegg is Cameron’s ideological twin: they are both sons of privilege who love power and wealth. As for their country’s interests and its people’s wishes: forget it.

  • Publius

    …And we read elsewhere that Vince Cable is caving in to the EU on the job-destroying agency workers employment law changes.

    Yet again the LibDem tail wags the Tory dog. It is about time Cameron stood up to this nonsense. He will be blamed for the resultant failures. Not them.

  • Nick

    Clegg might talk a different language from Cameron in the theorizing about Human Rights but what struck me the most in the article was the similarities between the two.

    Clegg was pretty adamant that much of the “KFC chicken” human rights was total nonsense.

    So is there actually any real rift between LDs and Cons on human rights ?

  • Publius

    Clegg (and others who go on about this) conflates the Human Rights Act with ‘human rights’ (by which, one assumes, one means justice, decency, civic rights, the rule of law, etc).

    He then suggests that an end to the HRA would be an end to human rights. This is a deceitful sleight of hand on his part.

    There was justice, decency, rule of law etc long before the HRA and the tyranny of these supra-national lawyer-activists.

  • david morris

    Clegg ensuring his Eurocredentials are well polished before he slopes off to Brussels………

  • ROJ

    “It remains to be seen how the Conservatives will respond.”

    Er, they won’t.

    Cameron believes that the interests of the nation are best served by him remaining prime minister, and putting Mr.9% in his place might jeopardise that.

  • strapworld

    Cameron has to be extremely careful. He has broken so many promises and cast iron assurances. He cannot be seen to back down or water down his firm speeches after the riots.

    Broken Britain cannot take Broken Promises
    so if Cameron does not want to be a one term Prime Minister he will leave the door wide open for the ghastly Milliband to party with the Liberal Democrats and lead Great Britain into the dark ages.

    It is time for Cameron to show leadership and courage and call Clegg’s bluff. If Clegg cannot support Cameron then a general election must be called.

    It is decision time Cameron!

  • Mark Cannon

    The European Convention was drafted by British lawyers after WW2 to give other European countries the basic rights which the British believed they already enjoyed. There is nothing “foreign” about the Convention.

    Since then three important things have happened:

    (1) The European Court of Human Rights has developed the meaning of those basic rights in ways which were almost certainly not intended or envisaged by the draftsmen of the Convention.

    (2) The world has changed too. Refugees do not flee on foot to the neighbouring country. They cross the world. And in large numbers. This has combined with the jurisprudence of the European Court (followed by our Courts) to produce decisions which do not attract popular support, not least when it comes to expelling serious criminals.

    (3) Since the Human Rights Act in the UK public bodies have adopted a “safety-first” approach to possible Human Rights claims. This has led them to take some pretty silly measuers.

    There is nothing wrong with the human rights set out in the Convention. To that extent Mr Clegg is right and Mr Cameron is wrong. What is wrong is the way the text has been interpreted and the pusillanimous approach of many public bodies. Mr Clegg needs to accept that.