Coffee House

Chris Grayling wants a robust response to the European Court, but will he get his way?

18 December 2012

9:16 AM

18 December 2012

9:16 AM

It’s a big day for Chris Grayling: the long awaited Commission on a British Bill of Rights reports today. But the Justice Secretary is already setting himself up for disappointment, with reports swirling in the press that the Commission has failed to reach a strong conclusion.

In any case, as Grayling acknowledges in his op-ed in the Telegraph today, there isn’t much he can do about reforming the rights landscape in this country while the Tories remain in Coalition with the Lib Dems. Grayling says he will ‘read and digest the report of the Commission, and will see what help it gives me to deliver change in the short term’. But he adds that he will ‘also be looking clearly towards the next election, and starting work on ensuring that we had a real plan for change then as well’.


That work will involve looking to curtail the work of the European Court of Human Rights, so that its increasing involvement in domestic affairs ends. The Justice Secretary always has a task in these pieces simply to remind readers that the Court is not a benign, unquestionably good institution, and he does so again today:

‘Over more than half a century, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has moved further and further away from the intentions of those politicians who shaped the original convention. It has pried more and more into matters that should be routine issues for national courts and parliaments to deal with. It has interfered in areas which its creators would never have imagined that their work related to. It has tried, effectively, to set itself up as a Supreme Court for Europe.

‘The issue of prisoner voting, for example, is reported to have been expressly excluded from the original Convention. And I don’t believe it was ever intended to be used for matters like determining what school uniforms are worn, or at the other end of the scale, be used to allow foreign criminals and terrorists to avoid deportation.’

But things won’t necessarily be a great deal easier post-2015. Attorney General Dominic Grieve is a staunch advocate of the European Court. As Grayling develops separate Tory policy on the Strasbourg court over the next few years, he will come up against the legal lobby again and again. James pointed out in November that Grieve’s continuing presence makes it difficult to believe that the Conservative party is really prepared to be radical on this.

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Show comments
  • Robin Fox

    Good point.

  • Madame Merle

    Amazing stuff in the DT today.

    Grayling is talking about a British bill of Rights because Europe is too soft on crims.

    Over the page, Cameron has now become decidedly relaxed about being in or out of the EU, whotever, if they are going to boss us around, we must stand up and tell them where to get off.

    Before the day is out I fully expect to see that the immigration door is to be slammed shut, gay marriage scrapped and pigs airborne.

    Of course, as Grayling said,this would only be possible if they won the next GE, hint, hint.

  • In2minds

    I wonder if Chris Grayling supports the Snoopers Charter?

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Is it appropriate for anything to do with a bill of rights to be decided by some commission of the great and good and then gifted to us by parliament? It’s for the people. Not filtered through the greed and prejudice of those who think they are appointed over us. It is not (IMHO) about to upset any applecart, but is likely to trot out a new parade of ‘rights’ to this that and the other dersigned to provide sustenenace for constitutional and foreign lawyers for generations.

    And yes, if we are talking about rights, are we sure we get them now? It loks like mr Lennon isn’t even getting his magna carta or common law rights. No use to look for a bill of rights when the authorities are willing to abuse the ones we have now.

    And yes, the Spectator ought to check out the claims about Lennon and put this under the microscope.

  • Vulture

    Yes, this is just another load of Tory fluff designed to reassure those still in the Stupid Party that the Government is doing something about our subservience to foreign laws and courts.
    It means absolutely FA. Clegg packed the so-called Commission on a British Bill of Rights with liberals and lawyers determined to subvert our justice to Europe’s and so long as the treaherous Grieve remains in post as Attorney General, Grayling is pissing in the wind.
    Yet another example of the Conservatives breaking a promise and crapping on their own supporters from a great height. Any Tory unable to stomach being used as a public convenience by the Camerloons should join UKIP forthwith for their own self-respect.

    • telemachus

      It is pointless even thinking about this
      Considerations are postponed for Salmond
      Then the next Government is in favour of the status quo

  • Coffeehousewall

    I would like to go off-topic for a moment and wonder why the Spectator, and the MSM, and all the human rights lobby, have nothing to say about the case of Stephen Lennon, leader of the EDL, who is presently held in remand in Wandsworth Prison on very thin charges indeed. He is in a Category A prison with the most violent and dangerous of men, has not been allowed a change of clothes, is not receiving post, and appears to have had all his money stolen from him so that he is unable to even purchase toiletries.

    A raft of charges against him have recently been dismissed as soon as they came to trial. It seems that the state and its agents are determined to use all the means at their disposal to ensure that Stephen Lennon remains in prison without trial and without legitimate reason.

    Why has the Spectator said nothing? Why has Liberty said nothing? Why has Amnesty International said nothing? Why are all of these political agencies colluding in the presentation of the EDL as an extremist organisation whose members do not deserve the rule of law?

    There is still time to send Stephen Lennon a postcard or Christmas card. He will be spending the season alone and away from his family. There is still time to write to the Governor of Wandsworth Prison:

    Dave Taylor
    HMP Wandsworth
    Heathfield Road
    SW18 3HS

    Ask him why Stephen Lennon is not receiving mail and is not even being allowed a change of clothing.

    Can I suggest that you also visit the Liberty website and ask them why they have not taken up this case. You can contact them at

    Journalist Patrick Hayes, from Spiked, a left-winger by his own confession, reminds his readers…

    Defending the right to protest means nothing unless everyone has it,
    regardless of the content of their protests. Otherwise what exists is
    not a freedom to protest as one sees fit; it is a state-sanctioned
    privilege to protest as the authorities see fit. This is something that
    those on the left, who are now discovering the importance of defending
    the right to freedom of expression, would do well to remember.

    Don’t forget Stephen Lennon this Christmas. Next year it could be any one of us in prison for saying something the state doesn’t sanction.

    • C Cole

      Well said.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Unfortunately, in the perception of all these organisations he is on the “wrong side” of the argument. If it had been otherwise, if he was championing one of the tick box causes of the leftist collective, the human rights agenda would have been all over this and the BBC would never let it rest.

      It is absolutely shameful that our country has descended to this. The Marcusean presumption that rights should not apply to those whose political views are disagreed with is nothing short of outrageous.

      Some powerful and well-funded organisation needs to issue a writ of habeus corpus. Not with the expectation of release (I understand a court hearing is scheduled in the new year) but to draw attention to the iniquities of this case.

    • HooksLaw

      Thanks for reminding us of your true allegiances. I thought it was Tommy Robinson in jail (a pseudonym from a football hooligan which tells us all).

      The man is a thug who has already been jailed once for assaulting a policeman who had the temerity to stop him assaulting his wife (such is the sanctity of marriage).

      Is it legal to travel under another persons passport? What proof do you have that he is not allowed a change of clothes?

      • Malfleur

        He is a working class man who acted politically, without permission from our political class,on a single issue matter which the three main parties in alliance with “the ant-fascists” (which latter of course include self-acknowledged admirers of Stalin like telemachus) shy away from or aggressively oppose. No wonder our political class is trying to shut him down – the working class thinking and acting for itself, whatever next! Hooks Law: “Keep mum or smear and set up your opponents!” New Labour’s Britain! The ConLab Coalition’s “Big Society”. Do me a favour, Guv; pull the other one!

    • Madame Merle

      The idea of writing to Shami Chakrabati on behalf of Stephen Lennon rather appeals to me, I think I will do it.

      • telemachus

        I wonder if reasonable folk on Speccie wist to be associated with such as Lennon
        In past times we had oubliettes for such types
        Watching Panorama last night I wonder if the publishers would allow continued access to the authors of the relevant posts
        I certainly advise proscription
        What do you think Isabel

        • davey12

          From the party that invited IRA terrorists into parliament.

          • telemachus

            Yes and dialogue led to the hand of history and peace
            Remember the actual one great triumph of Blair in solving Northern Ireland

        • Coffeehousewall

          HooksLaw goes off shift, and Telemucus comes on!

          Don’t forget to send Stephen Lennon a card at HMP Wandsworth.

    • Coffeehousewall

      I know that many people have been trying to contact Liberty. They seem not to respond to any messages about Stephen Lennon. I have tried to find some contact details for the folks at www coffeehousewall co uk without success.

      It’s very hard to find contact details for the Policy Council Members of Liberty, or for Shami Chakrabarti herself but their names are listed. I thought I would look at Camila Batmanghelidjh since she has such a colourful name. No easier to find a contact email address, but I note that a business she runs in London received £12 million of tax payers money, and then she received an award from Liberty before becoming a member of their Policy Council. It does all seem to be a nice and tight network of funding and mutual promotion. The £12 million was to help provide emotional support for 400 children in London. That is £30,000 per child. I don’t doubt that their work is appreciated, but why are we funding what is essentially a part of the human rights lobby industry in this way? Why was the money not used to employ more social workers, or to fund genuine charities already working in the area such as churches and local community groups? A body that is funded by the Government is not a charity.

      The chairman of the Policy Council is Frances Butler. She is also on the boards of other human rights groups. Still impossible to find any contact details. And none of the agencies she is involved with seem to have mentioned Stephen Lennon though human rights are their focus.

      A third name taken at random is Francesca Klug. She is Professor Francesca Klug at the LSE. So we can make a guess at her politics and outlook. But as an academic she does at least have an email address.

      If people wanted to contact her politely, as a member of the Policy Council of Liberty, and in view of the fact that I have not even had an acknowledgement of my email using their normal channels, she can be contacted about the policy of Liberty towards Stephen Lennon at

      If anyone gets a reply do please let us know here.