Coffee House

Theresa May and Chris Grayling signal bold new Tory direction on the ECHR

2 March 2013

10:56 PM

2 March 2013

10:56 PM

Tonight brings two major developments in terms of Tory policy on the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Courts of Human Rights. The Mail on Sunday reports that Theresa May is close to announcing that under a post 2015, majority Tory government Britain would leave the Convention. All the articles of the Convention would be incorporated into a British Bill of Rights. But no one would be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. This would end stand-offs such as the one over prisoner voting where the Strasbourg Court is telling parliament it has to enfranchise convicted inmates.

Under this system, the Supreme Court in this country really would be supreme. The expectation is that its judgments would better reflect this country’s legal traditions and it’d be a less activist court than the Strasbourg court.


One Tory says that so far, ‘we’ve been fixing the problem as far as we can in the constraints of coalition politics. A future Conservative government, though would need to address the fundamental issue.’

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who is far sounder on these issues than his predecessor Ken Clarke, tells the Sunday Telegraph that he ‘cannot conceive of a situation’ where a majority Tory government would not scrap the Human Rights Act. Grayling, who has been a beacon of common senses since taking on the Justice role, will be key to the determination of Tory policy in this area.

As I say in my column for the Mail on Sunday, I suspect, though, that Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, will fight a rearguard action against these developments. He is on record saying that quitting the Convention would make Britain akin to a ‘pariah’ country.

The Tory position on the ECHR will be one of their most significant manifesto commitments and a major point of difference with the Liberal Democrats, who remain absolutely committed to it.

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Show comments
  • Robert B


  • JanCosgrove1945

    A slight inconvenience – A58 of the ECHR = how to leave and what happens when you do = anything up to the date of denunciation (leaving) still goes before the ECourtHR. Sorry about that, but that’s what we signed. Bozos-in-Government, don’t even read the text. Also, why have we never signed up to A13 = subsidiarity within the ECHR because it EXPECTS most cases to be settled in ‘national tribunals’ set up for the very purpose of sorting out breaches of the ECHR here. If cases go to Strasbourg, blame the omission of A13 from the HRA1998, and for not incorporating until 1998. And ask, before the HRA1998, were cases MORE or LESS likely to end up there? Mmmmm. Also ask, if the Uk did denounce, in say 2016, how long would cases continue to go to Strasbourg under A58. I suggest for a VERY long time. This idea of May is bollocks of the Very First Order. And some Tory MPs would vote against?

  • foxoles

    Looking at the picture, is that strange thing Dave habitually does with his hands some kind of NLP gesture?

  • welshdai

    The lib dem and labour luvvies must be happy that we cannot deport terrorist and criminal vermin from our country and off our welfare benefits?
    We welcome their diversity was the labour mantra?
    No mention of the Paki and Bangla muslim groomers from the labour and lib dem benches nor the perverts in the catholic church?

  • martinvickers

    A number of basic errors in these arguments. Errors that reflect the lack of understanding in the ministers.

    “Under this system, the Supreme Court in this country really would be supreme.”

    No, it wouldn’t be. Parliament would be supreme, and sovereign. That, after all, is what withdrawl is about – not empowering Britain’s judges, but it’s politicians. May made that clear enough re the foreign prisoners guidance debacle. she wants Parliament, and the government of the day, completely unshackled.

    And that is, frankly, not an altogether appealing thought.

    “All the articles of the Convention would be incorporated into a British Bill of Rights”

    A British Bill of Rights would be as secure as the Witchcraft Act of 1735; every act of Parliament being, by definition, entirely vulnerable to any Act of a future Parliament.

    I remember, many years ago, Dominic Grieve at a lunch-seminar making it very clear that any attempt to leave the convention was for him a walking matter, and he was pretty confident he was not alone on the then opposition benches on that.

    We shall see.


    progress but Supreme Court has made some judgments that would create similar sort of problems. Presumably government decides new appointees?

  • ScaryBiscuits

    Too little, too late. Nothing the Tories promise will be believed as long as Call-me-Dave is still there.

  • Tom Tom

    The Conservative Party will not exist post-2015. There is NO prospect of any British party leaving the ECHR. It will require a Discontinuity – a new kind of regime – the kind of Government not blessed by the BBC or sanctified by The Guardian. It is unlikely to emerge before the next Banking Collapse and although that is not far off, it will be the State of Emergency that will bring real change

    • Fergus Pickering

      And the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

      • Rhoda Klapp

        When the waters cover the sea, how will we tell?

  • Bluesman

    Hey, Dave! How’s that jam tomorrow thingy working out’ for you?

  • Russell

    People who, in the judgement of our immigration department, are deemed to be undesirable for the people of the United Kingdom, should not be allowed in, and if here whether legally and due to criminal activities etc. or illegally, should be deported.
    It doesn’t matter what the politicians say, it is their first duty to protect the people of this country, and no foreign court or in almost all cases even British court should interfere with this duty of protection by our government.

  • Jonathan Barfield

    I understand the desire for the UK to only be subject to the jurisdiction of UK courts. However, isn’t the “right” that has caused most problems and challenges and aggressive, shocking headlines, Article 8: the right to a “private and family life” – this has been used to stop deportations of criminals and all sorts of other nasties people don’t think are a good thing. If the UK really does incorporate all the articles into a UK law, anomalous unpopular decisions would presumably still continue. We need to scrap or withdraw or seriously re-word Article 8 and all will be right in the world (UK).

  • Ken

    All we have are promises of jam if we re-elect the Tories in 2015. I’m more inclined to believe that Farage’s jam will taste better than Cameron’s.

  • Foeu

    The Tories will not win the election with Cameron at the helm, so non story.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    Blah, blah, blah. Jam tomorrow.
    You have to accept the ECHR in order to be in the EU. Cameron will NEVER withdraw from the ECHR – although he may amend the HRA if he’s re-elected (which he won’t be).
    In the meantime, Abu Qatada is living in his nice, new, big house on generous welfare and is sticking two fingers up to the British people by calling for Welfare Jihadists.
    A man with the interests of the British people at heart would stick him on a plane and when the ECHR complains, ignore it!

    • Andy

      Quite so. He arrived here on forged documents. He is not a British Subject and I fail to see why he cannot just be thrown out. ‘Persona non Grata’.

    • JanCosgrove1945

      We know where he is and what he’s doing. He’d cost a lot to keep in jail. Who knows if he’d be convicted elsewhere, and what he might be doing to our disadvantage ….

  • White Wednesday

    Heard it all before, here:

    When will Conservative commentators realise that suddenly pledging this, that and the other (e.g. on an EU referendum and now leaving the ECHR) simply won’t wash as long as Cameron is in charge.

    Until he is replaced (and Osborne with him), this is all frightfully interesting but ultimately a waste of time and column inches.


    • Fergus Pickering

      Who are you going to replace him with?

    • dalai guevara

      When you mix horse with UKIP beef, do you end up with a product recommended for consumption – or just alternative dish B: Labour chicken fricassee?

  • Ron Todd

    If Cameron was serious about a referendum and leaving the convention he would do them before the election.

    • realfish

      And just how is he going to successfully legislate for a referendum and leaving the ECHR in the current parliament?

    • Fergus Pickering

      But, you foolish fellow, he can’t. He can’t get them through the commons because he is in a minority. Repeat that after me. The Lib Dems + Labour have more seats than the Conservatives. NOW do you see? God give me strength.

      • Noa

        No need to make excuses for him Fergus. He’s far better at doing it than you are.

        And yes, he missed his chance to show he had cojones by not trying to rule with a minority government and when challenged, calling and probably winning, another general election.

  • Radford_NG

    ECHR was created by British lawyers as the basis for the constitutions of the countries we had just defeated or liberated.They did not intend it for us.It was always a second best option to the organically developed British Constitution which goes back to Time Immemorial and is the oldest in the world

    • Tom Tom

      Not True. It was for Countries we had BETRAYED – Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary

      • Fergus Pickering

        Oh come.

      • Andy

        Not so. The ECHR was created, largely by British Lawyers, as a means to stop Europeans killing one another with such vulgar regularity. It was never intended by those lawyers who wrote the damn thing, to grow into the silly and stupid creation we have today. Votes for Prisioners is a prime example of the problem. So it is better for us to leave the farce than to give it any credence.

      • JanCosgrove1945

        No it was for everyone.

    • JanCosgrove1945

      How noble of us. Why did we sign it then, pray?

  • chan chan

    I’ll believe it when I see it. And I’ll never see it.

  • Freeborn John

    Great stuff from Grayling; another cast-iron guarantee …

  • Noa

    Here’s how it is with Dave’s Tories….

  • Bill Kruse

    Grayling’s the man who knobbled the appeal system, something which has yet to come to light. He appears to have no interest whatsoever in any kind of justice, only the extermination of all and any opposition. Leaving the ECHR might sound attractive on the surface but as the body count rises to the point where even Mail readers start to ask what’s going on they’ll realise eventually Grayling shouldn’t be in public office, let alone in charge of justice.

    • eeore

      Indeed, especially as the Mail is running a campaign against secret courts, and opposed the Leveson inquiry.

      • Bill Kruse

        You have a point – some conspicuous right-wingers are apparently against secret courts. Is it some sort of political feint? Time will tell… or, if we leave the ECHR, then perhaps it won’t.

  • eeore

    Clearly the Tories have opted for political suicide.

  • dalai guevara

    Is it not interesting what is supposedly possible post 2015, but for some reason not today? Are this bunch in government now, or in 2015?

    This and other announcements (we all know what they are) are nothing but the pledges of a future shadow cabinet – and the corny joke is that these pledges are announced by individuals who won’t even hold the respective position in that shadow cabinet come 2015.

  • Daniel Maris

    We already have a Bill of Rights (regularly ignored). I am not sure we really need a new one. We need sensible laws that protect people in practice, not theory. Although PACE may not be much liked by people here, it does provide a proper framework for protection of people who are detained – much better than vague and contradictory declarations.

    I do support withdrawal from the ECHR. It’s a joke, when Russia (where journalists and anti-corruption activists get bumped off by the authorities) is also a member. I also propose we need to remove ourselves from all the post war treaties that force us to entertain all asylum requests. We then bring in a law that rejects all applications from people who travelled here through other states where their lives or person were not under threat.

    • Anthony Makara

      Re: Asylum requests. We need to be robust in dealing with the bogus application but at the same time ensure that we can be a source of refuge for genuine cases. Our level of civilization is marked by how we handle such matters. Particularly during periods when individuals are being persecuted by the nation state in which they reside. Unfortunately many people confuse the lax policy over recent years that has led to mass immigration with the genuine needs of those whose life and liberty are in peril.

      • Daniel Maris

        I agree. As a democratic nation we have a moral duty to offer asylum to the genuinely tyrranised.

        The problems are these:

        1. There is NO way you can ever determine once an asylum seeker

        is in the UK whether what they tell you about their treatment in their home country is true, at least when that home is thousands of miles away and with no stable government as we know it. It is pointless to pretend that you can.

        2. There is no obligation placed on asylum seekers to seek asylum in the first safe country they come to. Given our peripheral position on the edge of the European land mass, it is pretty clear that we are being targeted by asylum seekers. Call that a compliment if you like, but they are clearly leapfrogging other countries where they might be safe.

        3. Refugees should be a UN responsibility not a national responsibility. The current set up is unfair on us but also unfair on countries that are suddenly swamped when war breaks out in a neighbouring territory.

        There is no reason why we and other countries around the world should not make territory available to refugees. We have island possessions in the Atlantic. There should be a UN obligation on ALL UN members to take refugees into designated territories and the asylum seekers would have to take pot luck. That in itself would sort the sheep from the goats.

        • James Strong

          Throughout the years of Blair/Brown lamguage was abused, deliberately I believe, and the term ‘asylum seekers’ was used to describe illegal immigrants.
          It was an attempt to appeal to humanitarian instincts that are happy to provide safe haven for genuine refugees, but it didn’t do that, it opened our borders to criminals.
          Be clear on that, illegal immigrants are criminals.
          We should welcome legitimate immigration but we should come down very,very hard on illegal immigration.

          • Tom Tom

            Yes but Blunkett put those at Sangatte on Work Permits

        • Tom Tom

          Yes, we could settle them in the Middle East. Topple the regime in Jordan. We could annex parts of Turkey and create a Kurdish Homeland. Or we could simply go to war and engineer Regime Change in any country flooding us with Asylum-Seekers

      • Tom Tom

        The Asylum System was set up when the Communists controlled Central Europe and restricted the flow of Claimants.It was a political gesture to show the Communists how wonderful Capitalist Europe was. Once the Communists ceased to pay for the border guards Western Europe was flooded

        • Anthony Makara

          Interesting how Asylum Seeker has been degraded from political hero to grubbing opportunist over the years. The Viraj Mendis case was the turning point some 20 years ago when he had the church and the hard-left on his side but couldn’t make his story wash with the general public who grew tired of his protracted attempt to avoid deportation.

    • Tom Tom

      The Bill of Rights 1689 has been set aside by Statute

    • JanCosgrove1945

      See Article 58 ….

  • Anthony Makara

    How political would a British Bill of Rights be? Would the Bill be allowed to evolve or be set in stone like the US constitution? Would there be a US-style guarantee of free-speech and assembly, what would the implications of that be for race relations and the trades unions? Setting out such rights will be a complicated matter and not something than can be merely an antithesis of the ECHR.

    • James Strong

      Make sure that there is no confusion between rights and entitlements.
      That confusion has happened repeatedly over the last couple of decades.
      The US Bill of Rights is all, except the entitlement to proper trial, couched in negative terms, i.e. the government shall not …
      The theory of negative rights solves the problem. Selling that idea, however, will not be easy.

      • Anthony Makara

        Something I should like to see included in a British Bill of Rights is a media ban on naming those accused of a serious criminal act until actually charged with that crime. The growth of social and internet news media has created rumour-mongering with innocent people having their public standing wrecked by all manner of false accusations. People must be protected from headline hunting tabloids and self-appointed internet judges. The Law lags way behind the advances in technology and the fact that everyone these days can be a publisher ought in itself carry certain responsibilities. In fact govt should act now to begin that process.

        • Tom Tom

          But not a right to private property ?

          • Andy

            The right to private property is a corner stone of a democratic society. However under the ECHR one notes that the Duke of Westminster’s rights were not protected, and nor were those of King Constantine of Greece. The ECHR is very ‘selective’ when it comes to upholding ‘rights’.

        • JanCosgrove1945

          so true

    • Wessex Man

      Who gives a monkeys, lets just get away from the ESSU.

    • Tom Tom

      The US Constitution is not set in stone. Its framers defended Slavery, opposed a Central Bank, had no thought of Armed Forces beyond a US Marine Corps, no concept of a Federal Government, consisted of a Confederation of 13 States, had no elected Senate, no Federal Income Tax, no Federal Police, no Federal Law overriding State Law, no Abortion, no Imperial Presidency, no Federal Agencies at all.

  • Grrr8

    Another excellent reason to fight against a Tory majority in 2015. Though w/ this manifesto promise only the fruit cakes, loonies and closet racists will be voting for Dave & Co.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Well in that case he should sweep the country.

      • Noa

        Well, the chimney at least.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Where’s telemachus these days? Herbert Thornton was asking after him.

    • Austin Barry

      Oddly, his posts ended at about the same time that Michael Winner died.

      Just a thought.

      • Daniel Maris

        Strangely there have been a number of reports of sinkholes appearing out of nowhere since he disappeared. God moves in mysterious ways.

        • Andy

          He might not have toed the Party line correctly and may have ended up in a Gulag. What a joyful thought.

    • dalai guevara

      perhaps he believes his job is done?

      • Fergus Pickering

        Isn’t he another name for that Lindsay character?

        • Guest

    • Noa

      One drone may have successfully targeted another.

    • Tom Tom

      Cameron told him to stick to his day job

  • Noa

    One small step for on the road to redemption for the conservatives, but the road for Dave’s party is always be-set by U turns.
    So, as for an EU referendum, best vote UKIP, just to be sure.

    • perdix

      Voting ukip will help to ensure that the UK never has a refrendum on the EU.

      • Smithersjones2013

        No the Tories losing the general election in 2015 (and it’s already lost) will ensure that we don’t have a referendum before 2020.

        Don’t try and put Cameron’s utter failure on UKIP. He was finished as soon as he entered into this Coalition

      • Tom Tom

        Voting Conservative has had that effect to date

  • Austin Barry

    “Theresa May is close to announcing that under a post 2015, majority Tory government Britain would leave the Convention. ”

    Yeah, and after 2015 there will be an EU referendum.

    Yadda, yadda. Promises, promises.

    • Portendorfer

      Post 2015 we will have a LibDem-UKIP coalition.
      Now that will be exciting.

      • Span Ows

        No it wouldn’t: look how the LDs have hamstrung the Conservatives. With UKIP it would be worse because their main policy is withdrawal from the EU, LDs say no. stagnation.

    • Robert B

      Wouldn’t there have to be a Tory majority for a Bill to pass through the House?

      • @PhilKean1

        Yes, an impossibility –

        – when Labour will be the largest party, Cameron’s Party will be the second largest, and if Labour do NOT win a majority, they will certainly join with the Liberals.

  • Sarah Hildebrand


    • Daniel Maris

      I think you have at least one good point there Sarah.

      • ArchiePonsonby

        I’d say two by the looks of things!

    • Russell

      I would say excellent, not just good!

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Yawn. Never gonna happen.