I’ve been having some thoughts on the recent announcement by David Cameron that he wants us to be able to ignore the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) when we feel it’s not quite British to listen to them. Replacing the Human Rights Act (our incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights) with something more British, because Britain.
I think I was a bit better prepared for this to all start coming up than most. The reshuffle gave away their intentions (lots of anti-European Union and in particular anti-ECHR people moved into more prominent positions within the government) and I’ve been waiting for them to begin crowing. They’ve kindly begun to oblige. While not verbatim, here is a summary: “Europe! Brussels! Rights of criminals! British law for British people!” and of course “Last Labour government! ” because who could forget that one?
It’s a predictable stance on which to run in the election, especially given the media have done a good job of stirring up a frenzy on that very issue for the past decade. This is a government who have amassed a remarkable amount of public ire for the damage they have done this past few years so it would take an incredibly emotive and skewed issue to stand a chance at the next election. What a stroke of luck that there happened to be one already, saving the messy business of fabricating one like in 2010.
I was, and still am now, very worried at how the media is going to handle it They have an incredible history of skewing what the European Court of Human Rights actually is and the benefit that it gives to us all. They wield enormous power over public opinion and have done nothing to show that they’ll be the slightest bit responsible with it, after all, why start now? They’ve already done a great deal to try and convince people that it’s not just rare cases that we should to, but that the entire system is poisoned and an affront to our way of life. When that kind of line of rhetoric is used for an election campaign, they’re going to go into overdrive.
The papers will be absolutely saturated with factually incorrect, highly biased, anti-ECHR stories the likes we’ve never seen! We only have to look at how they’ve influenced discussion on welfare, unemployment, low income families, disability, and other things by using the ‘scrounger’ stories to see how utterly horrifying it has the potential to be. Since the last general election, when the Tories used the ‘scrounger’, ‘fairness’, and other bullshit in their election campaign, we’ve been drowned in stories which paint disabled people as fakers, people on incomes so low they can barely afford to eat (if they even can) as lazy, the unemployed as unmotivated and selfish, people relying on foodbanks to eat as thieves and scammers.
By and large those reading it have been convinced. Disability hate crime is on the rise, people are supporting scrapping support to those who need it most, people believe it’s fair that people in social housing are being evicted. They’ve succeeded in pitting those on the low end and middle of the economic scale against each other in order to support their ideology of a smaller state at the behest of the public well being.
In the face of that kind of media saturation, how will Labour respond as pressure over the ECHR increases? If it stays in the headlines post-election (which I feel is going to be inevitable) how heavily is it going to influence things in government? It’s going to be enormously prevalent in discussion during the next 6 months and beyond, and a lot of my fears lie with how they’ll react to that media pressure. Public opinion will be at least somewhat swayed. Labour haven’t exactly shown themselves to be bastions of integrity in recent years, changing their strategy to appease those sympathetic to Tory and UKIP anti-immigration ideas and policies, as well as the Tory anti-welfare ones. Some of their welfare ideas this past year have left myself and many others quite angry, showing they’d been influenced quite heavily by the lines of propaganda mentioned above. I would speculate as to how the Liberal Democrats will respond to all of this, but quite frankly I don’t feel there’s any guarantee that the promises of their leadership would be tangible enough to wipe my backside with.
With all the abuses we’ve seen in recent years.. From workfare, the treatment of disabled people, the unfair levies pitted against those in social housing, over half a million people being put in a position where they have to rely on foodbanks, to the holding in contempt of journalists who refuse to give up contacts, I dread to think how far things would have had the potential to go if we didn’t have the ECHR there. If the landscape can be so horrifically changed for so many already struggling people in this country with the ECHR, how bad could it be without?
I’m very scared for the future, and not just if this does end up leading to the Conservatives gaining power again, but also the impact all of this forced discourse is going to have on public opinion if it doesn’t.
If you flood the public arena with a message that something is bad and damaging our way of life for long enough with little counter, it doesn’t matter how factually skewed it may be, we don’t stand a chance.