Guy Herbert: The Human Rights Act as a constitution of liberty


Guy Herbert, best known as the general secretary of NO2ID but writing (and originally, speaking in a lecture at the ASI) in a personal capacity, defends the Human Rights act as necessary as a bulwark against the state when so many of the traditional defences have been eroded.

I am here to defend the Human Rights Act. It is not an idealistic defence but a pragmatic defence, rooted in historical context. Should classical liberals support the Human Rights Act against repeal? Do we need it? My answer is yes.

Our reactions to phrases become readily conditioned. And so it has been with “human rights”. Let us remember for a moment that the full title of the agreement that is under siege here is the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. If it were called the Fundamental Freedoms Act would it be as easy to undermine?

Sad to say human rights do have a bad name, and they have that bad name for good reasons. Their strongest proponents often do the most harm to their reputation – not because of the legal content of what they say, but of their approach to the law.

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