Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Has Cameron done a Hague?

Who gives a proverbial what vintage of sour grapes Charles Clarke is pouring out? I can hardly contain myself at the vitriol being tossed over David Cameron's Bill of Rights "idea". I am starting to lose count of the vast spectrum of notables who have slammed it: Lord Tebbit, Mike Mansfield QC, Lord Carlile QC, Sir Menzies Campbell QC, Shami Chakrabarti, Ken Clarke...an amazing selection of critics from all points of the political compass. But Mrs Dale says that Helena Kennedy warmed to the idea, so that's alright then.

With William Hague I think we got about a month, when he became Tory leader, in which he was trying to cuddle up to the liberal centre. Then he started going off on a familiar right-wing populist tangent, supporting the "bash a burglar" campaign and any other passing bandwaggons. IDS tried the soft liberal approach for five minutes and Michael Howard managed a few weeks. With David Cameron, admittedly, it has lasted about six months. Quite some time, then.

DC has even set up his own "I am a liberal conservative...I like LibDems - especially if they are stupid enough to fall for my PR rubbish...I ate muesli once...I have been known to read the Guardian...I wore sandals at least once when my shoe chauffeur's car's big end went" web site.

Nice try, Dave.

But now he seems to be having his "Hague/IDS/Howard right-wing pigeons finally coming home to defecate on the old liberal credentials" moment.

Dave Chameleon's Bill of Rights idea seems to be geared to a tabloid agenda and oh....what a surprise...I am dumbstruck...guess who gave it 110%+VAT approval this morning? Three guesses? Oh you guessed it, how disappointing. Indeed, it was The Currant Bun. Got it in one, Sun.

Steve Bell's cartoon in the Guardian captured it. This is David Cameron chasing the tabloid populist right-wing agenda ... the same agenda that Hague chased with all his populist nonsense which turned out to be unpopular.

I left out one name from the queue of people wanting to criticise the Cameron idea. Dominic Lawson. He has something of a Tory pedigree, to put it mildly. Yet, in the Independent today he took the knife to the Cameroonian idea with forensic skill. I particularly liked his line:

"In what sense could a "British" right to free speech, property or a private life be defined in a way which smelt unmistakeably of Big Ben, county cricket and the last night of the Proms?"

(Reminiscent of 'old maids cycling to Holy Communion', in fact - but let's not raise too many Tory ghosts at once)

As with many of the critics, Lawson focusses on Cameron's wish to define "responsibilities" as well as rights: "There is only one responsibility" he says,"which is to obey the law." Of which there are many, he reminds us.

While we can at last rejoice that Cameron has got "off our turf", we should be cautious. He does have the support of Rebekka Wade (but, then, little Willy Hague also had the Sun's editor's support much of the time, especially when he was bashing burglars). Also, the Guardian leader rightly cautions that Cameron has been very careful not to propose reneging on the European Charter of Human Rights, only scrapping the Human Rights Act.

Presumably, an accolyte reminded Dave the Rave that the ECHR was Churchill's idea (and that Churchill was known to be occasionally Conservative) as DC hastily scrawled this latest 'policy' on the back of the envelope containing his apology to Lady Thatcher for appearing on "Friday Night with Jonathan Woss".


  1. Lots of very good points. The whole thing is a bit of a joke,

    Shami rather than Reeta Chakrabarti though - the latter is a BBC journalist :)

  2. And was his appearance on Jonathan Ross equivalent to Hague's appearance in a baseball hat? Trying to look cool and contemporary, but not quite making it.

  3. Thank you for correcting me Will, sorry for getting my Chakrabartis in a twist - now corrected.

    Thank you for your comment Martin - yes you could well be right about the Woss/Baseball hat moment. I think we will certainly see the "Did you or did you not" clip several times again.