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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cameron has got me confused

I don't think the teaching of history, so often the cause of hand-wringing by those sections of the press who retain a devotion to the memorising of dates, has got so bad that we have forgotten who won World War II.

And even if the state sector lets its young charges do double glue-sniffing rather than list the King and Queens of our great nation, I suspect Eton would make sure its pupils know who was victorious.

So, that's why David Cameron's assault on the Human Rights Act has me a little puzzled.

You see, because it is based in Strasbourg, the European Court of Human Rights is therefore confused with all things European by those swivel-eyed sections of the media who cannot hear the word Europe without having an attack of the vapours.

The slight historical problem for Mr Cameron is this. The convention was brought into being by the British, to afford our poor European neighbours the same common law rights we had enjoyed for centuries and had just defended from the beastly Hun.

It was born in the smoking ruins of Europe and a central role in its drafting was taken by DAvid Maxwell-Fyfe, a Conservative, and a brilliant lawyer whose cross-examination of Hermann Goering is considered to be one of the greatest in legal history.

So, the ECHR, a Churchillian scheme to stop the Europeans sending each other to the gas chambers again, and drawn up by a Conservative lawyer. What's not to like about that if you're a Tory?

It must be because it's in Strasbourg. Perhaps if it had been sited in Bognor they'd be more comfortable with it. Maybe if it had been called the British Convention on Human Rights for our European Neighbours, they could have lived with it.

The Human Rights Act is nothing more than a restating of convention rights in English law. To repeal it will mean that UK courts no longer need to take the HRA into account. But, we are still signatories to the ECHR, so Strasbourg would still remain as a court of ultimate appeal on human rights.

Unless of course Cameron plans to withdraw from the ECHR. An unthinkable proposition that would put us on a par with pariah regimes such as North Korea.

And not, I would suggest, a fitting way to treat the legacy of Winston Churchill.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Simon Kelner's farewell to the Neath Guardian

Simon Kelner, editor-in-chief of the Indy and Independent on Sunday, started as a trainee on the Neath Guardian.

Here in an article printed in its last edition he remembers the beginning of his career and mourns the closure of his first paper. Reprinted in Roy Greenslade's Guardian blog