The Conservative reason to support basic rights - The Snow In The Summer or So-So

16 June 2018
Philip Lee and human rights

Notes on a speech by Dr Philip Lee, the Human Rights minister in the Lord Chancellor's office. Given to Bright Blue, 9.15 on 12 June 2018.

"Recognition of human rights is what true conservatism is all about." Dr. Lee began his speech with a tour of the history of social reformers within the Coservative party. Peel, Disraeli, Shaftsbury, Emmeline Pankhurst, Churchill. The Conservatives have a long history of social progress, and are perhaps a little shy of trumpeting their past achievements.

His speech then harked back to the speech Foxface gave when assuming office in July 2016. The one about not being held back, about building a great meritocratic society. The question he left hanging: What's she done about these problems in the years since? How is Foxface following in the tradition of Peel, Disraeli, etc?

There has been an absence of hope, a failure of integration. Society is not taking responsibility for itself. Seeing what's happened in Syria, Dr. Lee was worried that extremist elements might worm their way into the social fabric. Some of us might argue that they already have a platform on LBC.

Dr. Lee did not mince his words about the far-right headbangers who would roll back the ECHR. "Those colleagues are wrong. It is them who would turn back the tide of history."

Challenges were set. "We must pass something better to our children. We must care for the vulnerable. Humanity is the bond to keep us all safe... Wht do we, as a society, value? How do we engage with the world?"

Dr. Lee saw a need to recalibrate society. He saw it was necessary to regulate markets - the question was not if markets were regulated, but how this should best be done.

"Markets have their place, but they must work for humanity and dignity. Too often, people are sacrificed for the market." He compared this task with ending child labour in the 19th century - it was not done because it was profitable, but because it was right.

Th modern equivalent could be a strategy for women offenders. Dr. Lee is aghast that so many women are imprisoned because they didn't have a television license. Many of these women are vulnerable, out of abusive relationships. Is this the society we want to build?

Dr. Lee was scathing about the idea of bombing people into democracy. "You cannot bring freedom to people by high-tech weaponary." The military must be an adjunct, to create and defend human security.

And he did not like elections that offered no choice. "Votes need to be meaningful."

Dr. Lee concluded with a recap of his guiding principles: liberty, dignity, and justice.

And then there was a piece that hadn't been provided to the organisers...

The government, we hear, has a duty to protect its inhabitants. All of them, even when the majority opinion favours damaging society. He reminded us of hanging, the great debates over whether society could kill someone; it might be popular, but it is wrong.

When policy is detrimental to people, it is an MP's job to protect the people's interests. He will vote in favour of the Commons being able to instruct the Executive on negotiations with the EU. "In these circumstances, it will be hard for me to remain a minister," and Dr. Lee announced he was resigning from the government.

Dr. Lee then excused himself, as he had media to talk to. Questions to the minister were not taken, on account of there being no minister in the room.

Update: The organisers' review of this speech and later sessions. (This blog attended for work, and work retains copyrights in our report of the other sessions.)

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