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Friday, 7 October 2011

What's the real endgame? Catgate: a few bold predictions

OK it's Friday and there's not much going on in the world of digital policy today..

Whilst simultaneously preparing to wipe egg from my face I make a few bold predictions:

(1) Ken Clarke won't be retired
(2) Plans to scrap/replace the Human Rights Act will quietly be dropped
(3) It will transpire there was never any plan to scrap the Human Rights Act

Why? Firstly Ken Clarke has too much punch to let fester on the back benches with a grievance. He's got a loyal following and media attention whenever he wants. Unless Ken is fed up with ministerial hours and wants out I suspect he'll be left in place or shifted somewhere he can't cause harm. Maybe international development or culture (but only after the Olympics).

As for the last two points I reckon there never was a plan to scrap the Human Rights Act. It was merely a ploy to wind up the Lib Dems and their supporters. Just the sight of leading members of government speaking out as if the Act was seriously under threat further undermined the position of the Lib Dems in coalition.

Cameron and May made it look like liberalism would not stand in the way of their agenda, and left the general public wondering what influence the Lib Dems have, if they couldn't even hold on to the cherished Human Rights Act.

It also set the scene for a few illiberal tweaks to the statute books. The upcoming Communications Act and a Cabinet Office drive to control the internet, maybe?  I'm hearing disturbing rumours that William Hague and his stance on the importance of internet freedoms is being undermined by the Cabinet Office, siding with the Home Office and securocrats to push a secret plan to control the UK internet with a "kill switch" and new powers over ISPs and social networks.

The real human rights battles are somewhere down the line; meanwhile, the public is being buttered up with anti-human rights rhetoric.

@JamesFirth

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