In these dark days we need all the shafts of light we can get in our politics. So it is with some gratitude that today we learn of two cases being brought before the European Court of Human Rights in the very same week that the tomato-throwing Lord Chancellor and Minister of Justice again brings forward his Bill of Rights and answers questions on it. What make these cases so delicious is that they are being brought by, first, Owen Paterson, erstwhile Tory MP and, second, Lord Ahmed, an ex-Labour Lord. Between them, these gentlemen’s activities have covered pretty much the entirety of what constitutes British politics these days: lobbying in breach of rules, favours for friends, anti-semitism, child abuse, sexual exploitation of women, contempt for the rules, a lack of any ethical standards, an arrogant refusal to abide by any judgment they don’t like and attempts to subvert Parliamentary processes for their own benefit. Only the wasting of untold billions on cockeyed schemes is missing, thank God. We’ve had quite enough of that to last several lifetimes.
Owen Paterson is the MP whose misguided attempt last year to get Boris to change the rules so that he avoided the punishment recommended by the Parliamentary Committee on Standards started both the decline in the Tory vote in opinion polls and the cratering of trust in Boris Johnson by his own MPs. He accompanied this with buckets of self-justifying self-pity and, despite being an avowed Brexiteer, has now decided that it should be a European court which should rule on a sovereign Parliament’s internal processes. Self-interest trumps every ideology every time, no matter how fervently held.
Who is he doing it for, though? He is no longer an MP. Even if he wins, what’s in it for him? Could it be – oh, please, please, let this be true – he is doing it for his friend, Boris, whose own judgment by the very same committee is expected shortly. (If we could also have Charles Moore involved and Lord Pannick producing a less than impressive opinion paid for by taxpayers, we’ll have the full trifecta.) Neither Owen nor Boris have ever shown much regard for ethics, Parliamentary rules or conventions. Boris turned his ethics advisors into eunuchs, much like Ottoman Emperors, so much so that the role is empty to this day, it being the sort of role which is both badly needed but utterly pointless in our current government.
As for Lord Ahmed, his case relates to allegations of sexual misconduct against a woman who approached him for help. The Lords Conduct Committee recommended that he be expelled but he resigned first. In 2020. Both men are claiming that the inquiries against them breached their Article 8 right to privacy. Well, inquiries and investigations will do that, sweeties. Otherwise, there’d be little point to them and malefactors of all types would be able to misbehave with impunity in private. Which is what these people want. How dare we expect the great and the good to comply with the same laws as us and then be investigated and held to account – and in public. An outrage. (I think that is the essence of their claim though doubtless their lawyers will dress it up a bit.)
What will poor Mr Raab make of it all? Will he stick by his guns and say that the ECHR should not interfere, Parliament is sovereign, blah, blah … Or will he stick by his party which seems to have more than its fair share of miscreants? After all someone might want to investigate him and the European escape route might come in handy. Sandwich throwing is a private affair after all. It is a sad day when a Minister of the Crown cannot have tantrums and throw things at staff in private, without people suggesting that such behaviour is… well …. wrong and unbecoming.
There are 2 questions to be asked.
- Why now? Paterson has had a year to make this claim. Lord Ahmed has had 2 years. Is it just a coincidence that they both make the same claim now? Could it be an attempt to make the issue a cross-party one to disguise who it is most likely to benefit if it succeeds?
- Who is paying the legal fees? Cases before the ECHR don’t come cheap. They take time (an average of 3 years, conveniently taking us to after the General Election). So do not be surprised to see claims that the Parliamentary process in respect of other politicians under scrutiny must be delayed until the Court has ruled. There might even be legal action in the English courts to try and achieve this. What fun that would be!
Still, it’s good to see that Parliamentarians are not just leaving it to footballers and FIFA executives to display Grade A hypocrisy and come out with self-pitying twaddle. If there was a World Cup in this, Britain would win it every time.