Cameron Council of Europe Visit a Waste of Air Miles

Progress Online

The Prime Minister’s flying visit to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly today is mission undeliverable, even if many may feel Cameron has a good case. But the way he has pandered to the worst atavistic elements of the Europhobe right and the clamour of the off-shore press for retributionist punishment of prisoners means he will hardly get a hearing.

A simple solution to the issue of prisoners voting rights, for example, would be to do what the French do which is to empower judges to add an additional sentence of loss of civic rights for those imprisoned for serious crimes. This is in conformity with ECHR judgements. Switzerland, the dream nation for anti-EU Tories, has allowed its prisoners to vote for 40 years as have all the more civilised European nations.

Britain has eight, just 8, cases before the ECHR but the real problem is the 100,000 plus cases from Russia. One answer may be to suspend Russia as it was clearly an error to let Russia join the Council of Europe in 1996 when the country had made no effort and still makes no effort to introduce rule of law. The death of Sergei Magnitksy, lawyer of a British firm, in gruesome circumstances in a Russian prison highlights the contempt Russia’s kleptocratic rulers have for legal norms.

But here the Prime Minister runs into another problem. Conservative delegates to the Council of Europe sit with Putin’s handpicked Duma stooges and members of the Turkish ruling AKP party which also has a poor record on human rights (100 journalists are now behind bars in Turkey) and rule of law. The Russian MPs arrive with an entourage of diplomats and just read out the official Kremlin line. Tory opposition to working with mainstream centre-right parties in Europe means that they are isolated at the Council of Europe. Individual Tory delegates are respected and liked and work on specific committees. But the political business of the Council is in the hands of political groups and the Tory alliance with the Kremlin leaves the UK rather voiceless.

Any suggestion that the main problem with ECHR workings are to do with Russia will be resisted by Russian delegates and their Tory allies will have to trundle along behind them as they find Putin’s people more agreeable to work with than mainstream centre-right delegates from France, Germany, Sweden or the Netherlands.

It is an odd visit as the issue of ECHR reform is not even on the agenda of this week’s session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Cameron speaks in the same slot as the President of Finland. The 450 strong assembly is used to PMs and Presidents flowing through. He has to answer questions and with communists, greens, fascists as well as other delegates, including Labour MPs, who are not fans of Mr Cameron’s idiosyncratic approach to matters European he may face an interesting interrogation.

Sadiq Khan MP is correct to write on Politics Home today that Cameron “risks undermining the post-war human rights settlement across all 47 signatory nations and the 800 million people the Convention covers. Human rights are inalienable: they don’t – and shouldn’t – be limited to by national boundaries.” It is refreshing to hear a Shadow Cabinet minister standing up for human rights and as Khan correctly notes: “What really grates in how we have a Prime Minister that does not see fit to utter anything positive about European human rights.” That is the nub. We have a Prime Minister who cannot say anything positive about Europe, period.

The Parliamentary Assembly of 450 delegates does not vote in any decisive way on ECHR matters. The need to reform the Court has long been an agenda item. One problem is that the UK and other major governments starve the ECHR of funds to clear the backlog more quickly. But delegates attach importance to the ECHR taking unpopular human rights decisions and forcing changes in behaviour or law on member states.

So there will not be any support for the idea of the UK having its own opt-outs on ECHR rulings or any mechanism that gives the UK a privilege. If the UK why not Putin or Turkey or Armenia or Ukraine? In those countries (and others) Britain is keen that ECHR values and rulings be upheld. William Hague told the Commons yesterday that Britain never does torture. The ECHR has taken the Foreign Secretary at his word on the Qatada case – refusing to allow this dreadful person to be placed in a situation where his fate could depend on evidence extracted by torture.

Other than patronising the ECHR by calling it a “small claims court” it is hard to see what Cameron can bring back to placate the Daily Mail/Telegraph or Tory backbenchers. It is mission undeliverable because of the continuing Tory isolation in the corridors of European power.

Denis MacShane is MP for Rotherham and former Council of Europe delegate payday loan unshaven girl https://zp-pdl.com/get-a-next-business-day-payday-loan.php https://zp-pdl.com/online-payday-loans-cash-advances.php микрозайм онлайн

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