David Cameron has decided to stall on human rights reform for now, partly because the Tories couldn’t quite work out how to get the reforms they wanted, and partly because the Prime Minister knew that he had a rebellion in his own party on his hands, opposition from almost all other parties bar the DUP, who Sam Coates explains in the Times have said they are unlikely to give their backing to the bill in the early part of the parliament.
Opponents of big changes to human rights legislation within the Tory party are not surprised by the delay. They also don’t think that it is likely to pass at any stage in this Parliament, unless it is dramatically slimmed down to the point that it makes very little difference. One says:
‘To put it bluntly, the Prime Minister is at his most powerful at the moment, and he thinks that he can’t get it through now. That suggests he will never get it through.’
Indeed, Cameron sees this Queen’s Speech as his real opportunity to get more controversial bills and reforms through while the Labour party is running around trying to elect a leader, rather than thinking about whether it opposes certain policies, and without the Lib Dems making the sort of fuss that anyone can hear. He can also take advantage of his party still being in an excellent mood that it won, which will last through many votes on issues which a tired and grouchy party in the mid-term of a parliament might try some funny business on. So if he has to delay until the later stage of the parliament to get his legislation through, he might find that those opposed to scrapping the Human Rights Act have grown in number and power, not diminished. Given the DUP can only offer eight extra votes, the Tory opponents to HRA reform hardly need to grow that much in number and power. So it may well be that this fleeting glance at what the Tories would do on human rights is all we’ll get in this Parliament.