James Forsyth

Theresa May and Chris Grayling signal bold new Tory direction on the ECHR

Theresa May and Chris Grayling signal bold new Tory direction on the ECHR
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Tonight brings two major developments in terms of Tory policy on the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Courts of Human Rights. The Mail on Sunday reports that Theresa May is close to announcing that under a post 2015, majority Tory government Britain would leave the Convention. All the articles of the Convention would be incorporated into a British Bill of Rights. But no one would be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. This would end stand-offs such as the one over prisoner voting where the Strasbourg Court is telling parliament it has to enfranchise convicted inmates.

Under this system, the Supreme Court in this country really would be supreme. The expectation is that its judgments would better reflect this country’s legal traditions and it’d be a less activist court than the Strasbourg court.

One Tory says that so far, ‘we’ve been fixing the problem as far as we can in the constraints of coalition politics. A future Conservative government, though would need to address the fundamental issue.’

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who is far sounder on these issues than his predecessor Ken Clarke, tells the Sunday Telegraph that he ‘cannot conceive of a situation’ where a majority Tory government would not scrap the Human Rights Act. Grayling, who has been a beacon of common senses since taking on the Justice role, will be key to the determination of Tory policy in this area.

As I say in my column for the Mail on Sunday, I suspect, though, that Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, will fight a rearguard action against these developments. He is on record saying that quitting the Convention would make Britain akin to a ‘pariah’ country.

The Tory position on the ECHR will be one of their most significant manifesto commitments and a major point of difference with the Liberal Democrats, who remain absolutely committed to it.