Subjugation to the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, and the consequent release of Abu Qatada, is part of the price we pay the Liberal Democrats for the votes of their MPs in the House of Commons.
Last week at Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron raised the intriguing possibility that we may not need to pay that price much longer. He noted that Labour “even support our police commissioners so strongly that droves of Labour MPs are going to quit to try to become them”.
Yesterday I followed up, asking the Home Secretary “We cannot currently repeal the Human Rights Act because the Liberal Democrats will not let us. However, so many Labour Members are running in the police elections that, come November—if they all win—it is possible that we may have a Conservative-Democratic Unionist party majority. Will we use it?”
If even a few Labour MPs step down to become police commissioners, or big city mayors with Gisela Stuart and Peter Ainsworth for example keen to run for Birmingham and Coventry, it would be a crucial development because the current parliamentary arithmetic that makes us dependant on the Liberal Democrats is so tight.
Current House of Commons
Con 305 Lab 256 SNP 6 Lab ‘rainbow’ allies 9
DUP 8 LD 57 (PC 3 + SDLP 3 + NI Other 2 + Green 1)
= 313 =313
(Sinn Fein and Deputy Speakers excluded)
Fear that Labour could cobble together a ‘rainbow’ coalition with the Liberal Democrats and several minor parties (although not the SNP) caused us to offer the Liberal Democrats concessions for a coalition which included no action on the EU or the Human Rights Act / ECHR.
If three or more Labour MPs step down in November, or just one if a Conservative MP were by then to have replaced Chris Huhne in Eastleigh, then the putative Labour, Liberal Democrat and ‘rainbow’ alliance would not have the votes to win a confidence vote in the Commons.
We could embark on repeal of the Human Rights Act and an EU referendum/repatriation and, if needed, force an election under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act whether Ed Miliband and the Liberal Democrats liked it or not.