Comment: Ballerinas not allowed, terrorists welcome!

Margaret Thatcher visited David Cameron in No 10 last week. Let’s hope the Iron Lady gave him some advice on the importance of keeping one’s promises – especially when it comes to the Human Rights Act.

By Marina Kim

Thatcher’s position on the act is clear: it has to be scrapped. In her book ‘Statecraft’ she says: “The basic principle has to be re-established that where national security is deemed to be at stake the government of the day should have the power to act swiftly to protect it.

“At the very minimum, the provisions of the Human Rights Act should be formally excluded from applying to detention, deportation and asylum cases where the national interest is involved.”

That is exactly what many Conservative supporters want to hear from Cameron – a strong stance on an important and urgent issue. In fact it was one of the ten key pledges of the Conservatives’ manifesto to replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights.

In a coalition government certain compromises are inevitable. The Lib Dems want to keep the status quo. Their manifesto pledged to “ensure that everyone has the same protections under the law by protecting the HRA”.

But giving in on core principles of the Conservative manifesto to the Liberal Democrats, who got fewer seats at this election than last time, makes the balance of power in the coalition a farce. The Liberal Democrats are fulfilling their manifesto obligations, and the Tories are not.

Cameron has yet to speak on the issue while the Lib Dems’ Clegg has already expressed his position. He backed a Special Immigration and Appeals Commission decision under the Human Rights Act that a known al-Qaida operative, Abid Naseer, and another terror suspect could not be deported to Pakistan on the grounds they might be mistreated by the authorities there. Clegg’s argument that such people are under surveillance is of no relief to the British taxpayer as it is no secret that surveillance is a very costly operation.

In the last few weeks a fresh HRA precedent came when Indian-born Zakir Naik was granted permission to enter the United Kingdom. Naik was invited to be the star speaker at the Al-Khair Peace Convention 2010 in the UK. So, it would seem that all it takes is to declare yourself a peaceful lecturer and nobody is going to question your credentials.

Why the Home Office chose to ignore this particular “peace preacher’s” track record is unclear. He’s known for his controversial remarks that western women make themselves “more susceptible to rape” by wearing revealing clothing. He has also proposed the execution of Muslims who change their faith and said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”. In a recent lecture, he said he was “with” Osama Bin Laden over the attacks on the US.

If they did check and still let him in, then the decision is even more outrageous, as so many ‘normal’ foreign visitors to the UK are now being refused entrance. Russian prima ballerina Polina Semionova, who was due to star at the Royal Albert Hall last week, failed to receive a visa.
The situation is clear; to guarantee yourself a visa to the UK you just have to declare a hatred of British values and people. If the authorities question your legitimacy, just throw fashionable words in like “freedom of speech”, “democracy”, “human rights” or attend a pseudo peace conference. If you do that the doors will be flung wide open.

Another blow to Cameron’s pre-election anti-HRA stance is a recent ruling by a charity watchdog that there is no evidence that two Islamic schools run by the Shakhsiyah Foundation have links with extremists in Hizb ut-Tahrir. Last year Cameron accused Gordon Brown’s government of “funding extremists” by giving grants to the schools in Haringey and Slough.

As long as the act is in place, British human rights law is subservient to the 2000 European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR is consistently used by those with al-Qaida links to escape deportation and remain on British soil. Thus, the law meant to protect British citizens effectively does the opposite.

Thatcher would not have stood for it. The question is: will Cameron? Will he stand up for his principles or is he too afraid to risk falling out of bed with Clegg?

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