Lib Dems ready for fight as Cameron tacks further right

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron looks set to face a fight with senior Liberal Democrats as he tacked further right in response to England's riots.

The prime minister used a piece for the Sunday Express to once again blame the riots on the welfare system and human rights culture, prompting an angry riposte from former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell.

"The fight-back… means rebuilding the sense of personal responsibility that has been eroded over the years by many things, from the welfare system where work doesn’t pay to the twisting and misrepresenting of human rights," Mr Cameron wrote.

The prime minister wants to replace the Human Rights Act with a domestically-written British bill of rights.

"Though it won’t be easy, though it will mean taking on parts of the establishment, I am determined we get a grip on the misrepresentation of human rights," he added.

Asked about the comments on the BBC, Sir Menzies described human rights as "one the greatest contributions Britain made to post-war Europe".

He said: "My opposition to any plan to water it down is very clear in my own mind.

"You can have a British bill of rights without taking away from the ECHR [European Convention on Human Rights] but I do not want commitments to the whole notion of human rights to be watered down."

Asked if he would inform the prime minister of his objections, Sir Menzies replied: "I most certainly would not waste an opportunity to tell him what I thought."

Chris Huhne has previously said he would step down before tolerating a scrapping of the Human Rights Act.

A speech by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg last year suggested Downing Street might be planning to force the Human Rights Act wholesale into a British bill of rights.

Such a move would placate Tory backbenchers, maintain Britain's legal obligations and provide a mechanism for the Lib Dems to prevent any dissolving of civil liberties by a future government.

Elsewhere in his article Mr Cameron ascribes "a decline in responsibility, a rise in selfishness, a growing sense that individual rights come before anything else" as a cause for the riots.

Reprising themes he took up during the emergency recall of parliament, the prime minister calls for greater parental and school discipline and pro-family government policy.