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My Speech to Lib Dem Conference on Human Rights

by Andrew Brown on 25 October, 2015

Last month I gave my second speech to Lib Dem Conference, on Human Rights. Here is the text of what I said (or, at least, what I had prepared, it differed slightly on delivery!):

Conference,

Later today there will be a consultative session on our Governance Review. One of the things being asked in that is whether the preamble to our constitution fully reflects our values and beliefs.

I’m sure that many of you can quote the extract from the preamble that is printed on membership cards. I have mine here:
“The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.”
Conference, protecting Human Rights is key to achieving this.

But the preamble doesn’t end there, and this party’s commitment to building a Liberal – with both a small and a capital L – society doesn’t stop at our borders. We are an outward looking international party.

Further on, the preamble continues:
“We look forward to a world in which all people share the same basic rights, in which they live together in peace and in which their different cultures will be able to develop freely.”
This motion is about our Human Rights but it is about much, much more:

How we act as a society has an impact beyond our shores.

How can we advocate internationally for democracy, the rule of law, the fair treatment of minorities, LGBT+ rights and full equality for all: male, female, intersex, black, white, gay, straight, bisexual, and the rights of those of faith and those of none, if we don’t protect these rights for our own citizens.

Conference,

The world is a complex place. We face threats to Human Rights from new and disparate forces.

ISIS: further destabilising the Middle East with their barbaric and merciless regime.

Assad, using Chemical Weapons against his civilians.

Putin, annexing European territory and implementing anti-LGBT+ legislation.

But we also face threats at home.

Here in the UK there are those who seek to demonise and marginalise the poor. From those that rail against extremists and seem to favour summary deportations. From those who talk of “swarms” of migrant; who deny refugees dignity and respect and would sooner build a drawbridge they could raise than countenance Britain accepting at least 10,000 refugees a year, as this conference voted for on Sunday.

And these, generally speaking, are the people who would scrap the Human Rights Act and pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights. Who regard the even handed application of rights as “political correctness gone mad.”

John Donne said “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind” – and the same is true of Human Rights.

That is why we defend the fair treatment of those that sin against society: for terrorists, criminals, and those accused of acting against the common good. That is why we defend Civil Liberties for all. That is why we have grave reservations at reports of extra-judicial killing and that is why we have respect for the rule of law – nationally and internationally.

Conference, I urge you to support this motion. When it comes to Human Rights: Britain must lead – and if others are going to follow us, Britain must be leading in the right direction.

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