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Ministers can't just carry on attacking the ECHR. They must pledge to take Britain out of it.

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By Paul Goodman

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I suspect that Chris Grayling would like Britain to leave the ECHR.  I have no evidence whatsoever for this guess, but it's consistent with the carefully-chosen words he used on the matter when I interviewed him for this site last year.  This morning, he writes in the Daily Mail about the court and the convention.  He says: "I think we have given up far too much of our own sovereignty. We have given up too many of our own democratic rights. We need to reverse the changes...I would bring forward reforms in this Parliament and not the next. But we don’t have the votes to bring that business to the House and then deliver it."

The Justice Secretary is right to remind readers that the Conservatives can't simply pass whatever measures they like through the Commons.  (Some of them seem to have difficulty in grasping the point.)  But the problem his piece points to is obvious: what are the reforms that he would bring forward?  We don't know - and the longer we don't know, the more the words of Ministers who hint at radical measures are likely to be compared to those of King Lear: "I will do such things, -/ What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be./The terrors of the earth."

The outspoken backbencher Mark Field scored a hit recently when he pointed out - in the aftermath of the speech in which Theresa May indicated that she, too, would like to see Britain leave the ECHR - that Ministers risk ridicule if they keep hinting rather than pledging.  The next Conservative manifesto must contain a clear commitment to take Britain out of the ECHR.  The longer the delay is in giving it, the more the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary risk looking indecisive and impotent.  The power to help them, and rescue his party from ridicule, lies in David Cameron's hands.


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