I chair the Lib Dems Liberty Group in the House of Commons and today we meet to discuss the Human Rights Act. It is one of the most important pieces of legislation for our citizens – and yet the Government (which had the balls to do it) now seems hell bent on destroying it.
It is true that it has been misused on occasion and there have been some exceptionally stupid interpretations of the Act that diminish it and hold it up to ridicule – but the fault is not with the Act but the use of it. So education of those who need to be aware of it is critical.
I remember when it was coming in and I was sitting on the Metropolitan Police Authority. We all had lots of briefings. It was clear then that there was a nervousness by, in this case, the police about what they would and would not be allowed to do once the Act came in. In fact, outside of the two absolute – the right to life and the right not to be tortured – the other articles are all about balance and common sense. All of those articles weigh up the balance between the rights and freedoms of the individual against the benefit or disbenefit to the wider community.
Then in the evening I met Al Gore!
A local constituent sent me an invitation to a screening of a film to be released here in September. It is called ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. (You can watch the film’s trailer on YouTube.com).
It is basically Al Gore’s lecture on the Doomsday scenario we are hurtling towards – climate change. Whilst it won’t rival Harry Potter in terms of attendance, it is a film that every person should see – because it demonstrates quite clearly our path to destruction. But it has the message that if we change there is hope.
So Al – who was the next President of the United States once upon a time – has taken it to be his life’s mission to spread this word and campaign to wake us up.
I was totally impressed with the package and the commitment. After the screening Al Gore came to the front of the cinema and took questions and – shock horror – answered them straight. Then we went to the reception. I was lucky and got to speak to him (sadly no photographs). I congratulated him but did point out that I thought he should edit the shots of him looking pensively out of aeroplane windows – and carbon emissions from air travel didn’t feature clearly. He said I was right and etc. etc and shook my hand.
He asked us all to join in this mission – and I am pretty keen to give it a go. More of this later.
As for my own efforts in recent months? Well, I declined my friend Alexis’s prodding to put a wind farm on my roof – long before boy Dave Cameron upset Notting Hill by his efforts to be cuddly. I decided not to – because I live in a conservation area and it would just end up as being seen as a publicity stunt and I wouldn’t get my wind turbine at the end of it.
I decided that the most environmentally friendly thing I could do outside of recycling and turning off lights etc was to not use planes unless absolutely necessary (and then you can pay for your conscience through carbon offset).
So earlier this year I went for a weekend with my youngest daughter to Amersfoort near Amsterdam by train. It was four trains each way – and having spent the majority of the Friday and Sunday on the train and only Saturday actually with my friends in Amersfoort, I decided that a weekend break was probably not the best way to do this! Not deterred – as I love trains and hate planes – this summer am dragging same daughter around Europe by train. All easily arranged on the phone with RailEurope. I think that – as we have a couple of weeks – it will be a great way to see all these places and the spaces in-between. I just wish we could get train fares down and have airfares better represent the true costs to the environment. It’s Lib Dem policy – but Tony B and Boy Dave only like to talk tough on the environment – and that’s exactly what they are: tough on the environment!