Human rights, equality, free speech, privacy, the rule of law. These five ideas are vitally important to the way of life we enjoy today. The battle to establish them in law was long and difficult, and Lord Anthony Lester was at the heart of the 30-year campaign that resulted in the Human Rights Act as well as the struggle for race and gender equality that culminated in the Equality Act of 2010.
Today, however, our society is at risk of becoming less equal. From Snowden's revelations about our own intelligence agencies spying on us to the treatment of British Muslims, our civil liberties are under threat like never before. The Internet leaves our privacy at risk in myriad ways, our efforts to combat extremism curtail free speech, and cuts to legal aid and interference with access to justice endangers the rule of law.
A fierce argument for why we must act now to ensure the survival of the ideals which enable us to live freely, Five Ideas to Fight For is vital study on the state of freedom and the law in the world today.
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A Compelling Argument and a Timely Warning.
Lord Lester has long been a champion of human rights both as a barrister and more recently, in the House of Lords. He identifies five important areas which have come under constant and sustained attack by successive Governments. They are Human Rights, Equality, Free Speech, Privacy and the The Rule of Law. He demonstrates just how fragile these hard-won rights are. How they have become whittled away by an almost arrogant complacency on the part of civil servants, cabinet government and the Right-Wing Press. He offers contemporary and sometimes harrowing examples of the impact upon individuals of a complacent and sometime hostile attitude to basic human rights on the part of the agencies of the State.
I particularly liked his chapter on the Rule of Law and the way in which he demonstrates the almost arrogant contempt in which it is held by the Government both in international law and domestically. The refusal to abide by the judgments of internal tribunals, the attempts by the government to limit the ability of the courts to subject actions by government departments to judicial review, the gradual erosion of the ability of the citizen to bring and defend an action in the civil courts and the way in which workers have been priced out of employment tribunals. The message conveyed is that the reality of the government's sustained attack on legal aid and punitive court fees means that rights exist purely on paper .
I am not aware of any other work by Lord Lester outside of his role and function as a Peer of the Realm.
In my opinion, this is a book that would make any fair-minded person extremely angry at the attitude of officials and elected representatives towards those whose votes they pray in aid of.
This is an important book, it is perhaps not as comprehensive as the now somewhat dated 'Freedom, The Individual and the Law' published some years ago by Geoffrey Robertson QC, but it is nevertheless a powerful and compelling account of the way in which, I for one feel that in many respects, successive governments have had difficulty in distinguishing between the rights of a citizen in a mature democracy and that of a colonial subject in the pre-independence era of Empire.