Belfast Telegraph

We must beware rabid Tories and their right-wing invective

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Did you watch that woman Theresa May last week? I did, live at the Tory party conference, while pressing my bitten nails into my hands and building up such fantasies of violence that they could imprison me for thought crimes under our anti-terrorism laws.

There wasn't much applause for the first part of her speech, so she threw them immigrants and asylum-seekers and then the Human Rights Act (HRA) to tear into.

Members turned into noisy hounds and May was riding high. Until Ken Clarke pulled her off the horse. He is set to be punished by the PM who obviously backs May's inciting horn-calls.

Oh, yes: May is a terrific rider, has a keen brain and cunning instincts, fine clothes and kittenish hair. Don't laugh. And don't be fooled either.

She once opined that her party would not win until it lost its reputation for nastiness. So they did - underwent a makeover to appear such nice people.

The cast was carefully chosen. No more Mr Nasties, like Keith Joseph, or Norman Tebbit. And it worked. The New Tories are perfectly charming and dangerously likeable.

In spite of trying really hard, I can't see David Cameron as the enemy.

But that is what he and his party are - enemies of principles and policies for a more equal, just, fair and fulfilling society.

May and Cameron used the conference to excite raw opposition to the HRA, which stops the state from deporting people without due care for their safety and rights.

The Right-wing journalist Peter Oborne who, with Tory MP Jesse Norman, wrote a pamphlet defending the Act, said in a column: "Myths abound about the Act. These start out as newspaper reports. Soon they enter the popular discourse.

"It is not long before they are used in speeches of politicians. And yet almost invariably they are fabrications or sometimes outright lies."

In 2009, the Director of Public Prosecutions for England and Wales, Keir Starmer, warned it would be to our "country's shame" if the HRA was rescinded.

To the Tories, a man must be free to shoot dead a burglar, or ban gay couples from his B-amp;B, slaughter trees in his garden, employ only white, male workers, pay them pennies, sack whoever he damn well likes, and keep most of his money.

The rights of the thief, the gay couple and all those other whiners - well, that's political correctness and state oppression of the mighty individual.

The HRA gives everyone the right to family life, free expression, protection from torture, justice and much more.

The courts have been assiduous in the way they have interpreted the Act.

But now even judges and magistrates are starting to respond to the fanatically hardline Tories. The sentences passed after the summer riots in England show a worrying swerve away from judicial temperance and fairness.

The economic crisis has provided the Tories with the excuse to push through what they have always wanted - a deregulated economy with millions willing to work at any cost.

Worse and worse. Theresa May vehemently opposed the Equalities Bill drafted by Harriet Harman because the Home Secretary believes inequality is caused by family dysfunction. The law came in anyway and outlaws discrimination against older people, expects companies to redress class inequalities and protects carers. So the Tories are doing all they can to keep the law deactivated.

What's more, they are determined to undermine legislation set up to prevent discrimination against women, racial minorities and the disabled and aid those whose human rights have been violated. Changes to disability benefits add humiliation and genuine hardship to lives.

Stuff and nonsense, the Tories say. The disabled should offer to work for less than the minimum wage. Is this nice or nasty?

China does not recognise human rights and India ignores labour rights. Both countries tolerate appalling treatment of women, minorities, the poor, the socially and politically disenfranchised.

The CBI and City firms admire and envy the voracious capitalism which is driving extraordinary economic growth in these nations.

Their best friends, Cameron and Osborne, who are now in the saddle until 2015, will take us down this route and the Lib Dems will shut up and put up.

Unfrock the new Tories and you see the ugliness.

It's okay to totally loathe them once again. And boy does that feel good.

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