Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The legacy of Blair

RINF.alternative news. com

June 20, 2007

By Frances Webber

As Blair leaves office, he leaves a country more divided - by race, class and status - than he found it.

As Tony Blair finally relinquishes power, much has been and will be written about the legacy of his ten years. In the fields of immigration and asylum, as in other fields, his reign presents a strange paradox. His government was responsible for bringing in the Human Rights Act 1998, which was designed to ‘bring human rights home’ and which has forced government to confront the impact of legislative, executive and judicial acts on the human rights of those affected. At the same time, his government has been responsible for serious encroachments on fundamental rights, a shift in the balance of power from individual liberty and towards state control; a similar shift as between the executive and the judiciary; entrenchment of xeno-racism and, in particular, erosion of the idea of universality of human rights.

Extending and curtailing human rights

One of the Blair government’s first acts, in 1997, was to abolish the hated ‘primary purpose’ rule which kept thousands of foreign husbands apart from their British wives. Shortly after, cohabitees and same-sex partners were given the right to live in the UK. The Human Rights Act, which came into force in 2000, brought the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to life, the right not to be tortured (or expelled to torture), rights to liberty, fair trial, family life, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly and association, into the law of the United Kingdom. The Act enables executive action to be challenged in UK courts on the basis that it violates one of the protected rights. The Act is a significant achievement. But the government has endeavoured to ensure that it is applied restrictively, on the basis that immigrants do not have the same rights as others. Thus, thousands of families have been broken up by the removal of the foreign partner - the government argues that the ‘imperatives of immigration control’ outweigh the families’ rights.

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