Labour's naive grandstanding on human rights
18th April 2012
A senior Labour MEP stands accused of grandstanding and political naivety after he turned on Britain and accused the UK of having a "shameful" approach to human rights.
Richard Howitt, who represents East Anglia for Labour, launched his attack on Britain's record in the European Parliament when he put forward a 47-page report he has drafted entitled "Human Rights in the World and the European Union's Policy on the Matter Including Implications for the European Union's Human Rights Policy".
He angered Conservative opponents by insisting on adding a clause to the report condemning both France and the UK for what he described as an "obstructionist attitude" in negotiations over EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Just before speaking in Strasbourg and labelling Britain's stance shameful, Mr Howitt was bragging on Twitter: "Watch live now as I slam Cameron blocking EU on Human Rights Cnvntn."
Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative MEP for East Anglia and a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee which scrutinised Mr Howitt's report, said:
"There were many good things in there, especially to do with women's and children's rights, freedom of religion and observation of elections - but unfortunately he will have thrown that good work away in most British eyes by trying to condemn his own country on human rights grounds.
"His use of social media betrays the fact that he was only really interested in grandstanding."
Fellow Conservative MEP Charles Tannock, the party's foreign affairs spokesman in the Parliament, said:
"Labour seems unable to tell the difference between a bad record on human rights and a good record on defending common sense, on upholding national sovereignty and on making sure the European convention, once it is implemented, works as it should.
"Prime Minister Cameron is absolutely right to block EU accession to the ECHR which would threaten much of the UK's hard won economic reforms and enormously expand the powers of the unelected Strasbourg judges."