All connected like a Lego set

Howard went off on one earlier this week, displaying the longstanding Tory obsession with law and order. Mobbsy finds what he said petrifying but I’m not so sure.

The core of Howard’s argument—that rights without responsibilities impede the functioning of society—certainly has a ring of common sense about it. Common sense! That byword of Tory policy. That odious piece of Blunketry, the sense used by people who have no other sense to call upon. It’s obvious, isn’t it? People demand their rights and don’t accept the responsibilities.

But here is where Howard clearly misunderstands the meaning of a right, whether by lack of insight or for political gain:

every legal right is, reciprocally, a legal responsibility.

A human right is both a guarantee of our freedom and a statement of the requirements placed on us in interactions with others. A policeman has the same human rights as another human being; he also, however, has the same responsibilities and has to respect them. When the police do what they’re supposed to do, they are protecting that network of rights and responsibilities. When they do whatever it is that Howard wants them to do, then… God only knows.

By all means dismantle the culture of court settlements, and deride those who don’t take on board that people other than themselves have rights. But if the way that a policeman conducts himself in his employment brings him into conflict with basic human rights, then maybe he should step aside and let a more capable person do the job.

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