A quick post on human rights

Today the Conservatives published their long-promised proposals for the replacement of the Human Rights Act with a British Bill of Rights, although their thunder was stolen somewhat by early publication of the announcement yesterday at Jack of Kent.

There has been plenty of speculation about what such a bill might contain, especially since David Cameron sacked Dominic Grieve as Attorney General. The assumption – which is looking increasingly accurate – was that Grieve was a serious impediment to moving the agenda forward simply by virtue of the fact that he understands and supports international law and human rights law, and the rule of law more broadly. So he had to go.

In the right wing press today Chris Grayling’s proposals have been warmly received. The proposals are combative in tone and make all sorts of noises about stopping judges from interfering from outside the UK, curtailing rights, and linking the exercise of rights to fulfilment of responsibilities. The press has been characterising this as ending the human rights “madness” and reasserting the sovereignty of the UK Parliament.

Commentary in the liberal press has been of a rather different flavour, and the more right-leaning press is by no means entirely supportive.

For all Chris Grayling’s posturing and for all the fanfare of a concerned campaign of media spin, it is, however, less clear what difference the proposals would or could make in practice. It may be, as Jonathan Freedland has argued, that achieving real difference in the law isn’t the primary objective.  [Read more…]

Does Twitter’s future lie in broadcasting?

Blue bird tweets and sings on smartphoneGiven a relatively trouble-free IPO only a month ago and Twitter’s plans to broaden its services in future, it might perhaps seem a bit perverse to reflect on whether its time as the social media channel we know and love is passing.

But I wonder.

No technology is forever. Most will eventually be rendered obsolete. The half-life of web-based technologies would appear shorter than most.

But there are more specific reasons for reflecting on the fate of Twitter.

A few days ago Puffles’ Bestest Buddy blogged raising questions about the future of Puffles. The character of Puffles was created three years ago as an expedient – to provide anonymity in order to comment on contemporary policy and politics while still a member of the civil service. If you have been following since those days then you’ll know that a lot has happened to BB since then and the rationale for Puffles no longer exists. But in the meantime Puffles has become a bit of a Twitter celebrity. Should Puffles be retired and the cloak of anonymity dropped? In fact, the cloak of anonymity was dropped a while ago. It isn’t difficult to find out who BB is, if you are so inclined. Yet the Twitter account still speaks as Puffles. Would it be better to step out from behind the veil?

Puffles’ situation raises particular issues, but it also encapsulates challenges that most likely face many tweeters with a substantial following.

[Read more…]

Jeremy Hunt and the limits of credulity

David Cameron’s performance in the House yesterday in response to Labour’s urgent question about Jeremy Hunt seems to have split people. A large number of people thought he was an offensive and evasive bully. Tory loyalists thought he valiantly defended a minister whose reputation had been unfairly impuned.

This is just the latest installment in a very peculiar saga.

As John Rentoul reminded us on Sunday, there was never a golden age when Ministers were routinely doing the honourable thing: resigned at the first sign of impropriety – let alone illegality – in their department. But you have to ask quite what sort of evidence has to be in the public domain before Cameron would feel compelled to concede that maybe, just maybe, it was time for Hunt to go. [Read more…]