The original letter
Dear Father Christmas,
It’s been a while since I’ve written; probably decades in fact. And it might seem strange or even inappropriate for an adult to add to an in-box so full of childrens’ wishes as you approach your busiest time of year. Yet it is with the children very much in mind that I send this note, hoping that you might get to it – if not by 25th December, perhaps after the rush is over and around the turn of the year.
You see, I am rather anxious about the state in which my generation of “grown up” children has left the world for those that follow to clear up. The young ones didn’t crunch the credit, warm the planet or start the real and metaphysical wars that have plagued the early part of this still young century. But they will no doubt be expected to work harder and longer, with less remuneration and more taxation and in a climate of less security and more inequality because of the disastrous choices that some of my generation have made.
The least we can do at this eleventh hour is surely to attempt to equip this next generation on whom our hopes for the future of the planet increasingly rest, with a framework of values to help guide them through trying times that lie ahead. The Human Rights Act is in jeopardy this Christmas as our Government proposes to “scrap” it in the year ahead. This is the document that protects the right to life and that prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment and torture. It outlaws slavery and arbitrary detention and guarantees fair trials, personal privacy, freedoms of conscience, expression and association. Most importantly of all, our HRA guarantees equal treatment under the law. We lawyers call this “non-discrimination” but in human-speak it’s more like “empathy” and it’s the key to the Human Rights Kingdom. You see everyone loves their own liberties and those of their family, friends and people like them. It’s other people’s rights that seem less palatable. But our fundamental rights aren’t just for Christmas. They were paid for in courage and blood by previous generations and we merely hold them on trust for those who follow. They weren’t designed to always make us comfortable. They were designed to keep us free.
I am not sure that you can help with my wish or even that I believe that you read these letters any more. Perhaps these days your correspondence goes straight to a limb of the State or to a global retail corporate who then converts a child’s desire for this or that piece of merchandise into a miraculous suggestion in a hapless parent’s e-basket. But hope springs eternal and so I ask whoever is reading to tweak the consciences of the powerful so as to empower the vulnerable. In 2015, let’s save our Human Rights Act.
30 November 2014
Liberty House, London