United Kingdom's Human Rights Act: Using its Past to Predict its Future
Loyola Journal of Public Interest Law, Vol. 12, p. 39, 2010
46 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2012
Date Written: March 22, 2010
The results of the recent General Election in the United Kingdom have both highlighted the flexible nature of the UK's constitution and placed the UK's existing bill of rights (the Human Rights Act 1998) in jeopardy. In order to predict the HRA's future, it is useful to consider how and why the HRA was enacted. Through the use of primary data, this article shows that the HRA was enacted as a result of a unique combination of historical factors and the efforts of public interest groups. These two main elements are analyzed using Rational Choice Theory and Social Movement Theory, which at least partially explain how public interest groups can influence political actors to enact progressive legislation.
However, neither of these theories alone offers a clear picture of what caused the UK's bill of rights movement to succeed. This article addresses this problem by using primary and empirical data to identify the five main techniques that public interest groups used to make the UK's bill of rights movement successful. Those five factors are: public campaigning, capitalizing on historic trends and events, overcoming politicians' existing prejudices, political strategizing, and creating "true believers" among key politicians. All five of these factors were necessary for the UK's bill of rights movement to succeed and to convince the Labour Government to pass the HRA. These factors are also present in the Conservatives' failed attempts to repeal the HRA.
Keywords: Comparative Law, Human Rights Act, British Constitutional Law, Rational Choice Theory, Social Movements Theory
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