|Conservative Party Human Rights Commission
launched at Party Conference
The Conservative Party
Human Rights Commission at a fringe meeting at the
Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool in October 2005.
The fringe meeting, chaired by Gary Streeter MP, was
addressed by the then Shadow Foreign Secretary Dr. Liam Fox
MP, Michael Gove MP, and human rights activists James
Mawdsley and Ben Rogers.
For full report on the events see article at CONSERVATIVEHOME.COM
The following are the
remarks made by Ben Rogers, Deputy Chairman of the
Conservative Party Human Rights Commission:
“It is a great privilege to be here tonight at this launch
of the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission. Before I
say anything else, may I say a very deep, heart-felt “thank
you” to the Shadow Foreign Secretary Liam Fox for taking
this initiative in establishing this organisation. I am very
excited about it.
I would like now just to set the scene, set out a few
themes, upon which others may build tonight.
In January 2003 James Mawdsley and I wrote “New Ground –
Engaging People with the Conservative Party through a bold,
imaginative and principled foreign policy”. We published it
online and held fringe meetings in 2003 and
2004 at the party conference, which you can read about
Tonight the vision which we set out in New Ground has
received a major boost. The launch of the Conservative Party
Human Rights Commission is, to quote Chairman Mao, a great
Why did we write New Ground?
James and I are both involved in the fight for freedom and
justice around the world – passionately, deeply,
James has done time in jail for it.
I spend some of my time in places like this talking to
people like you – and some of my time in jungles and hiding
places and refugee camps with dissidents, resistance
fighters, torture victims, child soldiers, refugees, women
who have been raped, escaped slaves. And these are not some
abstract statistics in a country far away. These are my
friends, and my neighbours.
James and I are both Conservatives. We stood as candidates
in the General Election. And we have both been asked,
frequently: how and why can you be Conservatives, and human
In Durham, I talked relentlessly about international human
rights, injustice, poverty, oppression.
People liked it.
But not a day went by without someone telling me I was in
the wrong party. There is a massive gap between what we
stand for and how people perceive us.
This Conservative Human Rights Commission will help bridge
that gap. It will send a signal that we are serious about
standing up for the oppressed and disadvantaged. It will
show what are values really are: - speaking for those who
cannot speak for themselves, putting our timeless
Conservative values of freedom, opportunity, the dignity of
the individual, enterprise, limited government at the very
heart of Conservative foreign policy.
So it is not just about morality. It is also in our
And our national interest. For it cannot be in the long-term
national interest to let tyranny go unchallenged. Dictators
do not make reliable business partners. They sow
instability, reek of corruption and create poverty and
environmental disaster. They spread famine and disease. Kim
Jong-il, Robert Mugabe and the Generals in Rangoon have
presided over economic collapse and humanitarian disaster.
They threaten not only their people but their neighbours and
the world. They use ‘sovereignty’ as an excuse to stop the
rest of the world ‘interfering’
Sovereignty needs to be redefined. Sovereignty lies with
people not governments. Sovereignty should only be respected
when the will of the people is respected.
Next week I shall travel once again to the jungles of
eastern Burma, and also to East Timor, the world’s newest
nation whose struggle for freedom was won against all the
I do so remembering a 15 year-old Shan boy I met a couple of
years ago, after an eight hour trek through the jungle. He
had seen his parents killed and his village burned, and had
been taken for forced labour. As he looked into my eyes, he
said: “Please, tell the world to put pressure on the regime
to stop killing its people. Tell the world not to forget
Democracy leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said:
“We do not accept the notion that democracy is a Western
value. To the contrary, democracy simply means good
government, rooted in responsibility, transparency and
Those are Conservative values. When we sing ‘Land of Hope
and Glory’, let us remember the next line: ‘Mother of the
Free’. So let us Conservatives be the freedom fighters of
today – and then we will earn the right to be the liberators