Labour will today vow to put the defence of human rights legislation at the heart of its general election campaign in 2015.
David Cameron is set to announce at next week’s Conservative conference that a re-elected Tory government would scrap the Human Rights Act. Senior ministers, including Theresa May and Chris Grayling, have also raised questions over whether Britain should walk away from the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, will tell the Labour conference today that the party remains strongly committed to the Act, which was brought in by the Blair government.
It will find common ground on the issue with the Liberal Democrats, who have refused to countenance changes by their Tory Coalition partners to human rights law.
Mr Khan told The Independent that the lives of millions of poor, elderly, sick and disabled people had been improved by the Act and claimed the “appalling” proposals were evidence of the “return of the nasty party”.
Video: Miliband opens Labour Party conference
He said: “With the scandals in Rotherham and Rochdale, and abuse in care homes, this is no time to be stripping the British people of their rights.
“But that’s precisely what will happen if the Tories abolish the Human Rights Act and flounce out of the European Court of Human Rights.”
Mr Khan said the ECHR was drawn up by Tory ministers in the 1950s and was as “British as fish and chips”. He admitted that the operation of the European Court of Human Rights could be improved, but insisted that abandoning it would “undermine human rights here in the UK and weaken our ability to lecture other countries which are abusing human rights”.
The shadow Justice Secretary will also call for 16- and 17-year-olds to be allowed to take part in the general election following the lowering of the voting age for the Scottish referendum.
Mr Khan will challenge ministers to bring in immediate legislation to give more than one million more teenagers the vote. He will also commit Labour to introducing online voting and opening polling stations for longer hours in an effort to boost election turnouts.
Ed Miliband won cheers at the conference yesterday as he repeated his pledge to give 16- and 17-year-olds the vote.
Mr Khan will tell delegates that the historic change should be implemented within months. An incoming Labour government would work with schools and colleges to add young people’s names to the electoral register, helping to engage them in the political process, he said.
Mr Khan will announce plans to overhaul voting arrangements, which have remained virtually unchanged for decades, to encourage more people to cast their ballots.
He will argue that some polling stations in busy locations such as libraries and supermarkets could open a week ahead of election day to encourage more people to vote.
Some elections could also be held at weekends, as happens in many European nations, instead of the traditional Thursdays, he will say.