By Jess McQuail – Just Fair Director
I just spent a few days in Liverpool at the Labour Party’s annual conference, and it was noticeable how absent human rights in the UK were from the agenda. Although there was a great deal of discussion about, and commitments made to, tackling poverty, structural inequality and systemic injustice, almost none of it referred to these being rights issues.
A lot of what I heard was hopeful and genuine, and there is undoubtably a real desire for the Labour Party to reshape the country if it wins the next UK general election. There were promises to tackle the housing crisis, soaring child poverty, record numbers of foodbanks, a health service at breaking point and a vast number of other issues. All these need immediate attention, and the party is right to commit to addressing them, but it must also lay the foundations for longer-term structural change.
Our economic, social and cultural rights are both our forgotten rights and the rights of our everyday life. This means a decent job and home, enough to eat, clothes to wear, a healthy environment, the chance to learn, and a safety net when we most need it. These rights of everyday life are essential to all of us. But without full protection, many are struggling to make ends meet. And the reality is that when things go wrong, those with the least power are the ones who struggle the most.
The UK has recognised these everyday rights at an international level and signed up to an agreement – the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – which a Labour Government ratified in 1976. This has meant that since then, UK Governments have had an international legal obligation to respect, protect, and fulfil these rights.
When the UK Government and public bodies make decisions that ignore, erode and take away our everyday rights, people suffer – from having insufficient income, to being forced out of their home by black mould or unaffordable rent. And some people and communities are harmed more deeply than others.
That’s why these everyday rights are so important. They are the solution to many of the social issues we face now and could protect us in the future from things like deeper cuts to the NHS, high levels of poverty, and record child homelessness.
It’s time for all political parties to be bold and make our everyday rights part of our laws across the UK, so we all have an equal chance at a good life, whatever government is in power and whatever decisions they make.
Now is the time for the Labour Party to explore how to do this with our everyday rights. If elected as the next UK Government, they will need to build a country in which poverty, inequality and injustice are tackled head on, alongside embedding lasting solutions.