Obiter feels for soft-Tory thinktank Bright Blue. It teamed up last week with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to present an agenda-setting conference ‘Fighting for Freedom: Conservatism, human rights and discrimination’.
The idea was to reclaim the debate on human rights from the left. Keynote speaker Phillip Lee MP, junior justice minister, started with an inspirational address, calling on the traditions of Burke, Walpole, Shaftesbury and Disraeli to present his party as the historic friend of rights and freedoms.
Alas, Lee is no Martin Luther King, and Obiter confesses to dozing slightly by the peroration. But the minister had not finished, saying he could not end without a reference to Brexit. The audience began to sit up as it realised Lee was starting to lay unmercifully into his own government’s position on the EU Withdrawal Bill, being debated later that day.
‘It is hard to be part of a government that would countenance such a breach of fundamental principles,’ Lee concluded, ‘so I am sad to announce that I must resign as minister.’
With that he was gone, leaving startled policy wonks to rescue the day’s agenda. ‘We definitely got a lot of profile,’ Bright Blue director Ryan Shorthouse observed later, ‘but for very unexpected reasons!’