Responsibility is the word of the moment, isn’t it? The well-worn phrase of preference under New Labour used to be ‘rights and responsibilities’ but lately these words have been decoupled. ‘A decline in responsibility’ was to blame for the riots, David Cameron told us. ‘The twisting and misrepresenting of human rights . . . has undermined personal responsibility,’ he said. 1 Was the Human Rights Act (HRA) responsible for the riots? It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘reading the riot act’, doesn’t it? Ed Miliband has also concurred that it was ‘greed, selﬁ shness, immorality and, above all, gross irresponsibility,’ that drove the riots. 2
Now there is nothing wrong with labouring the importance of responsibility. I personally agree that emphasising personal responsibility is vital in a fair and just society – provided that it is not license for punishing most those who have the least . The tabloids and Torysupporting press also emphasise the theme of responsibility of course. In fact, they make a living out of it! They are particularly prone to do so to hammer the HRA as the source of a rights-obsessed, selﬁ sh, alien litigation culture. They do this every day in fact.