By Tim Montgomerie
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Chris Grayling, the new Justice Secretary, has just been on Andrew Marr's show to reject Labour's call for an independent judicial inquiry into the Jimmy Savile affair but, more significantly, to point towards what he clearly intends to be a central issue at the next General Election – reform of human rights laws.
Mr Grayling said that he was determined to use the next two years to come forward with a "clear plan" that would correct the way that European judges were currently expanding the original understanding of human rights laws to give terrorists, for example, the right to avoid deportation. He said that there would be proposals in the next Tory manifesto to protect all basic human rights but there would also be proposals to stop the expansive interpretation of those rights by activist judges. He refused to say what form these proposals would take but diplomatically promised to build on the work that his predecessor, Ken Clarke, had already done.
Reform of human rights laws would, Grayling hopes, be one of the "EU veto-style moments" that he has previously suggested must pave the way to a Tory recovery in the polls.
Grayling has a reputation has a hardliner and his party conference commitment to increase the rights of householders to defend themselves against intruders will reinforce that reputation. On Marr he vowed again to ensure that courts should be on the side of the householder when any householder lashes out against burglars to protect themselves. Mr Grayling is more than the media caricature, however. Although his appointment is vital in rebuilding Tory law and order credentials – so battered during Clarke's time and his constant battles with Britain's best-selling tabloids – he also has a strong commitment to social justice and social reform. When he held the home affairs brief in opposition he invested much intellectual energy in thinking about prisoner rehabilitation. He brings his more recent experience of the Work Programme and its emphasis on payment-by-results to his new brief. His slogan – more people going to jail and fewer people going back – perfectly combines Michael Howard's belief in incarceration and every humanitarian's belief that most offenders deserve a chance to start again and rebuild their lives.