The debate about human rights in the UK has become narrow, divisive and political. But public scepticism towards human rights relates to their application rather than the principles behind them. For centuries, protecting individual liberty has been seen as an important conservative principle. As Margaret Thatcher put it, “human rights did not begin with the French Revolution...England had 1688, our quiet revolution”.

This project will explore how conservatives can think about human rights in a positive way that draws on conservative traditions of individual freedom and empowerment. It will also evaluate what the Conservative Government has done on human rights, and explore new narratives and policies, which ensure that human rights are strengthened both in the UK and abroad.

The project will explore three key areas:

  • Ensuring the new British Bill of Rights strengthens human rights and is compatible with being a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)
  • Advancing human rights in British foreign policy
  • Tackling discrimination - including gender, sexual, religious, disability and racial discrimination


Conservatism and human rights conference
Tuesday 22nd March 2016| 8.45 - 13.30
The British Academy, 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH


To launch our Conservatism and human rights essay collection, Bright Blue hosted an agenda-setting half-day conference with a keynote speech from the Former Attorney General, The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP.

Contributors to our essay collection and speakers at our conference included:

-    Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC (Former Foreign Secretary)
-    Trevor Phillips OBE (Former Chair, Equalities & Human Rights Commission)
-    Justin Forsyth (Former CEO, Save the Children)
-    The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP (Chair, Women & Equalities Select Committee)
-    Professor Sir Paul Collier (Professor of Economics & Public Policy, University of Oxford)
-    Crispin Blunt MP (Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee)
-    Timothy Stanley (Columnist, The Daily Telegraph)


08.45 - Registration

09.00 - Panel discussion - Tackling discrimination

Speakers: Suella Fernandes MP, Sunder Katwala (Director, British Future), Benjamin Cohen (CEO, PinkNews), Samantha Smethers (Chief Executive, Fawcett Society)

Chair: Ryan Shorthouse (Director, Bright Blue)

10.00 - Keynote speech with the Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP

11.00 - Coffee break

11.30 - Panel discussion - Strengthening human rights in the UK and abroad

Speakers: Shami Chakribarti (Director, Liberty), Peter Tatchell (Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation), Kate Allen (Director, Amnesty International UK), Benedict Rogers (East Asia Team Leader, Christian Solidarity Worldwide)

Chair: Rupert Myers (Associate Fellow, Bright Blue)

12.30 - Networking lunch in the Mall room

13.30 - Finish

The conference was kindly supported by The Thomas Paine Initiative.





The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP
Chair, Women and Equalities Select Committee


The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP
Second Estates Church Commissioner


The Rt Hon Dominic Grieve QC MP
Former Attorney General for England and Wales

Ben Rogers

Benedict Rogers
Writer and human rights activist

Matthew d'Ancona
Political Columnist, The Guardian

Lord Daniel Finkelstein
Political Columnist, The Times

About the commission

Our commission will be led by a group of high-profile conservative decision makers and opinion formers. It will be year-long inquiry assessing a conservative approach to human rights across three key policy areas: tackling discrimination; the British Bill of Rights; and British foreign policy.

The commission will include an all-day oral evidence session with invited experts and a call of written evidence. The commission will conclude with a final report with policy recommendations.

Conservatism and human rights:
essay collection

The collection, published by Bright Blue, brings together leading thinkers, decision makers and public figures to discuss three key themes in the debate around human rights: tackling discrimination; the role of human rights in British foreign policy; and ensuring the new British Bill of Rights strengthens human rights. 

Contributors include: 

The Rt Hon Damian Green MP (Former Minister for Immigration) on what should be in the British Bill of Rights

The Rt Hon Maria Miller MP (Chair, Women and Equalities Select Committee) on tackling gender discrimination

The Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind QC (Former Foreign Secretary) on the balance between individual freedom and state security

Crispin Blunt MP (Chair, Foreign Affairs Select Committee) on human rights with global players

Trevor Phillips OBE (Former Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission) on tackling racial discrimination

Professor Sir Paul Collier (Director, International Growth Centre) on ending extreme poverty