While in coalition with the Tories, the Liberal Democrats blocked an attempt to get rid of the act, but David Cameron has revived the plans since securing a parliamentary majority in the general election.
A new British bill of rights is expected to be included in next week’s Queen’s speech to replace the act passed by the Labour government in 1998 as a way of incorporating the European convention on human rights into UK law.
Norman Lamb, the MP for North Norfolk and former care minister, warned that the country must not let the Conservative party “trample all over” human rights laws, arguing that they had “stopped the state spying on us, supported peaceful protest and guarded against slavery”.
“They have helped rape victims, defended domestic violence victims and shielded press freedom,” he said. “The Liberal Democrats blocked David Cameron from scrapping the Human Rights Act in government and we must stop him again now.”
Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, said the government’s plans revealed “their true colours”.
“It sends a clear message to the British people: the next five years will be nastier, less liberal and less compassionate that any government in living memory,” he said.
Farron, who is the bookies’ favourite to win the Lib Dem leadership race, added: “They are the legacy of Winston Churchill and seeing the Tories trashing his legacy, I am in no doubt that today he would once again be a Liberal.”
Clegg resigned after the party’s worst performance in a general election since it was formed from the merger of the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party in 1988.
The leadership contest is shaping up to be a head-to-head battle between Farron, a former party president, and Lamb.
To get on the ballot, a candidate must have the endorsement of 200 members from 20 local party organisations as well as 10% of the parliamentary party, though the latter requirement equates to less than one of the eight remaining Lib Dem MPs. Nominations close on 3 June, members will cast their ballots under an alternative vote system and the winner will be announced on 16 July.
Farron, a key figure on the left of the Lib Dems, is thought to be the frontrunner owing to his popularity with grassroots activists. He won 52% of the vote in his constituency in the general election and was a vocal opponent of the coalition’s tripling of tuition fees.
Lamb, a former employment lawyer, is more aligned with the politics of the coalition. He is considered a centrist and served as parliamentary private secretary to Clegg from May 2010 to February 2012.
This article was written by Frances Perraudin, for theguardian.com on Monday 25th May 2015 11.41 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010