Book review: Five Ideas To Fight For by Anthony Lester

May 18, 2016
Oneworld, £14.99

We regularly hear about the infringement of our political rights, whether it is crackdowns on freedom of speech by dictatorships or the security services invading our privacy. Recently in this country we have seen proposed amendments to the Freedom of Information Act that would make it more expensive for journalists and citizens to access information. “There is never a time for apathy,” when it comes to protecting these rights, “especially now,” according to Anthony Lester, one of the country’s leading human rights lawyers.

Five Ideas to Fight For aims to encourage us to protect these rights. Charting the evolution of five important ideas (human rights, privacy, equality, freedom of speech and the rule of law) over the last 60 years, Lester explains “why they matter, how well they are protected and how they are threatened.” He is the perfect person to deliver this message. Over the course of a 50-year legal career, he has been instrumental in helping to establish the Human Rights Act and the Equality Act.

Lester has dedicated his life to these causes. His personal anecdotes, found in every chapter, are often frank admissions of how hard his work has been. Commenting on his attempts to gain acknowledgement of human rights in the UK, he admits: “My successes were few. I found that I was able to achieve more in two years as a special adviser to Roy Jenkins at the Home Office... than in 10 years at the Bar.” This is what gives his book its special quality: few other lawyers would be able to do the subject matter justice.