Almost 40 Labour party members and supporters gathered for a fund-raising curry at the Jaipur Restaurant in Banbury on January 30. The food was excellent, but top of the menu was undoubtedly Banbury CLP Secretary, Terry Davis, who gave an enthralling account of his time, first as an MP, and then as Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, based in Strasbourg.
Terry’s five year-term as Secretary-General began in 2004 and took him to a number of European trouble spots, including Georgia at the time of the Russian invasion. He also found himself in the firing line from the Americans, who objected to his denunciation of extraordinary rendition, the abduction and illegal imprisonment of suspected terrorists by the CIA.
He recalled that the Council of Europe had been launched in London in 1949 by the foreign ministers of 10 countries, who were determined to prevent both another war and the abuses of human rights perpetrated by the Nazis. The Council now included 47 countries – almost twice as many as in the EU – all of them committed to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
One of its greatest achievements, Terry argued, was the establishment of the European Court of Human Rights in 1959, which gave an individual the right to challenge a government. Terry was puzzled that the Council was not better known, particularly among members of the Labour party. He reminded comrades of the two lines from the Red Flag:
The banner bright, the symbol plain
Of human rights and human gain.
‘That’s the Council of Europe,’ he declared. ‘That’s Socialism.’
(Report by Chris Farman)