Heading for a Civil Rights Clampdown?
Posted on March 15, 2021
Before it is buried under the next bit of news about vaccines, Shamima Begum or Prince Harry, I must write a few paragraphs about the new policing bill going before parliament.
Firstly, it probably would have slipped under the radar if it hadn’t been for the chaotic scenes at Clapham Common on Saturday. It would have been sneaked through the back door whilst we all indulge ourselves in Covid-19 stories. With 24-hour newsreel, it is nigh on impossible to keep on top of everything and the government know that.
Secondly, should we really care about more draconian laws to stop protests? One argument is that people shouldn’t be gathering in groups during a pandemic, so they get what they deserve. That, in my opinion, is an impulsive, ill thought reaction. It is also likely to be the reaction the government wanted.
Canary in a Coal Mine
You could argue that Clapham Common policing was a kind of ‘canary in a coal mine’ moment. That meaning it was put out there to test levels of public outrage. On one side, those who feel that a peaceful protest should be allowed. On the other, those who think the police should pile in, all batons blazing, and crack a few heads.
The government can’t lose. If there is public outrage at violence, blame the Met Police and chuck Cressida Dick under the bus. If there is public support, crack on with making protests harder to attend without fear of a prison sentence. This is where many MP’s, legal experts, and less impulsive members of the public, have become alarmed.
The argument being that Priti Patel is not fit for high office. She is impulsive, aggressive, and arrogant, without an ounce of human compassion. She would argue that it is the job of Home Secretary to be tough. However, it also requires good judgement and a level head. She has proved she possesses neither. She is a populist in the worst sense.
Why a Permanent Bill?
My theory is this. The government know what is coming post-pandemic as Brexit comes into sharper focus. It is the potential for pockets of civil unrest. if people start losing their jobs and homes, goodwill gained from a successful vaccine campaign, will evaporate. Let’s not even get into the unsolvable mess that Brexit has caused in Northern Ireland and the increasing desire for Scottish independence.
These are all very real and potentially violent flashpoints. brought on by what the government has implemented on us by pulling out of the customs union. So, what better time for a red herring clampdown. If more draconian protest laws were being put in place until lockdown ended, that, it could be reasonably argued, would be fair enough (despite mounting evidence that external events have little impact on Covid contagion).
However, something needs highlighting, and this is important if you believe in democracy. The policing bill being put to vote is a permanent fixture, not a Covid-19 one. That is why anyone who doesn’t have fantasies of what it was like to be one of Moseley’s Blackshirts, should be concerned where we are potentially heading.
Legal protests (even the ones we don’t agree with) are what makes a democracy. If they are made illegal, it’s no longer a democracy.