Democracy in action? The government was defeated in the House of Lords during Monday night’s debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Fourteen amendments were defeated in the Lords as the government attempted to reverse previous defeats to a bill that, when it becomes law, will effectively outlaw the way of life of Gypsies, Roma and Traveller communities and vastly increase police powers to arrest protesters and increase the penalties they face in court.
Misogyny was voted a hate crime in the face of government opposition. Peers did not believe Boris Johnson when he said
If you simply widen the scope of what you ask the police to do, you’ll just increase the problem.Johnson rejects calls for misogyny to be made a hate crime – video | Politics | The Guardian
Tell that to the million women a year who are victims of crime. If we quite rightly record racist and homophobic abuse as hate crimes, why not the misogynistic abuse of women?
Tell the truth
The police themselves have a history of homophobia, racism and misogyny. Perhaps that is why the government opposed an amendment requiring the police to tell the truth during public inquiries and criminal investigations. Do we really need a law to make the police tell the truth? Yes we do! That’s how close we are to becoming a police state.
Extending Police Powers
And if the police are too stretched to enforce a law against misogyny how will they manage with all the other demands on their time included in this legislation, like increased powers to stop and search? The police already choose which laws to prioritise: going after the poor and ignoring the criminal activity of the rich; harassing protestors against injustice and not the perpetrators of injustice, whether it is Black Lives Matter or violence against women.
The Right to Protest
Peers voted against what Lord Hain described as
the biggest threat to the right to dissent and protest in my lifetimeGovernment amendments to Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill defeated in House of Lords | Bond
The government wants the police to have the right to decide if a protest is too noisy or disruptive and ban it. Then there are Serious Disruption Orders, Protest Banning Orders, a year in jail for chaining yourselves together or attaching yourself to property. Ten years for damage to a statue! But if you are PM you can flout the Covid rules and you get to appoint a friend to conduct the inquiry.
Democracy Under Attack
The Police Bill Alliance, whose founding members include: Liberty, Bond, Friends, Families and Travellers, Quakers in Britain, and Friends of the Earth, points out that this is just one of many bills before parliament that attack our fundamental rights and threaten democracy. The government has defended the bill, saying it is not about curbing rights for the majority but about targeting a ‘selfish, minority of relentless reoffenders.’
“Relentless reoffenders?” They already regard us as criminals for exercising our rights. And it is thanks to relentless reoffenders throughout history, like the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the Suffragettes, that we have the rights we currently enjoy. The Tories want to criminalise us for exercising those rights, while giving themselves a free pass to engage in sleaze and corruption.
Kill The Bill!
We are not the minority. They are. We cannot rely on an unelected chamber to defend democracy against an authoritarian government seeking to crush all dissent. Democracy began on our streets and taking to those streets in unprecedented numbers is the best way to defend democracy. Kill The Bill!
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Life long socialist. Now retired, I have been an office junior, a bookseller, a docker and a teacher. I write a lot and read a lot more. Committed member of the Society of Authors, English PEN and the National Education Union. Uncommitted member of the Labour Party. Will they expel me before my direct debit expires?