Readers respond to an article by George Monbiot about last-minute amendments to the bill, cracking down on the right to protest
There is likely to be a serious unintended consequence of the draconian anti-protest amendments that the home secretary, Priti Patel, has, as George Monbiot puts it, “crowbarred” into the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill (Jailed for 51 weeks for protesting? Britain is becoming a police state by stealth, 1 December). If the amendments enter the statute book, protests will probably become more violent.
When those taking part in demonstrations know from the outset that their participation alone could well lead to receiving a custodial sentence of up to 51 weeks, quite a few of them will be inclined to escalate their demonstration methods to make the sentence worthwhile. After all, what will they have to lose?
It is not just members of the public who should be opposing the government’s planned assault on the right to protest, but also the police.
• George Monbiot is right to be concerned about the loss of the right to meaningful protest. Mind you, these things cut both ways. When the UK finally realises the extent of the climate threat and is forced into rapid and severe changes to the economy (which could have been much more gradual if the government had acted 20 years ago), the people who want to take frequent flights, eat meat every day, drive SUVs and keep buying ever more stuff will find that they aren’t allowed to protest. If they try to make a nuisance of themselves when the price of fuel is increased, for example, the power of the state will deny them that right.
If only it were inevitable that our government would implement policies consistent with the climate emergency.
• While George Monbiot gives a litany of the repressive measures that the government is seeking to sneak into the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, it is also worth remembering the parallel nationality and borders bill. Here, the home secretary is planning measures to strip naturalised UK citizens of their citizenship on “reasonable grounds” and without notice, in the interests of national security or UK diplomatic relations.
Consequently, the Home Office could be able to exert undue pressure and even threaten with eventual deportation any naturalised UK citizen who makes awkward statements or would otherwise embarrass the interests of Britain’s more repressive allies. It would make UK citizens of Middle Eastern origin particularly vulnerable. It would also be a signal to former EU citizens and their children, struggling to legitimise their hard-won “settled status” in this country by applying for UK citizenship, that they will only possess a lower form of UK citizenship, which could be revoked without warning or appeal if the Home Office deemed that it would be conducive to the public good.
Of course, you should be able to trust the Home Office not to abuse such powers. Or pigs could fly.
• The overwhelmingly reactionary and anti-democratic policing bill presently going through parliament requires detailed and robust amendment by opposition MPs .
This will be a key test for the Labour party. While debate in parliament is likely to be an opportunity for detailed analysis by individual members, the overall party stance against the bill by the leadership is very likely to be an indication of its stand in a general election which is, quite possibly, coming next year.
Dr Alan Lafferty
• It is notable that many Tory MPs support draconian legislation that criminalises peaceful protests while simultaneously insisting that anti-Covid masks are an authoritarian threat to liberty. Are they exhibiting cognitive dissonance, or is it just rank hypocrisy?
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