Protest is a fundamental right- Whether it’s to stand up against corn-drunk overlords in the feudal days, to gather a party and march on the palace in the days of absolute monarchy or to kneel in Millennium Square in Leeds in solidarity with the people of colour whose lives have been stunted by racism and racists, protest is in our blood, our bones, our DNA.
We use protest from the macro to the grandiose, every time we tell a boss they can’t treat the office poorly, every time we tell a stranger to stop behaving inappropriately- but it’s most contentious use is to speak out against those who wield power against us. Holding power and wielding power irresponsibly are not bedfellows, but in this dark and twisted timeline, somehow these two disparates have been conflated: a government who uses its power against you is not normal. A government should be in thrall to it’s people. The tories are not, Least of all Suella Braverman whose new bill poses the most open assault on British freedom in recent years. George Monbiot has done a masterful thread on Twitter, explaining the thorny new bill proposed by Suella Braverman.
PMQ’s today was, as always, an exercise in futility. From the opposition benches came questions of hole-filled economic policy, accusations of not being up to the job, frank concerns raised about people who will die in freezing rooms or alone with mental turmoil this winter- and from the tory benches, foolish rambling nonsense about rugby teams and “will the right honourable lady agree with me that…” which benefits nobody.
Tory, labour, SNP, Greens… it doesn’t matter the alignment of the person on those benches- to constituents facing the very real possibility of poverty these ridiculous questions do not matter. It is long since PMQs was of any real use to the people of this country. Now elected to stand before the dispatch box is the shambling corpse of a party once elected as fiscally competent until this prime minister hollowed out the British economy, or thought of as the party of law and order until the last prime minister broke fundamentally vital safety laws in office.
But one point not raised was the new legislation dragged from the dungeons by Suella Braverman.
Braverman’s public order bill is an authoritarian monstrosity, forcing those who have attended protests- even peaceful, planned protests- to submit to government tagging, monitoring and threatening custodial sentences for anyone who encourages others to protest online. Draconian is not the word- Suellenian is, because Suella Braverman is a step past draconian.
Under this bill any protest activity is essentially treated as extremism, including retrospectively. Protest in the last five years did you? Did you attend BLM protests? Pro EU marches? Strike action? Or on the converse side… anti lockdown marches… then you can be forced to wear an electronic tag like a shoplifting teen, forced to register your whereabouts and you are forbidden on penalty of prison from using the internet to speak about protesting. I abhorred the anti lockdown protesters, because I knew that they would spread the virus that took me to the floor, and make the entire ordeal of lockdowns and restrictions last longer- but they still had the right to do it as surely as I did over BLM or trans lives.
This bill takes a paring knife to the few dried strips of flesh left on the bone of English protest rights (it does, happily, not extend to devolved nations), meaning that English people would be fundamentally unable to speak out against this government- and why would this be? This is, after all, the government who has, since 2016, parroted the will of the people at every turn. If the will of the people was of concern to the conservatives, they would surely be happy about any way in which they can hear it? And of course, a government doing a successful job wouldn’t need to legislate against people speaking out against it. Imagine being so bad at governance that, instead of doing the things people want and need you to do, you just legally stop them from complaining.
But this isn’t the only gaping irony exposed by this new behemoth-bill.
it’s less than three weeks since Truss stood at the tory party conference, gesticulating into the glossy eyed audience as she exclaimed at her excitement over wanting to be “a small governance” government, who doesn’t care “what you do in your personal life”- one does not have to care if one legally restricts you from doing what you want. And foolishly, Truss supporters (however few) gulp down this nonsense as fact. This government cares deeply what you do in your personal life, if that in any way diverges from their bold vision of autonomous workers free of the thorny legislation that means you get time off, holidays, sick pay and protection from bosses who will force you to work without adequate protections, legislative or physical.
Truss promised bold restoration of tory party values- a simple task, as the tory party has no values left, all consigned to the pyre of anti EU gesticulation and empty flag waving. Today at PMQs she declared she is “a fighter, not a quitter” which ironically is the main problem people have with her- we want you to quit, just call an election first and consign your twelve years of mayhem to the dustbin heap on which it belongs. It won’t be long before anti protest legislation pales into irrelevance because so many people are sick of Truss, sick of Tories, that there aren’t enough police in the entire UK to prevent the uprising on the horizon. Like the star tattoos of the early 00s, I imagine in five years time we’ll all be comparing our DBS checks to show which version of ridiculous protest law we were slapped with, and anyone without a disclosure will be deemed quaint or disparaged as an enabler of these eternal shysters.
When thousands of people took to the streets of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool to protest against the police crime courts and sentencing bill the government studiously ignored it: I myself was at one protest in Leeds, flanked by police officers. “Do you actually want this” I asked of one, who simply stared ahead, ignoring me. “Do you want people to not even be able to stand here and say how they feel”. Nothing.
Now that bill is passed into law- protesting is functionally illegal without assent from the local police force. Think about that, in conjunction with the recently released report on the institutional failures of the Met to tackle its long raised issues with homo and transphobia, misogyny, violence in the ranks, the officers who protect each other from domestic abuse claims… We need to gain consent from those to whom consent means nothing in both bedroom and street, to protest against them. Protesters are being imprisoned for tearing down likenesses of our racist ancestors who used humans as cargos, because Braverman, who uses phrases like “tofu eating wokerati”, is fighting an ideological war of one.
Braverman is a step down from the bottom-basement step of Priti Patel. Her utter obsession with forcing conformance on Brits is madness. She claims to stand for free speech but is compelling people not to respect gender identity, she decries political correctness whilst demanding people speak the way she wants. She is not the last bastion of free speech, she is a desperate attempt to utterly destroy it. If you don’t speak like Braverman wants she hopes to criminalise you, and if you act in a way she disagrees with she will craft legislation so harsh that countries like China and Russia seem moderate in comparison.
Braverman is the burning ember of what is left from the tories desperate hoovering up of the cigarette ends of UKIP and other extremist parties, a useful puppet too stupid to understand contrition or politeness: her main issue with the phrase “politically correct” is that she’s never been correct once in her life, fondled by Johnson into the job of attorney general despite her lack of qualifications and legal nous. Lawyers and human rights experts alike went from rolling their eyes at her endless open mouthed nonsensical rambles like her anaemic defence of Johnson on question time to being slack jawed themselves at her appointment to Home Secretary. She is spectacularly hypocritical, a woman who shakes her fist at everything EU whilst benefitting from the Erasmus program she supported the scrapping of and someone who desperately refrains back to the idea that her way of living is freedom whilst she legislatively obliterates any other ways to be.
This law is the latest attempt from the tories to curtail any anger at their behaviour and it’s another inch on the rope around their necks: legislate away, Suella- when the dam breaks and the tsunami of frustration boils over, no amount of yellowed legal paper containing your photocopied signature will protect you from the reality of our displeasure with tory malfeasance.
But fight we must, against this. Braverman is convinced, in the face of an overwhelming amount of evidence, that she is correct. The British public must speak up and speak out against her, until her meek bleating is lost in the concerted cacophony of British people telling her in no uncertain terms that we have had enough of her, and of her party.
Until this time though, when finally we Brits come together as we must and take to the streets, I ask the readers of this blog to reach out to your MPs. Teenagers gluing themselves to roads or walls in protest of climate issues is less of a threat to our way of life than ever more condescending bills being thrust before the eyes of the unelected lords- I urge you to tell your MPs that you will in no way foster this bill being taken through to royal assent. And if your MP is a Labour MP I urge you to gain confirmation that labour will commit to reversing this, and all other degenerate protest laws the tories have put in place since their mind bending decision to back the dead end of brexit.
The UK is waking up to the tories and we will take back our country from this vile government. The only legislation I want to see is legislation that protects the people, by ensuring that this criminal cabal will never see power again.
Daviemoo is a 34 year old independent writer, radicalised into blogging about the political state of the world by Brexit and the election of serial failures like Trump and Johnson. Please check out the rest of the blog, check out Politically Enraged, the podcast available on all streaming platforms and share with your like minded friends! Also check him out on ko-fi where you can keep him caffeinated whilst he writes.