On Radio 4’s Today programme Conservative MP Neil O’Brien said the Met Police had arrested some “protesters” prior to the coronation for potentially seeking to “set off rape alarms to scare the horses” (listen from the 2 hour 21 mark). It was pointed out that those arrested were members of Westminster Council’s safety team Night Stars, giving out rape alarms to bolster women’s safety from predators – some of whom, now knowing what we know, we can’t assume aren’t “legitimately” wearing police uniform.
That’s, er, pretty poor optics for the Met, who having happily employed known predator Wayne Couzens for years, then pulled out the stops to break up the peaceful vigil for his victim, Sarah Everard, now their officers are arresting people trying to protect women from rape. And days later, an MP of the governing party careens on, besmirching the Stars in defence of the Public Order Act under which they were arrested.
What does Labour say?
An act so heinously flawed, oppressive, undemocratic – yet the shadow foreign secretary David Lammy says any incoming Labour government wouldn’t repeal it. “We can’t come into office, picking through all the conservative legislation and repealing it,” Lammy said on LBC. “It would take up so much parliamentary time. We need a positive agenda.”
But that’s what governments do, they do good things by righting wrongs, they write good laws, they scrap bad ones. The first and only good thing the Tory-Lib Dem coalition did was scrap Labour’s ID cards, the vanguard as they were for a database state of breathtaking scope for authoritarian abuse.
Crocodile tears from the Met
So scrap this act, as used by the Met to arrest 64 people prior to and during the coronation, mainly members of the anti-monarchy group Republic. Arrests for which the force later expressed crocodile tears, as Republic’s leader Graham Smith told the BBC, the Met having otherwise expressed “no concerns about our protest plans” over months of discussions – though they ominously tweeted at the last minute their “tolerance would be low”. “They were well aware of what we were going to do and [said] they would engage with us and not disrupt us,” Smith said. The Met “repeatedly lied about their intentions, and I believe they had every intention of arresting us prior to doing so.”
Contempt for human rights protections
If you’d expect an arrestee to be disgruntled, the shadow foreign secretary should heed what the world’s already said about this act. Even before this bill passed, the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk called it “deeply troubling”, and is “incompatible with the UK’s international human rights obligations regarding people’s rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”.
A bill that is par for the course for a government displaying not just contempt for human rights protections, but actively sabotaging them at home and abroad, as the international NGO Human Rights Watch said. And specifically regarding the Public Order bill, the UK risks being listed as a “human rights abuser”, HRW warned just in April (meanwhile the Human Rights Act, that the UK Parliament with all due sovereign power enshrined into law the European Convention on Human Rights, remains under threat). See that tin-pot dictatorship the world’s holding not just in contempt but despair, Mr Shadow Foreign Sec.? You see that? That’s us.
Lee Anderson’s response
Maybe the Met’s regret is some kind of oblique slapback for having to enforce the law at all. After the Tory party vice-chair Lee Anderson’s excruciating slapdown by Met Commissioner Mark Rowley as Anderson mistook drooling a half-remembered Daily Mail op-ed down his shirt for a grounded view based on fact, and a ‘quiet word’ went to the Bill to enforce this brand-now law given venom for it.
Anderson, of course happily pushing the far-right’s regard for democracy, free speech, the right to dissent and all who died to defend those cornerstones of the UK’s polity, that people who disagree with having an unelected head of state should “get out”. Maybe it was Charles III himself arguing behind the scenes that while protesters from Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil may be on the same page as him re climate change, this was his day, interfere at your peril. I mean, it was him who signed off on this bill on 2 May.
Who is Lammy appealing to?
What days these have been, days heralding a new epoch of awful. The arrests came a day after the ruling party lost over 1,000 councillors, despite the government’s best efforts to suppress the vote (are these people truly incapable of even dictating competently?) Who were voters voting for, Lammy? Cos it wasn’t the Tories, not the Reform Party, not the UKIP party under Neil Hamilton with their nil MPs and nil councillors. So who are you appealing to, Lammy? David Davis attacked the act. Even Julia Hartley-Brewer thinks it’s bad.
This isn’t just an open goal to attack the incumbents – these are the absolute fundamentals of our country, of our standing in the world, of our rights as people, as human beings, of us all, regardless of view or hue, that need defending, or in this case, restoring. Our democracy is badly, badly damaged, and will remain ever thus with laws like this on the books. There is no point electing a new government that stands on the shoulders of such oppression. Indeed we have to assume they seek to benefit from.