Politically Speaking: By Jon Trickett, MP for Hemsworth

We must be allowed to fight against injustice

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 11:05 am
PROTEST: The bill could take away your right to protest. Pic: Getty Images

I recently voted against the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill.

The bill aims to fundamentally shift power in our country away from people and further into the control of the state.

Working people have fought for rights, such as the right to protest, throughout history. We cannot allow this government to sweep them away.

This bill weakens protections for the most vulnerable and undermines our right to fight against injustice.

The tragic case of Sarah Everard is a prime example why these powers should not be enacted.

For a government that seeks to pride itself on freedom and liberty these measures are nothing more than authoritarian.

The Tories have form on this. For example, giving immunity to people abroad serving our country who commit torture.

But it doesn’t stop there. They have also provided protection to state agents breaking the law in our country, including the crime of rape.

Clause 59 of the government’s bill continues their attack on justice and our fundamental rights by proposing a 10-year jail sentence for causing risk of ‘serious annoyance’. The key word here is ‘risk’.

There are many things that we do on a daily basis that might cause ‘annoyance’ but the government has concocted such a broad criminal offence that it is unclear what it could include.

These measures are the actions of dictatorships and repressive regimes. Not that of an open and free democracy.

The Tories have set their sights on our tradition of dissent. Their proposals are designed to crack down on our rights to take action against injustice. Black Lives Matter activists, workers who take industrial action, environmentalists and the women’s movement are all in their sights.

What the government has in their sights are the ancient rights of assembly and freedom of association, which are now threatened by clause 59. The fundamental right to free speech means nothing if these other freedoms come under attack.

Imagine not being able to demonstrate against the privatisation of the NHS or against austerity, poverty or even campaigning for justice – just like the WASPI campaign did so effectively.

We may end up with a situation in which we are free to shout at the telly in the privacy of our own homes but not free to organise ourselves collectively in public.

Instead of standing against injustice alongside the women on Clapham common recently, the government appears more interested in empowering the police force to arrest people who the state judges to have risked causing annoyance.

It is interesting that many police officers have said that they do not wish that power to be bestowed upon them.

This House of Commons should act as a protector of our rights to speak, associate freely and assemble in public to express our views about how the country is going. Repressive legislation will never eliminate the hunger for justice that remains so powerful in our country today.

History shows that those who ‘risk annoyance’ have changed our country for the better. Making it fairer and stamping out discrimination.

The tragedy is the Tories are seeking to erase this.