Tuesday 4 October 2005 9.14pm
I agree with you. I grew up protesting about things in the UK, whether it was cruise missiles, Trident, unemployment, Murdoch sacking 5,000 people when he moved his papers to Wapping, supporting the miners, against the poll tax... the list seems to be endless, especially when I think about the 1980s and early 1990s. I think what has happened in the UK is that Blair has learned from Thatcher that if you have the support of a generally right-wing media, big business and a compliant bunch of well-whipped MPs in the House, you can generally ignore any protest you like. Even if 2 million people jam up the streets of London for over 6 hours to protest against your illegal invasion of Iraq. I'm sure he feels like the general election result was proof he could get away with it - sorry, vindication. [slaps own wrist for l√©se majest√© thoughts]
I'm on the side of protest and freedom of speech too, and increasingly it does seem as though that is being policed as if you were a terrorist. People have been arrested under terrorism laws for protesting about trade fairs selling arms, US bases in Britain, etc. In a law on serious crime passed earlier this year, a provision was slipped in to allow the government to ban all protest within a square kilometre of Parliament. It obviously has a general effect, but it was actually also designed to allow them to evict Brian Haw, who has been protesting about what is going on Iraq 24/7 since before the invasion took place. Fortunately they messed that up, since they didn't draft that part of the law well enough: it was found not to have retrospective effect. Since then there have been attempts
to hold picnics in Parliament Square every Sunday. These have been broken up by the police
, who are all really nice chaps (and chappesses) really, it's just the laws that the government have passed which are the problem.
I'm sure most people in Britain aren't aware that technically they have been living in a state of emergency since shortly after September 11, 2001. Not 7 July 2005, but 2001. The UK government - the only one in Europe to do - declared that we were all living in a state of emergency, because without doing so, they could not lawfully derogate from parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. This is still in place, as far as I know, the House of Lords judgement back in February on the illegal detention of people notwithstanding.
Back in 1974, Howard Brenton wrote the "The Churchill Play"
, which is starting to seem quite prescient. I recommend people read it or see it when it is next performed - I saw it in 1988 at the RSC when people were a little concerned about what Mrs T was doing to our civil liberties. Frankly, that was small fry compared to what Blair has done
So... yes... 'mind how you go'
. In the meantime, I've found that the blog Perfect
is quite a good place to keep track of these things. More positively, people might want to think about contributing to the POWER
inquiry into the future of democratic participation in Britain.