Vladimir Putin delivers a speech in which he declares that he intends to take action, outside of the normal parameters of the law, to suppress the expression of certain views. Meanwhile China declares a raft of measures to prevent opponents gathering in public. In North Korea steps are announced to boost organisations that are compatible with the values held dear by Kim Jong Un.
Democratic nations across the world erupt in condemnation. Britain, with all its sense of decency and fair play, is strong in its criticism of these assaults on the sort of freedoms, let’s call them rights, which we hold dear.
Now read the speeches given today by Chris Grayling and Theresa May. The Lord Chancellor declared he knows how the British people really feel about human rights. And he will, sometime soon, share that with us.
The Home Secretary speaks of new measures that will be targeted at people and groups who “stay just within the law but spread poisonous hatred.”
Read that again. May is looking to criminalise behaviour that is not currently criminal for a certain sector of society. The powers will include banning taking part in public protests, from being present at all in certain public locations, from associating with named people, from using of conventional broadcast media and will grant a power to vet the content of posts on social media. Social media like this blog.
These proposals come not from a dictator or totalitarian regime. They just sound like they do.
These powers will be available to use against “those who challenge democracy” or those who pose a risk of the commission of the very lowest of Public Order Act offences. Now that would include someone who held anarchist or communist views. Or someone who was at risk of swearing at a policeman…..
If the rights and freedoms of the individual are worth going to war for, they are worth protecting in law. It is no coincidence that the Lord Chancellor, a politician who has already eroded the rights of the citizen to challenge the state in judicial review proceedings, has declared war on human rights on the same day that the Home Secretary proposes a curtailment of those very rights.
Actually that gives me a thought. The attack by the Lord Chancellor on access to justice and judicial review could be seen as a real threat to democracy. Perhaps we could use the Home Secretary’s new powers to ban them associating with each other and to starve them of the oxygen of publicity.
Now that is a suppression of free speech I could go for.