Nadine Dorries, Conservative MP and notoriously less than fully truthful blogger has said (in said blog) of yesterday’s student demonstration against the proposed hike in tuition fees:
The NUS informed the Police that there would be 5000 students attending the demonstration yesterday. They upgraded that to 15,000 on Tuesday night. The final figure was possibly as much as twice that number.
The final figure was a lot higher than even that. It’s was demonstrable evidence that, far from being apathetic, students can get motivated to stand up for what they believe in.
The students arrived from all over the country, many in NUS organised coaches.
There are many eye witness accounts of NUS officials being right in the middle of the mêlée which ensued.
Are there? I’d be surprised if Ms Dorries can provide any evidence of this. I was there and saw no evidence of anything of the sort.
Many of the students who attended were visibly shaken at what was unfolding before their eyes.
The staff working in the offices at Milbank were terrified.
Someone threw an extinguisher off the roof which easily, so easily, could have killed someone.
Sir Paul Stephenson, has been incredibly professional in the way he has come out this morning and taken the hit on the chin.
Many of us MPs don’t believe that is right. Westminster was swarming last night with literally hundreds of Police officers. If Sir Paul had known the correct number of students attending, maybe he could have had enough Police in place quickly enough.
I think that’s an unbelievably naive position to take. So Aaron Porter underestimated the numbers he expected – that’s entirely beside the point. The point is the Met allowed a student protest to run past Tory Party HQ, and then chose to defend it with only a dozen beat cops. I’m not defending the violence in any way, but common sense should have told them that that sort of planning was downright incompetent. Well done to the Met – I agree – for not going in and busting heads the way I thought they were going to, and they should of course prosecute the rioter who threw the extinguisher down at the police, but to blame the NUS for the Met’s incompetent advance planning is just ridiculous.
It appears that the President of the NUS, Aaron Porter, did not brief him adequately. The NUS organised a demonstration which has resulted in people in hospital and students with criminal records, before they have even had time to fill in a job application form.
It was an NUS demonstration. It is not good enough that today they want to distance themselves from what happened with a ‘not me Gov’ statement. They cannot.
Sure they can, and they are right to. It’s preposterous to hold the NUS to account for the behaviour of every single person associated with the protest, be they student or not – there were far more than the 50,000 some reports have suggested attended. How on earth could the people responsible for organising a peaceful protest be expected to manage each and every participant on the ground? Porter himself strongly denounced the violence from an early stage, the Met were extremely slow to respond (I know – unlike Ms Dorries I was actually there) and the stewards were desperately trying to shepherd demonstrators away from Millbank Tower. Maybe they should have been better trained, or there should have been more of them, but I doubt that would have had any noticeable effect on what happened. I also doubt the numbers attacking the tower would have been that much fewer, if the total overall number of protesters had been lower.
It is not good enough that the police are expected to shoulder all of the blame.
Aaron Porter should resign. He was the architect of a dangerous demonstration which could have resulted in the loss of life.
An ignorant thing to say, based on at best questionable motives. He was the architect of a peaceful, legitimate demonstration and had nothing whatsoever to do with the violence which impinged on it. Ms Dorries should be ashamed of herself.
The Police should be congratulated for what they did manage to achieve in the face of adversity.
Everyone has a right to peaceful demonstration. No one has a right to terrify and endanger the lives of others. Aaron Porter was responsible for that. It was an NUS demonstration and therefore they are fully responsible.
Yes they should – those on the ground had to put up with a mob, some of whose members were throwing missiles at them for no discernible reason. But to blame Porter for that is contemptible and I believe Ms Dorries should be condemned by every right minded person associated with or aware of the protest. Same old Tories, eh?
by Chris Barnyard
A spokesperson for the J4J (Justice For Jean) campaign last week condemned the decision to give former Met Police chief Ian Blair a peerage as an “insult”.
This seems like a final flourish of a discredited Parliamentary system handing out tawdry awards to political allies and cronies. Actions like this only reinforce the impression that politicians remain detached from the views of ordinary British people.
Jean Charles De Menezes was shot by Met Police officers in 2005. An investigation later showed the Met Police repeatedly tried to block the inquiry into his death.
Vivian Figuereda, cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes, who lived with him at the time of his death said:
We are disgusted at this decision. As Commissioner, we believe Ian Blair was ultimately accountable for the death of Jean, for the lies told and the cover up. He even tried to stop the IPCC investigating our cousin’s death. This is a final slap in the face for our family.
Blogger Kevin Blowe added:
Quite how someone, who deliberately delayed an investigation into a hugely controversial death and whose force was found to have made nineteen catastrophic errors that endangered the lives of Londoners, could ever been viewed as fit to serve in the House of Lords, or provide the benefits of his ’specialist knowledge’, is quite beyond me. Once again, it rather makes the case for the abolition of the Lords so that such blatant acts of patronage are no longer possible.
So this is the important bit in the Deputy Prime Minister’s speech, promising a bright, new, un-authoritarian future, with:
Landmark legislation, from politicians who refused to sit back and do nothing while huge swathes of the population remained helpless against vested interests.
Who stood up for the freedom of the many, not the privilege of the few.
A spirit this government will draw on as we deliver our programme for political reform: a power revolution.
A fundamental resettlement of the relationship between state and citizen that puts you in charge.
‘Much in this new Government statement accords with the BHA’s policies we set out in our own manifestos ahead of the election and with the principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We particularly welcome moves to increase freedom of speech, and a reformed House of Lords which, by being fully elected, would necessarily remove the right of Bishops to sit in our second chamber.’
‘We also look forward to making our case for the repeal and revision of unjust, restrictive and discriminatory laws, such as those which require compulsory worship on our school children – a clear violation of their freedom of conscience – and those which unfairly restrict the right to free speech and protest.’
I think Copson is generally right but there are serious problems here. Clegg’s ideas are laudable, but there are as yet no indications as to how he thinks he’ll implement them – moving children of asylum seekers from one detention centre to another (particularly one with a notorious reputation) is not a remotely adequate solution. Much of the push towards ID cards came from within the civil service itself, and there is still an entrenched authoritarian culture in government agencies which needs urgent tackling; just yesterday the new government took the same stand on control orders as its predecessor.
I don’t just expect a repeal of New Labour’s surveillance state laws, I expect a change in culture to uphold the rule of law and to abide by evidence-based policy making. That means not just accepting the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling on the National DNA Database, but abiding by rulings against denying prisoners the vote and on the legality of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. I’m worried that now in government Clegg is going to pick and choose what works for him and what doesn’t and not challenge the vested interests, defeat of whom really would make the “most significant programme of empowerment by a British government since the great enfranchisement of the 19th Century” much more than overexcited hyperbole.
After a first week with Labour and the Conservatives (henceforth Labservatives) refusing to talk about civil liberties and human rights, both completely ignoring issues around the government’s authoritarian agenda, the Lib Dems have finally created an opening with the release of their manifesto:
Speaking to the Guardian, the Lib Dem leader said he was shocked by the lack of reference to civil liberties in the Labour manifesto, and highlighted his own plans to scrap the next generation of biometric passports, and its communication base.
He said: “It’s a measure of the authoritarian streak of the Labour party that it didn’t refer once to liberty in its own manifesto.
“Civil liberties and individual freedoms are part of the DNA of the Lib Dems. It makes a compete mockery of the claim by Gordon Brown that he can speak for progressive voters in other parties when his own party has turned its back on one of the cornerstones of progressive politics.
The manifesto, part of which has been seen by the Guardian, proposes to set up a “stop unit” inside the Cabinet Office responsible for preventing anti-libertarian legislation, including the creation of new criminal offences.
Now that really is a clear blue line between the parties. I fully accept that many outcomes of the authoritarian project have been accidental – the RIPA legislation for example hasn’t been used remotely as intended, and nor for that matter has Section 44 of the Terrorism Act, although it’s probably debatable whether either piece of legislation was ever necessary. Joined up thinking like this is what we were promised in 1997, but it never happened.
The Liberal Democrats claimed scrapping biometric passports could save £3bn over the course of a parliament, the first time the party has mentioned this saving. It also calls for regulation of closed-circuit television, measures to stop councils spying on people, and new guidelines to prevent unfair extraditions to the US.
The manifesto says the Lib Dems would stop children being fingerprinted at school without their parents’ permission and promises to restore the right to protest by reforming the Public Order Act to safeguard non-violent protest.
Restrictions would be introduced to narrow the scope of injunctions and there are proposals to protect free speech and investigative journalism.
Very nice. It’s something which was discussed last night at the Hostile Reconnaissance event. Grand principles are being brushed aside in the name of ‘security’, and it’s time particular protections such as these were itemised, codified and legislated for.
The party is in favour of reforms to the English and Welsh libel laws: corporations would have to show damage and prove malice or recklessness to mount a successful court challenge against journalists. The party also calls for a £10,000 cap on individual donations, down from its previous pledge to impose a £50,000 cap.
More like it yet again. Just what were Labour promising again?
At the manifesto launch on Wednesday, Clegg will promise to scrap control orders, which can use secret evidence to place people under house arrest, as well as reduce the maximum period of pre-charge detention to 14 days. The second-generation biometric passport, which includes fingerprints, is not due to be scrapped by the Tories, even though they do propose to drop the national identity register.
What’s clear here is that the Lib Dems are committed to rolling back the authoritarian agenda itself. The Tories are promising to make tweaks here and there and changes of focus, but the agenda itself under them would without question remain. These commitments give voters a reason to vote for them actively, rather than just voting against the other main parties. I wonder though what pressures they would find themselves under if they really were in government, given that (again as came out in the Hostile Reconnaissance event last night) the party is wedded to neoliberal economic policies? So much of Labour’s agenda has arisen from that reality, and I wonder what any Lib Dem’s views on this are.
But the Lib Dems will argue it is not necessary to spend billions of pounds on storing fingerprints in passports, and say Britain already has a type of biometric passport known as an e-passport, which stores 16 facial measurements (along with your name and passport number) in the chip at the back.
Clegg said he would also scrap the communications database for which companies would be paid to store information about everyone’s email and internet use, including storing data about what you do on social networking sites such as Facebook and online computer games.
It sure sounds good. Is it now incumbent for as many of us as possible to vote Lib Dem at any cost in order to express our feelings on this vitally important issue?
The man who wants to be Prime Minister isn’t above the odd terminological inexactitude, any more than the incumbent. From his article today in The Times:
So instead, we are asking you to join in the government of your nation. We want everyone to get involved in the running of their country. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you want — we are offering you a heartfelt invitation to join with us and help change Britain for the better.
What an absolute fraud. As Graham Linehan on Twitter says:
A week ago, MPs ignored thousands of people who wanted a proper debate on #debill. Now, they want us to “get involved”. They can go hang.
They can indeed. New Labour promises ‘power back in your hands’:
The people will be given ‘the power to decide’ how to make parliament more ‘accountable’ and ‘democratic’, they say. Another utter fraud. They’ve already had their opportunity to be accountable and democratic, tens of thousands of us asked them to and almost to a number they refused. This general election is a whole lot of hot air – meaningless promises offering nothing to anyone. What we need is a proportional voting system. What we need is an elected Senate to replace the House of Lords. What we need is fixed term parliaments to remove the need for ‘wash up’ periods. What we need is new blood coming into the Commons who aren’t career politicians. What we don’t need is yet more platitudes about how we should ‘get involved’, but Cameron more than Brown has no interest in relinquishing the power necessary for that to mean anything.
This is what is known on t’internet as a #fail. A future built on Green and digital industries? Vestas anyone? Digital Economy Bill? More police on the beat, yet less accountable than ever before, and more frequently a law unto themselves. Voicing opinions more than once every five years? Why then such strident attacks on protest and photographers; why ignore mass protests like the campaign against the Digital Economy Bill? If people’s opinions really are that important why kick the referendum on voting reform into touch? And where’s a fully elected Senate to replace the House of Lords? Do these people think we’re idiots?!
If by some miracle New Labour manages to get re-elected again based on this, we’re going to Hell sooner than I’d imagined…
Roy Hattersley is right. We can say ‘good riddance’ to this disgrace of a parliament, after the expenses scandal, cash-for-lobbying, the undemocratic railroading of the Digital Economy Bill and so many other deliberate failures:
Events in the House of Commons are to blame. Even in the golden age of Gladstone and Disraeli, Members of Parliament were unpopular. Today they are held in contempt. The one hope for this year’s place in political history is that it will mark a turning point — the year when the rehabilitation of democracy began. Perhaps things had to get this bad before they got better.
The superficial explanation for the voters’ antipathy to politicians is summed up in one damning word: corruption. It is impossible — believe me, I have tried — to convince the general public of the basic truth that we have a fundamentally honest Parliament and most of its members are men and women of principle. But the expenses scandal and the humiliating television pictures of former ministers touting for work were regarded only as confirmation of what the people already knew. The past five years have reinforced the belief that politicians have no firm convictions. The question that overshadows all the parties is: “But what do they stand for?”
Easy: they stand for power, gaining it and retaining it at all costs, and New Labour has turned that into its entire raison d’etre. This is not what people want. Except with the voting system we have, where is the genuine pressure to force a tipping point? Hattersley thinks it’s already happened, but the signing of the Digital Economy Bill into law today suggests we’re far from one. When all parties are competing for a small number of floating voters in a very few marginal constituencies why should MPs care one iota what we think or want? The electorate wants a return to ideology, but even an unprecedentedly large social media campaign couldn’t bring that about. Labour dropped its commitment to a referendum on voting reform; the Tories have no interest in reform at all, so I personally have no idea at all where this corruption is going to end. The likeliest immediate outcome will be a growth in apathy and extremism long after this parliament, and these power-hungry, self-serving idiots will be to blame.
The government has for months ignored the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) ruling that its policy of indefinite retention of the DNA of people not convicted of a crime was illegal. Home Secretary Alan Johnson today played further mischief with the human rights of hundreds and thousands of entirely innocent people, purely for partisan political advantage in the pre-general election ‘wash up’ period:
The Conservatives have dropped their opposition to the government’s crime and security bill, including its controversial provisions to allow the police to retain the DNA profiles of innocent people for up to six years.
Instead of blocking the bill, the shadow home secretary, Chris Grayling, made a fresh commitment that the Tories would bring in early legislation to ensure the DNA profiles of innocent people arrested for minor offences would not be retained on the national police DNA database.
“We will not seek to block this bill because the indefinite retention of innocent people’s DNA is unacceptable and has been ruled illegal,” said Grayling.He added that on taking office the Conservatives would also change the official guidance to the police, to give people the automatic right to have their DNA withdrawn from the database if have been wrongly accused of a minor crime.The decision follows a threat by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, to ditch the DNA provisions of the crime and security bill entirely, unless the Conservatives dropped their opposition to keeping profiles of innocent people on the database for up to six years.
Johnson said this morning he would pull all provisions from the amendment bill today if the Tories refuse to assent to the government’s plans. The bill is destined for this afternoon’s wash-up session to complete the government’s legislative programme ahead of the dissolution of parliament for the election.
Johnson told Sky News: “This is a basic example of how they [the Tories] talk tough on crime but act soft.”
I don’t normally use strong language on this blog, but what a cynical bastard the Home Secretary is. He’d rather play politics with one of the most important human rights issues in Britain today, and keep the country in breach of the Court’s ruling, instead of ensuring there was a system of appeal for people even to argue for their removal from the database. Yet more undemocratic game playing in the ‘wash up’ period by a government which has presided over the most out-of-touch, corrupt and inept parliament in living memory. The right to privacy and the presumption of innocence are commodities too precious to use as electioneering bargaining chips. When will this abuse end?
Remember the previous post about the pre-general election ‘wash up’? The Tories are now making mischief with sex education. From Ed Balls’ letter on his website to his shadow Michael Gove:
I am especially disappointed that, despite our conversation yesterday, you could not agree to make PSHE statutory in all state-funded schools. There is now widespread agreement that statutory PSHE is essential to prepare young people for adult life, and our reforms would ensure that by reducing the age of parental opt-out to 15, all children receive at least one year of compulsory sex and relationship education (SRE).
There is a large body of evidence showing that good SRE leads to young people taking greater responsibility and waiting longer to have their first sexual experience and thus reduced teenage pregnancy rates. It is because of this the provisions of the Bill had received such significant support in Parliament and more broadly across the sector, with faith groups and with parents.
As I explained yesterday, your insistence that parents should have a right to withdraw their children until they reach the age of 16 – the age at which they are in many respects considered adults – makes it impossible for us to proceed. Both British and European case law do not support an opt-out up to the age of 16. As I explained when we discussed yesterday, that amendment would have meant that the bill would not have been compliant with the ECHR. Your insistence that the age limit must be increased to 16 would have made the entire bill non-compliant with UK and European law and, therefore, our lawyers advised me that, as Secretary of State, I had no choice but to remove all the PSHE provisions.
This is a very significant set back, which will deny many young people proper and balanced sex and relationships education. I also strongly disagree with your insistence that children and young people attending academies should be excluded.
What a surprise. From the Shadow Home Secretary’s stumble over gay rights, we now move to the Shadow Children’s Secretary showing no interest whatsoever in empowering young people. And of course Balls (albeit hypocritically) shows they have no interest in human rights – they’re committed to repealing the Human Rights Act after all. The closer we get to May 6th the more the Tories start to reveal themselves as just as nasty as they were last time they were in power. Don’t be fooled for a moment about what these people are really like and for Heaven’s sake don’t vote for them.
An explanation of what has begun today in parliament, in advance of the general election: a constitutional stitch-up of the highest order. Having already betrayed us by abusing their expenses system, they’re about to do so again by betraying the democratic system itself.
Hear Gorvid Camerown explain why youll be voting Labservative at the General Election.
Labour MP Tom Watson has attacked the Digital Economy Bill, due for its second reading on 6th April:
Last night Labour MP Tom Watson hit out at the government’s Digital Economy Bill, expected to be passed in April 2010, expressing concerns that the legislation is being pushed through parliament without sufficient time for debate.
Speaking before an audience of senior games industry figures at last night’s ELSPA Question Time event, Watson, MP for West Bromwich East and founder of online videogame advocacy group Gamers’ Voice, condemned the bill as ‘futile, ignorant and inept’, and the expected manner of its passing as a ‘constitutional impropriety’. He accused representatives from the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and his own party’s front bench of a “back room deal”.
This parliament is more than a shambles, it’s a disgrace. They’ve stolen taxpayers’ money; they’re now trying to avoid their responsibilities yet further by not giving proper democratic debate and parliamentary scrutiny to a bill which threatens to gut multiple civil rights and human rights of pretty much everyone in the country. Click here to donate to 38 Degrees – the pressure group campaigning to force parliament to either tackle the bill according to their remit, or to drop it entirely. Our freedom of speech depends on it.
Following yesterday’s ban on the ‘legal high’ mephedrone, Britain’s Labour Party has today declared itself illegal as part of an ongoing crackdown on readily-available ‘dangerous governments’.
The controversial political organisation – which has been linked to numerous tragic pieces of legislation during the last thirteen years – will tomorrow be upgraded to a Class ‘B’ party.
The ban comes as a welcome relief to millions of disillusioned Labour supporters, who accuse Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of telling them “how high we’d get if we voted Labour – but not how low”.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson told a packed press conference this morning: “I have consulted with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Political Parties, and on their recommendation I am rushing through a law that will make my government illegal, at roughly tea-time tomorrow.”
“This legislation will also enshrine a generic definition to stop unscrupulous politicians peddling different but equally harmful political parties, such as the Conservatives,” he continued.
But Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg condemned the move as a cynical ploy to win the ‘junkie’ vote and edge his own party out of the reckoning.
“Until today, Labour and Tory politicians alike could talk to the smackheads’ hands, but the smackheads’ faces weren’t listening,” he said.
“Now, every bloody mephedrone-honking hoodied scally will be gagging for their illicit fix of two-party state shit – and we Lib-Dems will be consigned to the terminally unhip dustbin of staid and proper legality.”
“I daren’t canvass in da ghettoes after dis, innit,” he simpered, in what he genuinely believed to be a convincing stab at urban vernacular.
Meanwhile Conservative leader David Cameron welcomed the ban, but described it as “long overdue”.
“If this legislation had been in force in the 1970s we’d have been spared the tragedy of Thatcher, Heseltine, Howe, Lawson, Bottomley, Archer, Howard, Patten, Portillo, Major, Blair, Prescott, Cook, Mandelson, Campbell, Blunkett, Smith, Balls, Miliband, Miliband and Johnson,” he said.
“Or then again, maybe not. You know what UK voters are like when they’re off their faces on miaow-miaow.”
Brendan O’Neill argues that the authoritarian New Labour project had it’s origins in the aftermath of two year old James Bulger’s murder in 1993:
For the changing Labour Party and its supporters in the media and the intelligentsia, the murder of Bulger became powerfully symbolic – of out-of-control communities, of the rise of individualism at the cost of community solidarity, and primarily of the dangers of ‘too much freedom’. It is striking that it was Tony Blair, who was then shadow home secretary but would later, of course, become the colossus of New Labour, who most keenly exploited the Bulger tragedy. For him, the killing was not a mercifully rare or inexplicable occurrence, but a ‘hammer blow struck against the sleeping conscience of the country, urging us to wake up and look unflinchingly at what we see’.
What Blair and his supporters saw was a society that needed more ‘order’ and ‘respect’ – his two favourite buzzwords of the time. The killing of Bulger revealed a ‘moral vacuum’, said Blair in 1993, and ‘if we do not learn and then teach the value of what is right and what is wrong, the result is simply moral chaos, which engulfs us all’. Blair had already been presenting New-ish Labour as the true party of tackling crime (he made his famous promise to be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ just a month before Bulger was murdered) and as one sympathetic biographer points out, the Bulger killing finally showed that Labour ‘had taken the issue of law and order away from the Conservatives and made it part of the Labour agenda’.
It’s a strong and unsettling piece of analysis, particularly the line about ‘too much freedom’. In the last 13 years New Labour has used that implied excess to justify its entire authoritarian experiment, from underpinning its identity strategy to attempting to lock people up for 42 days without charge, to justifying the Digital Economy Bill. Because there haven’t been mass protests in the streets, because the tabloids aren’t currently campaigning against the Independent Safeguarding Authority, you have to assume Blair got it right, at least in electoral terms. There does appear to be an attitude that ‘too much freedom’ is a bad thing, which just manages to justify the surveillance state, despite continuing potshots taken against it. O’Neill is right when he later describes the whole ‘rights and responsibilities’ narrative: obedience to the state before you are allowed to access constitutional basics which had previously been sacrosanct. It’s not how the modern state has ever operated before, but at least New Labour is winning against evil teens and pre-teens, and then the bogeymen it’s developed since: paedophiles, terrorists and ‘pirates’; order is everything, and who’s to know it’s all a fraud?
Through the permanent demonisation of Jon Venables and Robert Thompson New Labour has managed to convince us that there are people in our midst who are fundamentally evil, whom we need absolute protection from. The ISA, ID cards, the Digital Economy Bill, you name it, the name of the game is to protect through subjugation. It’s an equation which has proven successful in different ways in Russia, China, Singapore, even the United States (Patriot Act anyone?), and given the right-wing dominance over the press in this country I don’t see it coming apart any time soon.