The first visible signs of a panicking Tory government’s authoritarian motives are here, in the shape of the Public Order Act – so why is Keir Starmer’s Labour not stamping it out?
Now that the Royal dust has somewhat settled post-Coronation, it’s a good time to step back and take a critical look at the events that happened over the King’s big weekend, with the passage of time acting as an antidote for the terrible-sounding ‘Coronation fever’ that seemed to make the entire population of London lose its mind.
The most notable news from the event, outside of what Kate Middleton was wearing, of course, was that anti-monarchy protesters were pounced upon by ravenous police officers, who expertly sniffed out any opportunity to be a jobsworth. Six protesters were detained, which was allowed thanks to the shiny news Public Order Act that the government was desperate to show off.
The Act appears to be a flaccid attempt from a floppy government to restore some faith in the justice system, amid some public frustration among Facebook Mums and angry men who want an excuse to hit someone at the peaceful, disruptive protests held by groups like Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.
Many have opposed the introduction of the new legislation because of the authoritarian red flags all over it, including Parliament’s resident complainers, the SNP. They brought forward a motion to repeal the Public Order Act in May, but to their dismay they were brutally left hanging by the rest of the commons, losing the vote by a miserably massive margin of two hundred and twenty one.
This is worrying as the actual opposition were nowhere to be seen, with Labour telling the SNP that they ‘would not dignify the stunt’ with their support, making them sound more like Jacob Rees-Mogg and less like the people who are meant to be causing Sunak’s control freaks some issues on the topic. So why is Keir Starmer letting them get away with it so easily?
Starmer has said the Public Order Act needs ‘time to bed in’, and has refused to rule out repealing it if Labour get into power in the next election. There is value to giving unknowns a chance, but this legislation is an obvious aggressive swatting away of anyone who wants to change the status quo from the Tories, and whilst Labour likely feel they will put an end to the blunderous blue reign, there is still plenty of time for any kind of swing to happen. All it could take is Sunak announcing something incredibly popular that shows his awareness of what the British people want, like making everyone study maths more, and just like that we’ve got him for another four years.
Whilst Labour did mostly vote down the new rules when it was initially tabled last year, the feeling is that they wouldn’t scrap it if they became top dogs. Labour MP David Lammy said on his radio show that they ‘can’t go picking through all the conservative legislation and repealing it’ as it would ‘take up too much parliamentary time’. It’s tedious to go through correcting someone else’s mistakes, we know David, but if some of those mistakes are considered ‘deeply troubling’ by the likes of UN HUMAN RIGHTS chief Volker Turk, then they might be worth a bit of precious parliamentary time.
Sir Keir is a lover of law and his revered tenure as Director of Public Prosecutions should be noted on legislation issues. But, the issue seems to be that he didn’t pay the Bill enough attention to realise just how problematic it is. It came about after a number of high-profile protests made a lot of British people do some good British scowling, because they had to wait for a bit in their car.
Whilst the Tories act in a tabloid-driven reactionary manor, Labour have the chance to not be dictated by the current hoo-ha, and instead maintain a stance on issues to an effective point. Sadly, this has rarely been their choice in recent years.
Self-preserving moves such as this from the Tories need to be ripped apart by the opposition, not frowned at and forgotten about. The word ‘condemn’ rolls off of Starmer’s tongue faster than you can say ‘robotic droning helium-voiced donkey-selling bore’, but in situations like this he could do himself and the country a world of good by taking more meaningful action. It wouldn’t necessarily be popular among everyone, but it would show that he and his party cares about the people’s right to protest.