There is something innately dishonest about a legislature that tries to cover up public protests against its actions, in the way the UK Parliament ineptly tried today (March 23).
Under Parliamentary rules, only authorised photography is allowed – and that’s fine if an official secret is being protected, such as a matter involving national security.
But why try to cover up a protest against the victimisation of the sick and disabled?
Everybody knew it was happening. Reporters would have said it was happening, even if they couldn’t film it – and, as it happens, high-level MPs like John McDonnell took photographs of it – so there was no way of hiding what was going on.
It was a heavy-handed attempt to muzzle free speech – and it succeeded only in making Parliament, and the authorities organising it, look despotic. And, as mentioned before, inept.
Worse than that, it was dishonest.
It was an attempt to hide what was going on – to say, “There’s nothing to see here”, tell us to go home, go back to sleep, do as we’re told – when it was in the public interest to know what was being hidden.
Congratulations are therefore due to John McDonnell and the other MPs who made a point of acknowledging the protest and highlighting its purpose.
They are the champions of free speech and freedom of choice, not the Tories who huddled in the Commons chamber and tried to hide the protest from their gaze.
Dozens of people protesting against disability benefit cuts have occupied the central lobby in parliament, chanting “Cameron killer” and “no more deaths from benefit cuts”.
Black Rod, the official with responsibility for the parliamentary estates and security, ordered reporters not to take or tweet photos of the protests. Under parliamentary rules, only authorised photography is allowed.
The BBC’s Norman Smith, who has permission to broadcast from the central lobby, was ordered by the authorities to stop filming mid-broadcast.
The protesters from WinVisible, Disabled People Against the Cuts and other groups said they were lobbying MPs to scrap cuts to the employment and support allowance and to ensure the proposed budget changes to the personal independence payment (PIP) would not be introduced.
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor… left Prime Minister’s Questions to meet the protesters and tweeted a picture, saying they were “rightfully angry with way they have been treated by this government”.
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