Tag Archives: Anti-Social

Double-standards? MP who speaks out against ‘anti-Semitism’ accused of ‘hate crime’ against travellers

John Mann.

This was kept very quiet when it happened late last year.

John Mann, the right-wing Labour MP for Bassetlaw, whose contribution to UK public life in 2016 amounted to a false accusation of anti-Semitism against Ken Livingstone* was investigated for a historical hate crime against travellers later that year.

The Skwawkbox tells us (and will no doubt be accused of fake news for it):

Mann’s pugnacious nature led him into a race-related controversy that culminated in an interview with Nottinghamshire police after complaints about a brochure he issued on anti-social behaviour [The Bassetlaw anti-social behaviour handbook] singled out one ethnic community.

Amid a series of chapters on issues that are intrinsically anti-social, Mann included an entire ethnic group: ‘Travellers’.

The article goes on to quote Ben Bennett, a 13-year-old Gypsy Traveller who wrote about the pamphlet to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, in 2016, as follows [bolding mine]:

“I can’t understand why John Mann MP would choose to talk solely about my community in such a derogatory manner, with statements such as, ‘The police have powers to remove any Gypsies or Travellers and have powers to direct people to leave the land and remove any vehicles or property they have with them, if they believe, Trespass is occurring.’

“This makes me feel like my community are being blamed for all acts of trespass and it is also giving the wider settled community the impression that Gypsies and Travellers are the only people that commit trespass. John Mann MP’s booklet does not talk about any other ethnic minority or any group of people. By singling out Gypsies and Travellers, I feel that it takes away my dignity and that my community are being labelled as law breakers and criminals. This booklet makes me feel hurt and discriminated against.

He continued:

“If the same statement was made using the headline Jews then I know that many authority figures would say that it was anti-Semitic and they would be right, but somehow the headline saying Travellers is seen as acceptable. This is anti-Gypsyism, and my community feel that racism towards Gypsies and Travellers is seen as the last acceptable form of racism.

“John Mann MP said in May… “if Labour cannot combat racism, we are nothing.” I don’t understand why John Mann MP would talk publicly about how he wants to combat racism and yet write such racist comments in his booklet to single out my community.

So, is John Mann, who campaigned vocally against what he saw as anti-Semitism last year, a racist?

The matter was referred to the police who – we are told – interviewed Mr Mann before sending this letter to the Bennett family:

Hate Crime Manager David Alton wrote that he and Inspector Neil Bellamy “did offer advice to Mr mann concerning the section entitled “Travellers”, including any further publication of the booklet, on the basis that it should identify the problem… and not single out a group of people as responsible for the problem… which is in keeping with the rest of the booklet.”

He continued: “From my perspective this concludes my investigation into this hate incident,” indicating that he considered Mr Mann’s booklet to have constituted hate literature in this respect.

Mr Mann appears to have denied that the police interview took place, and to have claimed that Master Bennett’s comments about him were defamatory.

For the latter claim to be true, the comments would need to lower Mr Mann in the estimation of right-thinking members of society, and they would have to be false.

Were they?

This is a serious matter as Mr Mann’s conduct in this matter would affect the way his conduct towards Ken Livingstone – and in relation to anti-Semitism allegations in general – is regarded.

*That’s why ‘anti-Semitism’ is in quotation marks in the headline.


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Foiled! Lords veto Coalition bid to make being ‘annoying’ an arrestable offence

140108ipna

The Conservative-led Coalition government has suffered a major setback in its plan for an oppressive law to criminalise any behaviour that may be deemed a nuisance or annoyance.

The Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill was intended to allow police the power to arrest any group in a public place who constables believe may upset someone. It was rejected by 306 votes to 178, after peers on all sides of the House condemned the proposal as one that would eliminate carol-singing and street preaching, bell-ringing and – of course – political protests.

It seems the Lords are more interested than our would-be tyrants in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Cabinet in the basic assumption of British law – that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

The politics.co.uk website, reporting the government’s defeat, said the new law would have introduced Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs) to replace Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs).

It explained: “Whereas an Asbo can only be granted if a person or group is causing or threatening to cause ‘harassment, alarm or distress’ to someone else, an Ipna could be approved merely if a judge believes the behaviour in question is ‘capable of causing nuisance or annoyance to any person’.

“Opinion could have been swayed by a mistake from Lord Faulks, the Tory peer widely expected to shortly become a minister who was asked to give an example of the sort of behaviour which might be captured by the bill.

“He described a group of youths who repeatedly gathered at a specific location, smoking cannabis and playing loud music in a way representing ‘a day-by-day harassment of individuals’.

“That triggered consternation in the chamber as peers challenged him over the word ‘harassment’ – a higher bar than the ‘nuisance or annoyance’ threshold he was arguing in favour of.

“‘I find it difficult to accept a Conservative-led government is prepared to introduce this lower threshold in the bill,’ Tory backbencher Patrick Cormack said.

“‘We are sinking to a lower threshold and in the process many people may have their civil liberties taken away from them.'”

It is the judgement of the general public that this is precisely the intention.

Peers repeatedly quoted Lord Justice Sedley’s ruling in a 1997 high court case, when he declared: “Freedom to only speak inoffensively is not worth having.”

It is interesting to note that the government tried a well-used tactic – making a minor concession over the definition of ‘annoyance’ before the debate took place, in order to win the day. This has served the Coalition well in the past, particularly during the fight over the Health and Social Care Act, in which claims were made about GPs’ role in commissioning services, about the future role of the Health Secretary, and about the promotion of private health organisations over NHS providers.

But today the Lords were not fooled and dismissed the change in agreement with the claim of civil liberties group Liberty, which said – in words that may also be applied to the claims about the Health Act – that they were “a little bit of window dressing” and “nothing substantial has changed“.

A further concession, changing the proposal for an IPNA to be granted only if it is “just and convenient to do so” into one for it to be granted if it targets conduct which could be “reasonably expected to cause nuisance or annoyance” was torpedoed by Lord Dear, who rightly dismissed it as “vague and imprecise“.

That is a criticism that has also been levelled at that other instrument of repression, the Transparency of Lobbying Bill. Lord Blair, the former Metropolitan police commissioner, invited comparison between the two when he described the Antisocial Behaviour Bill in the same terms previously applied to the Lobbying Bill: “This is a piece of absolutely awful legislation.”

The defeat means the Bill will return to the House of Commons, where MPs will have to reconsider their approach to freedom of speech, under the scrutiny of a general public that is now much more aware of the threat to it than when the Bill was first passed by our allegedly democratic representatives.

With a general election only 16 months away, every MP must know that every decision they make could affect their chances in 2015.

We must judge them on their actions.

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