Tag Archives: Behaviour

Education professionals rubbish Williamson’s claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools

Wearing the dunce’s cap yet again: Gavin Williamson was happy to deliberately endanger your children by reopening schools at the height of the Covid crisis (he was forced to close them again when the demand for him to do so became overwhelming. Now he’s happy to falsely criminalise them – in order to satisfy a new profit-making market he is creating?

The Tory Education Secretary’s unevidenced claim that discipline in English schools has “inevitably” worsened after a year of lockdowns has been dismissed as nonsense by people who actually work with school pupils.

Gavin Williamson intends to impose a national network of “behaviour hubs” to spread “best practice” among schools and teachers.

But it seems there is absolutely no need for them. Why is the Tory minister so keen to force them on our schools, and on our children?

Is it anything to do with his new network of “secure schools” – prisons for youngsters – to be run by private firms as “charitable” enterprises?

But Mark Russell, the chief executive of the Children’s Society, told The Guardian:

“We are not aware of any evidence that their behaviour is worse, and our practitioners report that on the whole young people have been relieved to get back inside the classroom.”

Mary Bousted, a joint leader of the National Education Union, said:

“With all the challenges currently facing schools, playing to the gallery by talking tough on behaviour is the least useful approach the education secretary can take.”

Wes Streeting, Labour’s Shadow Schools Minister, also said something – but we are already aware that he is an extremely suspect character himself so it is best to pass him by.

Stuart Lock is chief executive of the Advantage Schools trust, which includes one of the 22 schools named as hubs. Even he disagreed with Williamson’s claims:

“I don’t believe classroom behaviour has got worse than it was before the pandemic. It is probably a bit better.”

Even the man leading the new project – Tom Bennett, the DfE’s lead adviser on behaviour – has said there is no evidence of worsened behaviour:

“To be honest, the picture on behaviour we’re seeing is reasonably consistent with the behaviour we were seeing before the pandemic.”

So why has Williamson suddenly falsified a claim that our kids have all gone feral, and started wasting our money on a project to correct behaviour that hasn’t gone bad?

Well, there is this new “secure schools” aspect of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill:

Secure schools are essentially a re-branding of Young Offenders Institutions that allows private organisations to run them.

The government says it is building “schools with security, not prisons with education” but as Zahra Bei wrote in 2019, “the policy of rebranding youth jails as ‘secure schools’ provides a thinly-veiled disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest children’s prison expansion programme in Britain”.

Members of the British Association of Social Workers have called the plans “a penal approach rooted in the past”.

The contract for the first secure school was awarded to academy chain Oasis, which has one of the highest rates of personal exclusions in the UK.

It will be on the site of the former Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent, which was described as “a site of violence and abuse that prevented the young people who were held there from accessing learning and freedom”.

After a dispute arose over whether running a child prison could be considered a suitable activity for a charity, the government wrote clauses into its new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to ensure that running a child prison can be considered a charitable activity in law.

The change will encourage more academy chains to be providers, creating what the Tories no doubt hope will be a profitable market. And the use of charities will put distance between the Tory government and anything that happens there.

You can read further information on the “secure schools” project here.

With a new market opening up for the detention (and mistreatment?) of children, it seems clear that the organisations running it will want a supply of children.

And suddenly Gavin Williamson is talking about poor behaviour in schools. Convenient?

Source: Experts reject claim Covid has worsened behaviour in English schools | Pupil behaviour | The Guardian

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Umunna’s lie gave Theresa May a way to attack Labour. He must resign – or be forced out

Chuka Umunna.

Chuka Umunna must have been giggling behind his hand when Theresa May came out with the following at Prime Minister’s Questions. But who will have the last laugh?

It is clear that Mrs May was using Mr Umunna’s entirely false claim that the Labour Party is “institutionally racist” to attack Labour – at a time when she had no other defence against Jeremy Corbyn’s criticisms of her policies (in this case, Universal Credit).

We all know he’s responsible – and he deserves to be punished.

But Mr Umunna probably thinks he’s free as a bird; as a Labour MP, he gets to say anything he likes and get away with it – it is only Labour members who are censured according to the party rules.

Well, that’s changing.

The whole point of Theresa May’s comment about Labour MPs facing ‘no confidence’ votes is that the party’s members can now censure their MPs (and clearly she thinks this is a bad idea. Conservative Party members should note that this means she favours the ‘top-down’ view of party organisation in which the leaders decide everything and the members show blind obedience at all times).

It is well past time the MP for Streatham was reminded that he represents the Labour Party, and is bound by Labour Party rules.

Rule 2.1.8 clearly states: “No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party.”

I would say lying that the party is “institutionally racist” is prejudicial. I would say helping the Conservative prime minister to attack the Labour Party is grossly detrimental.

If you are a member of Streatham Constituency Labour Party, I would strongly urge you to call for a motion of “no confidence” in Mr Umunna, with a vote to take place at the earliest opportunity. I would suggest you call for the Labour whip to be removed from him and for him to be deselected, so that he may no longer stand as a Parliamentary candidate for the Labour Party.

If you are a Labour Party member who is not in Streatham CLP, I would urge you to email [email protected] and call for Mr Umunna’s suspension pending a full and rigorous investigation of his conduct, past and present, with a view to his possible expulsion under the rule listed above.

Be polite, but remind party officers that behaviour of the kind shown by Mr Umunna has no place in the Labour Party – or in politics.

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Garnier gets off after Theresa May ordered investigation into inappropriate behaviour – on the wrong terms

Theresa May said ‘a line should be drawn under the issue’ after utterly failing to oversee a proper investigation [Image: AFP/Getty].


It is not appropriate for the UK’s prime minister to say that Mark Garnier has been cleared of inappropriate behaviour.

Theresa May ordered that the Cabinet Office should investigate whether Mr Garnier breached the Ministerial Code.

But it is known that his behaviour towards Caroline Edmondson took place before he became a minister – the Ministerial Code was not relevant to it and therefore the result of the investigation is pointless.

The result speaks volumes about Mrs May’s attitude to sexual inappropriateness (let’s call it) by members of her government: She doesn’t care.

In fact, where it does happen, all she wants to do is hide it.

At a time when sexual indiscretions by the powerful against those over whom they have power are being brought into the open – such as the claims against powerful men in Hollywood by the women whose careers they controlled – this is a shocking way for Theresa May to behave.

Remember, she is alleged to have done her best to squash inquiries into historical child sex abuses, especially by members of Parliament.

Looking at her behaviour in this case, can anyone doubt that her actions deserve closer scrutiny?

A Conservative minister who admitted asking his secretary to buy sex toys has been cleared after a Cabinet Office investigation and will keep his job.

There was no evidence that Mark Garnier, the International Trade minister, had “breached the expected standards of behaviour”, the inquiry decided.

Mr Garnier faced the probe after his former secretary, Caroline Edmondson, told the Mail on Sunday he had given her money to buy two vibrators at a Soho sex shop.

On another occasion, he was alleged to have told her – in a bar, in front of witnesses – “You are going nowhere, sugar tits.”

Confusingly, Mr Garnier was investigated for a possible breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct – although the incidents took place in 2010, before he became a government minister.

Source: Mark Garnier: Tory minister who admitted asking secretary to buy sex toys cleared by Cabinet Office investigation | The Independent


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No, Islam is not a race, but Islamophobia is racism | TheCritique Archives

Here’s one from our friend Martin Odoni at The Critique Archives, tailor-made for commenters who like to split hairs about the difference between racism and sectarianism/hate speech against religion:

One of the most irritating refrains from the anti-immigrant/anti-Islam crowd over the last few years has been the attempt to justify hostility to Muslims by insisting it cannot be racism. The grounds for this claim is that “Islam is not a race”. Even the likes of Richard Dawkins was tweeting it a few years ago.

The sentence is technically true, but if you think about it, the distinction it draws is entirely a quibble. The hostility towards Muslims is still a form of ‘othering’ of a foreign culture. Furthermore, on hearing the word Muslim, the average white Anglo-Saxon Briton will picture something roughly along the lines of this; –

The image is offensive, as it conflates Muslims with militant Islamists, but also because it is both sectarian and highly racial. In particular, it makes the classic mistake of assuming that Muslim is a synonym for Arab. In the real world, the proportion of Muslims worldwide who are Arabs is under fifteen per cent.

Read more: No, Islam is not a race, but Islamophobia is racism | TheCritique Archives


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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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The SNP government is drifting towards authoritarianism

Stronger for Scotland: The SNP government is heading in an ever more authoritarian direction [Image: politics.co.uk].

I’m publishing quite a long extract from this politics.co.uk article, in anticipation of a knee-jerk backlash from supporters of the SNP.

Nationalist parties tend to be authoritarian, so many of these developments may be no surprise to informed commentators.

But is this really what the people of Scotland thought they were getting when the SNP promised to fight for freedom from the United Kingdom?

It may seem inappropriate to compare the SNP with right-wing nationalist governments in Poland or Hungary. Unfortunately as the Scottish government, led by Nicola Sturgeon, heads in an ever more authoritarian direction, such comparisons are increasingly justified.

Examples of this tendency range from the trivial to the far more serious. Most recently, Donald Trump’s comments about Muslim immigrants, led to calls from the SNP for him to be banned from entering the country as a “hate preacher”. While many may agree with this, the former SNP leader Alex Salmond went one step further. He not only endorsed a ban, but said Scotland should be banning ‘all Donald Trumps’. It reminds me of a nightclub bouncer compiling a list of undesirables who aren’t allowed entry on a Saturday night. It would be interesting to see Salmond’s list of who should and shouldn’t be allowed into the country.

It’s not just differing views which the SNP are uncomfortable with, but differing lifestyles. The Scottish government are currently seeking to ban the sale of cheap alcohol in an attempt to control the behaviour of Scottish drinkers. Unlike the English or Welsh who have resisted such moves, the SNP believe we Scots can’t be trusted with cheap alcohol. The only reason it’s not in force is because the EU court raised concerns about restrictions on free trade.

A more sinister development is the SNP plan for a named person or ‘state guardian’ for every child. This will grant the state unprecedented powers over families. Proponents of the law advocate that it provides a point of contact for families. But the status quo already has various routes for families needing support. The real change is the Scottish Government having arbitrary and intrusive powers into every family in Scotland. Former chairman of Scotland’s Children Panel Advisory Group Joe Knight described it as “an erosion of parental rights and responsibilities.”

The disturbing point is not just that every child will have a named person intervening in their lives, but the SNP presumption that every child needs such a person. On this issue as on many others of personal responsibility, the SNP government is convinced it knows best.

The SNP’s super ID database is even more troubling. It’s not exactly clear how our private information would be monitored under the scheme, but filling in an innocuous form at your local NHS dentist could result in the information being circulated to 120 public bodies, including Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Privacy campaigners have called on the Scottish government to ditch the scheme, as it will allow widespread data mining and profiling. Tellingly, the proposals are not being treated as primary legislations and are being forced through without parliamentary debate. On this issue as well, the SNP are allowing little dissent.

Arguably, the most authoritarian development of all is the SNP’s passing of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act. Under this law, fans’ behaviour must be monitored in order to see whether it merits an arrest. Yet so broad is the legislation that fans can be questioned and even arrested simply for the clothes they’re wearing, or the songs they’re singing.

The SNP’s approach to Donald Trump and football fans is remarkably similar. Rather than enlighten, persuade or educate, they opt for the lazy illiberal option of simply banning them.

Source: The SNP government is drifting towards authoritarianism

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Vox Political applauds Sturgeon’s stance on ‘cybernats’

Nicola Sturgeon: Why is she pictured with David Cameron so often?

Nicola Sturgeon: Why is she pictured with David Cameron so often?

I was going to write a letter to Nicola Sturgeon.

It would have been in response to the sustained abuse this blog has received from supporters of the Scottish National Party who have now been labelled ‘cybernats’ – the abusive trolls who lurk around Facebook, Twitter and the Blogosphere, waiting for someone to write anything remotely critical of their party and then launching vicious verbal attacks on them – occasionally supported with threats of physical violence.

Here’s a mild example of one such outburst, with the profanities ‘starred’ out. Here’s a fun game to play at home – see if you can replace the stars with letters creating words that aren’t profanities! It might be harder than you think:

“Aye but you are a c***, and yes I do support SNP but that’s not why I said yur a c*** c***, I called you a c*** because you are sticking your English-Welsh whatever the f** yi are nose into Scotland’s business and trying to cause trouble by talking utter f***** s****, not only are you a c*** yur a f**** i****. I am sure you are a government backed troll trying to get reactions and start arguments in a sad attempt to discredit the SNP. The internet was full of gov backed c*** trolls like you in the lead up to the referendum. Now f** off f** face no one is listening tae yur p*** C***.”

It was meant to be threatening but was unintentionally hilarious due to the silly pidgin Scots these people try to adopt in their writing and the suggestion that This Writer – of all people – is working for the Conservative Government!

I got as far as writing the letter and printing it out, with this and other examples to support my call for her to take action, but it stayed on my printer tray for nearly a month because other matters took precedence: The government appealed against the ruling on my ‘DWP deaths’ FoI request; Mrs Mike’s mother came to visit; I co-organised a community/music festival… you know how one thing drives out another sometimes.

Then I read this in the Torygraph: “Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to tackle the so-called ‘cybernats’ over online abuse, saying SNP members who ‘cross the line’ will face disciplinary action.

“The Scottish First Minister made clear it is ‘not acceptable’ for people to use social media to ‘threaten violence, or hurl vile abuse, or seek to silence the voice of others through intimidation’.”

The article quotes her as follows: “I am making clear today that the SNP will take steps to warn those whose behaviour falls short of the standards we expect.

“We will tell them to raise their standards of debate, to stick to issues not personalities, and to ensure robust and passionate debate takes precedence over abuse and intemperate language.

“I am also making clear that where appropriate we will take disciplinary action. In the SNP we have a code of conduct and online guidance for our members.

“Where that code is broken, members should have no doubt that we will use our disciplinary processes.”

This is praiseworthy. For once, Vox Political fully supports Ms Sturgeon’s policy.

She could go further, though.

The example of abuse quoted above is from a person whose relationship to the SNP – beyond “yes I do support” – is not known. She has not promised action to curb non-members of her party.

Is it all right, then, for people who support the SNP but are not members to continue abusing the rest of us?

Perhaps I will send that letter after all.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Lucas, Miller and a law that worked so hard not to treat them equally

140417lucasmiller

Congratulations are due to Green MP Caroline Lucas, who walked free from court today after criminal charges against her were overturned.

She had been charged with obstructing a public highway and a public order offence, during high-profile anti-fracking protests last summer. Neither offence carries a prison sentence – the maximum penalty for either charge would have been a fine of up to £1,000.

District judge Tim Pattinson said the prosecution had failed to satisfy him that Lucas had “the requisite knowledge” about the Section 14 order being in place.

On the obstruction charge, he said he did not hear any evidence that any actual obstruction of a vehicle or person was caused by the protest.

It is good for British justice that Ms Lucas was acquitted – but bad for British justice that she was taken to court in the first place, most particularly because the case contrasts so strongly with that of disgraced former cabinet minister Maria Miller.

Miller claimed tens of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money under false pretences. You can call that fraud, if you like (maximum penalty: 10 years’ imprisonment).

Did she go to court? No.

Because she is a member of Parliament, the financial irregularity was investigated by a Parliamentary body, the Commons Committee on Standards. Rather than take the advice of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, who recommended that Miller pay back the full amount, the committee ruled that she should return just £5,800 and apologise to Parliament for obstructive behaviour during the investigation.

Surely everybody can see the double-standard here?

The least we can learn from these two stories is that the law absolutely does not treat everybody equally.

Ms Lucas was arrested, detained at Her Majesty’s convenience and now she has faced trial for the offences alleged against her. This MP, who opposes the government in Parliament, was then acquitted after a fair trial and has the support of the general public in this matter.

Miller was accused of a far more serious crime than Ms Lucas but has not been arrested, has not been detained, and has not been tried for the offences alleged against her. The then-government minister was whitewashed by her colleagues and only resigned because of a public outcry against the decision.

What conclusion can the public draw, other than that government MPs are effectively above the law?

David Cameron’s government can only redeem itself with two actions: It must remove Parliament’s right to investigate claims of financial irregularity by MPs and placing this duty firmly where it belongs – with the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.

The other action?

Obvious, really…

Maria Miller must face a criminal trial, charged with fraud.

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Tories and scandal (go together like a horse and carriage)

Scene of the - er - indiscretions: The Light ApartHotel in Manchester. [Image: Sunday Mirror.]

Scene of the – er – indiscretions: The Light ApartHotel in Manchester. [Image: Sunday Mirror.]

The Party of Sleaze shoots itself in the foot yet again.

It seems the Conservative Party has been keeping documentary evidence of Tory MPs’ indiscretions, crimes and bad behaviour in a “black book” (actually a blue folder), but this has now been destroyed for fear that the Party might be forced to reveal its contents under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information in the “book”, which was destroyed a little more than four years ago as the Tories prepared for the 2010 general election, was used by party whips – its official title was “Whips’ Notes” – if they needed to persuade a colleague to support legislation they opposed, or a minister under fire.

Sources within the Conservative Party say this persuasion did not go as far as blackmail – although you are perfectly entitled to form your own opinion about this, dear reader.

The book’s existence was revealed by the Sunday Mirror, which also carried details of several more ‘sleaze’ scandals, including allegations that:

  • Taxpayers indirectly funded a £2,500 suite in the Light ApartHotel, used for a gay sex party during the Conservative Party’s 2011 conference in Manchester.
  • Senior Conservatives regularly tried to seduce male parliamentary workers after getting drunk at the House of Commons.
  • MPs and peers used ‘date rape’ drugs on junior activists, and paid for abortions after getting their staff pregnant.

The claims are eerily reminiscent of sleaze scandals from the Conservative Parliaments of 1979-1997, in which Cecil Parkinson was forced to resign after impregnating his secretary; David Mellor’s extra-curricular sporting activities with Antonia de Sancha; and sex scandals involving Tim Yeo and the Earl of Caithness.

The headline of this article is based on a song and is intended to evoke comparisons between ‘love and marriage’ and ‘Tories and scandal’.

To close, let’s remember another well-known saying and conclude that if a leopard cannot change its spots, neither can a Tory resist sleaze.

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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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