This was a surprise when it appeared on my screen.
The BBC has finally acknowledged that a – democratic – attempt is being made to stop the Tories from undemocratically changing their own anti-protest law to make it even harsher.
A story appeared on the “politics” page of the broadcaster’s news website yesterday – June 12 – just one day before Baroness Jenny Jones’s ‘fatal motion’ was due to be debated in the House of Lords.
This is a failure of the public service broadcaster in its duty to inform.
I state this because there has been an appeal for the public to ask Labour Lords to support the motion, ever since Baroness Jones tabled it, several weeks ago, with a petition that its organisers begged for media organisations to publicise.
Some of us did, and the petition has gathered more than 50,000 signatures. But those of us who operate within the social media have a readership that is limited by algorithms run by platforms like Facebook (that want to make us pay for a wider circulation), meaning the number of people who would have wanted to sign the petition if they saw it has also been limited.
Think how many people may have signed that petition if the BBC had mentioned it!
Considered that way, one might believe the BBC’s failure to mention it to be political interference on the part of the broadcaster. And the ‘fatal motion’ was important news when it was announced; why did the BBC (and other mass media organisations; let’s spread the blame) fail to report it?
For clarity, the Tory plan is to use a “ministerial decree” – secondary legislation that does not require a democratic vote – to change the Public Order Act and insert a change that was removed by Parliament when the Act was debated there prior to being passed into law.
This would create a dangerous precedent for governments to bypass democracy, reversing changes to legislation that have been made by Parliament without allowing MPs and peers to vote on the reversals.
In this instance, the change would alter the definition of “serious disruption” of people’s day-to-day activities by protest action to mean “anything other than minor” – meaning police would be empowered to arrest anybody taking part in large-scale protest demonstrations (for example), but also meaning that small-scale activities would lead to arrests if people said they were inconvenienced even slightly.
Labour has put forward a “motion of regret” which will do nothing to prevent the ministerial decree from passing into law. This is pointless.
That’s why the petition calls on the Labour Lords to support Baroness Jones’s fatal motion that would stop the ministerial decree altogether.
Sadly, Labour’s position appears to be not to support the motion for fear that it would allow the Tories to say the party is in the pocket of protest movement Just Stop Oil, one of whose members has been revealed to be a donor to the Labour Party.
And the BBC article presents the change as being merely a clarification of the Public Order Act, rather than the dangerous and undemocratic change that it actually is.
If the Tories get away with this, it will be exactly what is meant by the old saying that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
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