The events of the past few weeks have been traumatic. Sarah Everard’s murder has marked a new chapter in British history and the government have placed itself firmly behind the police force so instrumental in its occurrence.
We live in a world that assumes the worst of humanity, assuming that “the life of man [is], solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short”. When those words were written by Hobbs, human nature was considered (as it always has been) in a negative light. Classical theologians like Aquinas and Augustine taught society that human beings were inherently evil – Augustine goes even further to say that it was the first woman who corrupted man. One thing all of these thinkers had in common is that they argued a strict number of rules and laws must be followed for humanity to prosper, Hobbs concluding that an authoritarian state could achieve this the most successfully.
To combat this, classic liberals took a much lass cynical approach to human nature, putting emphasis on the freedoms of the people and giving the state a more administrative role. Locke even went as far as to say that the electorate should have the right to overthrow an oppressive government (in whatever form that may come, dictatorship or otherwise) by force to establish a new regime that would benefit the people – after all, we should always try and benefit the most people. The problem comes with defining an oppressive government and after that educating the masses on their own oppression because oppression is ambiguous.
Is the United Kingdom an Elective Dictatorship?
A dictatorship is a political system in which one person or a small group of people possess all of the political power in a state. It is also usually characterised by a closely monitored press and commonly utilises an illusion of democracy to keep its population blind. When this democracy appears to work – occasionally allowing other political parties to assume power – it is referred to as an elective dictatorship [where Parliament is dominated by the government of the day]. The UK currently operates under the system where the majority party in the Households basically unchallenged power. We have a judicial system that a Prime Minister can ignore, the second house in Parliament that a Prime Minister can ignore and now next to no separate powers policing how our government treats us because we left the EU. Our political parties also have the system of “whipping MPs”, which is the act of enforcing how they vote on individual policy – usually only disregarded when the legislation is a matter of “morals” e.g. Gay Marriage, Abortion etc. We’ve also seen recently that Ministers such as Matt Hancock can break the law and face no legal repercussion from it, so right now the only thing policing MPs – specifically Ministers – are elections.
The First Past the Post System overwhelmingly favours the “right-wing” parties. Even on the surface, there are 4 influential “left-wing” parties in the UK; Labour (199 seats), The Liberal Democrats (11 seats), The Green Party (1 seat) and the SNP (47 seats). How many right-wing? One. The Conservative Party (365 seats). Not only do the opposition parties in the UK have no power and very little influence over government decisions (considering that they are not nearly a majority) but they also stand very little chance of winning because the FPTP system will always work better for the party with the least positive competition. The less similar parties the better because there are fewer to choose from, especially considering that the more educated you are – and therefore more likely politically aware – the more left you vote . In other words, it is more likely that the majority of people [those who didn’t have access to higher education] are less politically aware so will more likely vote for the Conservative Party – because, if people could fully understand the negativity and poor conduct of the Conservative Party rather than just listening to the thoughts of a right-wing reactionary ex-morning-television host, they wouldn’t vote for them. Furthermore, it’s obvious that the “left” are less likely to win elections when they are so divided on issues compared to the fairly unified “right”.
This is an illusion of democracy. Divide and conquer the left and maintain a political system that favours the right so stagnant parties with political inertia can keep their precious power. This is why the Conservative Party can have a 43.6% minority in the popular vote but still hold the majority of seats because the majority of voters have been divided among many parties. This has left the Left-Wing majority of this country with a Right-Wing government that they didn’t vote for.
So let’s recap, the UK currently has a majority party which: the majority of people didn’t vote for; is basically unaccountable, even when Ministers break laws; forces its MPs to vote in line with the PMs opinion and is now letting its children starve to the point that the UN have to intervene.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
It seems that now, in the interest of even trying to maintain the skeleton of democracy we are stuck with, the last thing we want is more of our human rights curbed. Recently there was a peaceful vigil that was run in memory of Sarah Everard, an innocent woman who was kidnapped and murdered by an off duty Metropolitan Police Officer. The Organisers wanted to ensure that their gathering would be 1. Socially Distanced 2. Peaceful and 3. Legal; so obviously went to the Met to gather their thoughts as a sort of preliminary investigation into how the police would respond. Despite the promise of social distancing and peaceful conduct, the police declared this vigil unlawful.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, the police may have still been in shock after the discovery that one of their own could be such a monster which is what forced them to call off the vigil, to allow the Force to heal before returning to business as usual with no second thought. Cressida Dick knows – I’m sure – that the UN human rights committee concluded that Governments can not prohibit protests by making “generalised references to public order or public safety, or an unspecified risk of potential violence”, which of course a socially distanced vigil would not present within any realms of linguistic trickery. They also know that this statement was made on the 29th July 2020, in the middle of the COVID pandemic, so this decision holds up even under the extreme conditions that this virus has placed us under.
Considering this, the vigil could have only been prohibited if there were restrictions on how many people can be in the same park socially distanced at any time – which there is not. You can’t say both “no large groups” and “parks are open” and then just emphasise one over the other at your convenience. However, because Human Rights are only considered soft law, the organisers lost their lawsuit subsequently cancelling the vigil stating that “Metropolitan police will be silencing thousands of women like us who want to honour Sarah’s memory and stand up for our right to feel safe on our streets.” It is speculation to say that events would have pursued a different path had this ruling not been made. Speculation without evidence that is.
The week before the vigil, the unthinkable happened. The Rangers won the Scottish Premier League. Spilling out into the streets they paraded without masks packed into the narrow Glasgow streets as police paraded alongside them, peaceful and watched on at countless breaches of COVID restrictions. Do you think that police then had any sort of preparation or punishment that would have caused future events to be cracked down on harder than ever before? No. Do you think that this even was attempted to be organised in a way to maintain the safety of all present? No. Did the organisers of the event get fined? No (because there weren’t any). The fans went about their business as if nothing was wrong. But as soon as the Met police are faced with an organised, safe, legal vigil the police and the courts decided it was unlawful and fines would still be incurred. Now either the police in Scotland are soft and do not effectively carry out their duties and then should at least be punished under the law they protect (“joint enterprise” legislation aka guilt by willful onlooking) or the police in London were being overly harsh to women in unspeakable pain after Sarah Everard was brutally murdered by an off duty member of the Metropolitan Police Force.
It’s clear that even under the current laws, there is a massive disparity between how the police deal with crowds of people, with football fans being treated as peaceful crowds of people and attendees of a vigil being treated like a group of violent protesters using COVID as an excuse for one, but not the other. The police currently cannot detain anyone without warning them that they’re breaking the law first and these new restrictions will remove this required etiquette meaning it is very likely that peaceful events such as the vigil will be treated as it was, without warning. We don’t see the ongoing anti-mask protests getting violently detained. It is total hypocrisy and evident political bias that will now be used even more so against groups like Extinction Rebellion, who have had a fairly sound relationship with the police up to this point.
I attended an XR protest in the Autumn of 2019. I was this baby-lefty who had only just started getting into radical politics and like a fish out of the water I wandered through the campsite at Trafalgar square, taking in the overwhelming sense of positive collective attitude. Everyone there was friendly and peaceful and welcoming. The police were there, building roadblocks to allow us to protest on the streets rather than just in the square and maintaining the safety of everyone present. It was a wonderful experience. The Tory government hated XR with a passion because they dared question their ability to deal with the environmental crisis we face, labelling them an “organised crime group” despite the fairly clear policy of XR not to cause deliberate damage to property or act violently towards any Officer or member of the public and if broken, the individual would be disowned by XR and would not receive any of the legal support given to other rebels. The whole point of a “criminal group” is that they have to be committing a crime, which the group are very openly against.
It’s called swaying public opinion. Lying to the people so they think that XR is criminal. If the group disowned anyone who committed a crime in their name, it’s not the group that’s committing a crime. To punish a group as a whole for the actions of a few disowned members is not in fact punishing a group, but an idea. This Bill was drafted by Priti Patel to punish ideas, not groups or individuals. Ideas. She reacted to the peaceful XR and BLM protests and chose to ignore them in favour of a couple of violent individuals who neither of the groups supported pushing through a bill that would limit our human rights. She was punishing the idea of violent political groups even though none existed.
What’s the Next Step?
To start this section we’ll need a recap. We live in an elective dictatorship where the majority party is a far-right nationalist party that is beginning to curb human rights, give more power to the police, regress LGBTQ+ rights and freedoms, introduce new surveillance laws (also on the Police Bill), justify the break of ministerial code and yet maintain the respect of a large group of people in our country because they’re “better than the woke left”.
This is all happening whilst the “woke left” are calling for less economic imbalance, equal rights for LGBTQ+ people (especially transgender people), more funding for the NHS, a pay rise for the NHS, a new taxing system that would be able to support the country rather than leave the poorest children starving to a degree that the UN have to get involved and to at least address the huge systemic racism within our country. The Conservative Government continually demonise these positions, claiming that there’s “no magic money tree” and that “they’ve addressed the trans rights issues” and that “there’s no racism issue in the UK” despite the PM being openly racist in Newspaper articles he’s written. This country seems to be stumbling off the path to progress and into a maze of alt-right policy.
You know this is terrifying.
We need to keep pushing for the government to be held accountable for the crimes it’s committed and the rights it’s removing. We need to fight for the right to protest now, let alone the right to exist as ourselves. The past 11 years have shown that things don’t get better by doing nothing and we need to keep speaking out, we need to stay strong in the face of such negativity. Now is the time for the “left” to unite against the Conservative ways of Boris and his cronies. We cannot and will not stand for a government that openly and freely breaks the law. We cannot and will not stand for a government that ignores the basic human rights of people in this country. We cannot and will not let policy attempting to limit us, limit us. 2024 has to be the year that the British Public stands for progress to restore what once some considered a great nation, not a land of cheats and liars.
In May, the local elections will take place. The first step on the way to recovery is to vote out the Tories in local government. Find out who the leading opposition is, vote for them. This is no longer an issue of party politics, this needs to be an issue of national interest.
To find my socials go to iocutmore.com. On my website, you can also find LGBTQ+ support links as well as a list of brilliant (mostly LGBTQ+) creators to who you should go and show some support. I hope you farewell until next time,