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The day I saw democracy die

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THE Johnson-Sunak squabble, while tiresomely typical of the ego-clashing which seems to be the USP of British politics, is merely a distraction from the serious matters we should be confronting.

One is the serious threat that far-left groups and their allies pose to democracy. One anniversary in particular should remind us of this fact. This is the story of how democracy died in Lewisham five years ago this week.

The event was a 2018 by-election hustings in the south London seat of Lewisham East. It was held at a Salvation Army building in Catford. When I arrived, a far-left demonstration organised by Stand Up To Racism and affiliate groups was in full voice outside, protesting about the candidacy of Anne Marie Waters, the For Britain candidate, due to her anti-Islam views.

At first I and many others found amusement in this – look at those goofy fascist cranky lefties. However it soon transpired that the mob had blocked the main entrance, leaving only a side entrance that they were similarly attempting to block. The attendees and the candidates, including UKIP’s David Kurten, whose article about the event in TCW can be seen here, had to squeeze between through violent leftists. It was a struggle, to say the least, and could have been a serious danger. I was pushed twice. The hostility of the activists, swearing and yelling ‘shame on you’ and a barrage of other insults was as palpable as it was frightening. Who knows what would have happened if they had been left to their own devices, without the police there? It was a relief to get through them into the venue.

Initially the event went as planned, with speeches from the various candidates, the unresolved Brexit issue being the main talking point. One activist from the mob outside came in and interrupted the event, but was removed by security amid much booing and derision from the audience. The mood of the event was mostly jovial, exemplified by the Official Monster Raving Loony Party’s candidate Howling Laud Hope’s double entendre about ‘ballot box[es]’ and Kurten’s joke about a white activist calling him racist. The sentiment was one of having beaten the lot outside.

However, like the previous sentiment about treating the group outside as a joke, this swiftly faded. An organiser announced that the event was to be shut down after warnings from the police about the mob outside causing more mayhem if it were to continue.

We all went outside, staring the officers and the demonstrators in the face. The pervading sense was that the sinister forces had won – the irony being of course that the candidate who had drawn their ire didn’t attend. She had been warned against it by police.

There was some salvation, with the hustings continuing in an ad hoc way in a nearby pub. I and many others felt so defeated that going home was the best option – and even then we weren’t fully safe. One activist, someone I’d previously clashed with, followed me to the railway station. He yelled ‘Oi’ and took pictures of me, cackling as he did so. His anger and vitriol left me spooked.

In short, the far left had undermined and closed down a democratic event because of a speaker they didn’t like. In a serious society, that should have caused nationwide uproar, investigations into the conduct of the police and a possible proscription of the organisations involved. Instead, the most shocking matter for me was the total silence by polite society, which in this case was more deafening than that the screaming and screeching of the angry mob. The mainstream media made no mention of the event, leaving it to alternative and local sources. Only the Daily Express gave it any mainstream view, albeit after the fact. If the roles had been reversed politically speaking, we know what the reaction would be.

What that day in Lewisham showed was not only that far-left activism on the rise and effective, but that it had the backing of the establishment. Provided that such activism and violence supports the elite status quo and narrative, and targets dissidents, it is perfectly acceptable to those with power. The most recent example of this came in the Shawcross review on the Prevent strategy, which highlighted the body’s sympathy with groups such as Antifa.  

If there’s anything positive we can take on the anniversary of this event, it is that such events haven’t been repeated much in the years since, and many of those attending have had their political will to do what’s right strengthened. Take it from me.

Britain can be made great again, but only when the serious issues facing it are tackled in a worthy manner. And the current Tory infighting simply isn’t going to cut the mustard.       

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Edward Howard
Edward Howard
Edward Howard is a freelance writer and journalist, who has written for various outlets, including WhatCulture, BackBench, Trident Media and is currently the Editor-At-Large for Politicalite.

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