YESTERDAY marked a black day in British history. It was the most repressive Queen’s Speech ever. A reversal of Britain’s centuries-long march to freedom.
It contained not one, but a number of ‘innovative’ measures that threaten to curtail our basic rights, including our freedom of speech and movement, under the guise of what are, I am afraid, spurious claims to reform the law and protect us.
The proposed new Bill of Rights and a series of other state interventionist and regressive measures will make it harder for any who ‘dissent’ the official narrative – whether on ‘pandemic’ policy, vaccine risks or further lockdowns – to air and share their critiques and evidence, or to publicly protest against such curtailing of our rights.
The Bill of Rights is set to replace current Human Rights law in the name of curbing an incremental rights culture. However, it will quite specifically undermine, if not take away, individual choice and responsibility when and where it is deemed to conflict with the State’s definition of the common good.
Back in March, I asked whether this was the reform of human rights we need? My answer was that it emphatically was not. I argued that the proposed legislation is a perversion of the traditional notions of rights and duties, and a mendacious and threatening one at that.
Who will decide what those broader interests of society may be? The Government, the World Health Organisation, or any other international public health body with undue influence over our political masters? The last two years of irrational lockdown and all but compulsory vaccination, all in the name of the higher public good, fills me with foreboding.
The proposed Online Safety Bill is also deeply worrying. Under its terms, ‘major social media firms will face fines worth up to ten per cent of their global turnover if they fail to tackle illegal content getting on to their sites under reintroduced duty of care plans to protect users from online harms’.
At the rate we at TCW are already being censored, under the notion of ‘harms’, this also bodes very ill for us and any other dissenting or free speech site.
People may be persuaded such a clampdown is needed for porn or self-harm or suicide sites – and that it true. But unless it is stated that the legislation will not be used to close down debate and not act as Big Brother, which it has already begun to do, I fear it will be used as much as for stifling dissenting voices and free speech.
Much of this has been warned of before. Last summer, Laurence Fox set out the charter for free speech we need. It fell on very stony government and, distressingly, stony mainstream media, ground who should have been foremost in its support. They ignored it. We need to lift our voices again forcefully and in unison on this.
The proposed Public Order Bill and its additional police powers, also in yesterday’s speech, again would be welcome if it was restricted to stopping eco-protesters blocking roads and inflicting fuel shortages on motorists, and not used against peaceful protest against government policy.
However, it will allow police to ban suspected troublemakers from attending specified events. Does that mean Piers Corbyn, for example? I defend his right to protest and so should anyone. Does it mean in fact any government critic or opponent could be singled out? How will it be interpreted? The degree to which the police are already politicised and discriminate does not augur well.
Amnesty International warns that the Public Order Bill’s authoritarian provisions are similar to repressive policies in countries the UK regularly criticises – including Russia, Hong Kong and Belarus: ‘It follows a pattern of a government voicing support for protest around the world, but cracking down on the right to speak up here at home.’
Amnesty has also raised concerns about the Counter State Threats Bill, which could pose a serious threat to journalists and their ability to protect their sources.
All this proposed new legislation needs to have a bright torch shone on it. We need to protest against it and remember those of centuries past who gave their lives for today’s, now to be curtailed, freedoms.