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What direction lies ahead for civil liberties?

Mike McCartney

13th August 2021

Article by Owen Jones today should help stimulate debate when studying topic for A Level

The journalist, and political commentator, Owen Jones takes a swipe at the the government's recent record on civil liberties and its direction of travel in the near future.

For instance, he writes:

"...the government’s policing bill puts lockdown-era authoritarianism on a permanent footing, enabling the police to suppress protests in England and Wales that are deemed noisy or a nuisance – which is built into the very function of the democratic right to protest. “You can’t legislate away people’s right to protest,” as Gracie Bradley, interim director at Liberty, puts it, “and it actually risks creating way more confrontation between protesters and police, as the Clapham Common vigil after the murder of Sarah Everard shows.”

Repressive legislation tends to single out the most marginalised people in society, and this bill – further criminalising Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities – is no exception. Meanwhile, a new elections bill infringes on the right to vote by introducing the requirement to show voter ID, in a bid to tackle the near non-existent problem of voter fraud. The result is that disproportionately minority and working-class Britons without photo identification will be deprived of the most basic of democratic rights.

The worry in tackling this government on civil liberties is that the strategy becomes defensive: an attempt to restore the illiberal status quo of the recent past, rather than demand a truly free society.

Acknowledging the racism riddled in the practice of arbitrary police power should lead us to demand the scrapping of section 60 of the 1994 Public Order Act altogether, since it allows stop and searches without any actual suspicion of a crime.

Rather than the mass communications surveillance regime that is currently in place, we should support Liberty’s proposals for a warrant-based system. Rather than criminalising homelessness through the 19th century Vagrancy Act – which is used to fine and prosecute rough sleepers – we should treat housing as a fundamental social right and act accordingly.

Furthermore, rather than allow free speech to be degraded as “the right to platform bigoted views”, we should tackle the real threats to it – like the Prevent strategy.

Workers’ rights are about basic liberties, too: we should support removing anti-union laws that prevent workers exercising their hard-won freedoms to improve their working conditions."

Check out the full article here:

Great for using, as I said, when examining civil liberties as a topic, or indeed pretty much any of the core ideologies stuff when looking at rights and democratic principles.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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