By Mike Sivier
‘It’s farewell to your centuries-old right to free speech today, after your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs won their bid to get the Gagging Bill passed by the House of Lords. It won’t go back to the Commons because the Lords made no amendments. While you, personally, will be allowed to continue complaining about anything you want, you will no longer have the ability to link up with others to protest government actions in any meaningful way as such action may breach Liberal Democrat and Tory government-imposed spending limits. Your personal complaints will be deemed unrepresentative of the people. You will still be able to have your e-petition on the government’s website – if you win enough signatures to have it debated in Parliament – ignored by the Tories and Liberal Democrats in the House of Commons. The Liberal Democrats and Tories have even managed to rub salt into the wound by creating a register of all the corporate lackeys who will still be able to influence their policies – freelance lobbyists employed by large companies for the specific purpose of swaying government policy. Lobbyists who are company employees will not be listed as the government says their purposes for meeting MPs should be obvious.’
This means the new law will do nothing to restrict the power of corporations to write government policy or prevent lobbying scandals such as those involvingformer Tory MP Patrick Mercer, along with Tories Peter Cruddas and Liam Fox.
The new law protects in-house corporate lobbying operations from official scrutiny, while preventing the public from enjoying the same privileges of access to the government. That is what your Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs have fought so assiduously to obtain, over the eight months or so that this legislation, “one of the worst… any government produce[d] in a very long time”, has spent being digested by Parliament.
In a Commons debate in September, Glenda Jackson MP warned that her constituents “know that the Bill… would prevent democratic voices from being heard”.
In response, Andrew Lansley – the Conservative who gave us the hated Health and Social Care Act 2012, another incredibly poor piece of legislation – said; “I look forward to the Honourable Lady having an opportunity… to go back to her constituents, to tell them that the things they are alarmed about will not happen.”
They have happened already. Within 24 hours of the Lords agreeing the Bill in its current form, at least one parody account on Twitter, that was critical of Coalition policies, was closed down: @UKJCP – a satirical account parodying the DWP.
@UKJCP immediately resurrected itself as @DeadParrotJCP and @Director_UKJCP. We’ll see how long they last.
Let us not forget, also, that the third part of this law cracks down on trade unions, enforcing strict rules on membership records to ensure, it seems, that it is possible to ‘blacklist’ any trade unionist who finds him- or herself seeking work.
With free speech flushed away, you may still resort to public protest – but the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has that covered.
ACPO, which is funded by the Home Office, is lobbying the government for permission to use water cannons on the streets of the UK. This would be of no use at all in quelling violent criminal activities like the riots in 2011 – the police chiefs have already admitted that water cannons would have been ineffective in halting the “fast, agile disorder” and “dynamic looting” that took place during August 2011.
ACPO is an organisation that has tried to put ‘agent provocateurs’ into legitimate protest groups and promoted ‘kettling’ to stop peaceful protests (as used in the student protests early in the current Parliament), among many other reprehensible activities.
Considering its track record, it seems clear that ACPO wants to use water cannons against legitimate political protests, on the assumption that the increasing imposition of ideologically-imposed austerity on the country by the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives will lead to more political protests, as people across the UK finally realise that the Tories and their corporate lobbyist friends are actually working against the wider population.
ACPO’s report on water cannons makes it clear that “it would be fair to assume that the ongoing and potential future austerity measures are likely to lead to continued protest” and “the mere presence of water cannon can have a deterrent effect”.
The Home Office response? “We are keen to ensure forces have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets. We are currently providing advice to the police on the authorisation process as they build the case for the use of water cannon.”
So there you have it. Take to the streets in peaceful protest and your police service will assault you with water cannons, with the blessing of your government.
There remains one option open to you – your vote. You could get rid of the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats at the next general election in 2015.
But that leads us to ask why the government has launched its attack on free speech and free protest.
Perhaps it wants to control the information you receive, on which you base your voting intentions?
We already know the unelected Conservative and Liberal Democrat government is using the predominantly right-wing media for this purpose. For example: George Osborne made a great deal of fuss earlier this week, alleging a huge resurgence in the British economy. With help from Tory mouthpiece the BBC, he was able to put out the headline figure that the economy grew by 1.9 per cent in 2013 – its strongest rate since 2007.
Osborne also claimed that Britain is doing better than all comparable economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and that the upturn is due to his imbecilic “expansionary fiscal contraction” policy, otherwise known as austerity.
All of these claims are false, or intended to create a false impression.
Firstly, his 1.9 per cent of growth started at a much lower level of output than would have been the case if Osborne had not imposed austerity on us all and stopped the 2010 recovery dead. GDP would now be 20 per cent higher than its current levels if not for this single act of stupidity from the stupidest Chancellor in British history.
Secondly: The US economy recovered from an eight per cent fall after 2008 to a five per cent rise above its previous peak by the third quarter of 2013. Germany is the only major European country to enjoy growth of two per cent or higher, after an initial recovery based on increased public expenditure – not austerity. Even France has nearly reached its pre-crisis peak. The UK remains two per cent below its previous economic peak.
Finally, Osborne did not even get to this miserable excuse for a recovery by imposing austerity. He quietly adopted a stimulus policy to avoid going back into recession. What do you think ‘Funding for Lending’ is? Or his mortgage guarantee scheme?
All this is clarified by Michael Meacher MP in his own blog.
If George Osborne, Home Secretary Theresa May, ACPO and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition in Parliament had their way, you would not have access to any of these facts.
You would be led to believe that the governments policies are working, exactly the way the government says they are working.
You would not have any reason to believe that the government is lying to you on a daily basis.
You would be tranquillised.
Would you vote against a government that tells you such wonderful things, even when your own circumstances might not reflect that story (real wages fell by seven per cent in the private sector and five per cent in the public sector between 2007-13)?
David Cameron is betting his career that you won’t.
He wants you to be a good little sheep.