Voices: The Tories promised to give us back control – instead they have bound and gagged the British people

·3-min read
Our political freedoms are being restricted in front of our eyes (PA) (PA Wire)
Our political freedoms are being restricted in front of our eyes (PA) (PA Wire)

In the words of the great DJ Khaled: “Congratulations, you played yourselves.”

The Conservatives promised they would give us our sovereignty back, that we would take back control, that they would free the British people from the shackles of Brussels. The reality? The British people have never been less free. We have been turned into one of those “s***hole countries” we like to look down on.

On Tuesday night, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (Policing Bill), completed its final stage in Parliament before the Queen’s assent turns it into law. Under that law, you can be fined up to £2,500 for shouting loudly enough at a protest to put someone nearby at risk of feeling “serious unease”. Given that the point of protest is to make politicians feel seriously uneasy about their actions, you can see why the United Nations, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament itself said this violated the right to protest.

And yet every single MP of the supposedly pro-freedom Conservative party voted for this bill during its passage through parliament (except two abstentions). It’s worth mentioning that a key component of fascism is the forcible suppression of peaceful opposition, and 356 Tory MPs voted for a bill that will allow the police to do exactly that.

It also increases the ability of the police to stop and search a British citizen without having cause to suspect them of committing a crime. The Home Office says this will disproportionately impact black people, despite the government figures also showing that black people are less likely than white people to be carrying drugs when stopped and search. The Home Office said this discrimination was “objectively justified”. But don’t worry: We’ve been assured by the government that institutional racism doesn’t exist.

And yesterday they also passed the Elections Bill which will require all voters in UK elections to have photo ID. In March, the Cabinet office estimated that about 2 million people in the UK do not have such ID. And while voter cards will be available via local authorities, it still means yet another barrier to voting, when low voter turnout is already a major problem in the UK. Given that Boris Johnson has voted against everyone having ID cards generally 12 times, the decision to make having ID cards a requirement for voting is extremely suspicious.

Furthermore, the only other country in Europe that uses our First-Past-The-Post voting system is Belarus, often referred to as Europe’s last dictatorship. And instead of scrapping that system so that all votes count equally, even when people have the audacity to vote for parties that aren’t Labour or Conservative, they extended FPTP to local elections.

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We have to put all of this in context. Our political freedoms are being restricted in front of our eyes. This government has: banned peaceful protest & encouraged police harassment (Policing Bill), restricted voting rights (Elections Bill), stripped our automatic right to live and work across Europe (Brexit), authorised the removal of our citizenship without notice (Borders Bill), banned boycotts (Free Speech Bill), Greenpeace was placed on a terror watch list, outlawed the factual teaching about systemic racism from schools, and prevented Northern Ireland – which is still following EU Single Market rules – to vote on them.

There’s also economic freedom. Go up to someone who has had their universal credit cut and their national insurance increased during a cost-of-living crisis, and ask them how “free” they feel. Ask the small businesses who are drowning in Brexit red tape and unable to export to the EU, how free they feel.

The party that promised to let us take back control has politically silenced us, handed the police more powers that have received international condemnation, gave us the worst recession in the G7 during the pandemic, and trapped us here via Brexit.

The “Will of the People” doesn’t really count for much if the people are bound and gagged.

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