The UK models itself on Hungary?

The populist conservative government in the UK has shown itself to hold democracy and the UK parliament in contempt. The PM prorogued the parliament – that is, suspended it – in order to thwart attempts to avoid a no-deal Brexit in the summer of 2019. The Brexit Bill bringing into law the TCA (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) between the UK and the EU was pushed through in less-than a week to avoid the scrutiny of the committee system, itself designed to ensure law is robust and able to stand up to interrogation. The shortcomings of that law are on display daily at ports, shops and exporting firms across the country.

The next illiberal bill being pushed speedily through the parliament is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. I got wind of its illiberal content and aims from Ian Dunt. Consequently, I have written to my Conservative member of parliament, Sally-Ann Hart, to register my concern (reproduced below).

Viktor Orbán, PM, Hungary

As for heading towards being Hungary; the current PM’s predecessor fuelled the belief that the British courts were the enemies of the people when they were used to force the Government to follow the law. There is more of that to come, I’m sure. The UK will soon have its own version of Fox News – opinion rather than news. The existing regulator enforces partiality, but it is difficult to see how the two newly licensed channels are going to achieve that. Any doubters out there should also note that the new boss of the BBC has just cancelled – yes, cancelled – the satirical TV show, The Mash Report. Officially because it is not funny. Unofficially because it is.

11 March 2021

Dear Ms Hart,

Re: Free Speech

I work in a university with an honourable tradition of free speech. Your colleague, The Secretary of State for Education, believes that free speech is so important that it needs a champion to ensure that it is respected in our universities.

Meanwhile another of your colleagues, the Home Secretary, has published a bill designed to shut down free speech. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill has a number of provisions that are deeply anti-democratic. First, and for example, there is a potential for a noise restriction to be imposed on a demonstration if the police believe that it will cause a nuisance to anyone. I’ve been on many demonstrations exercising my democratic right to free speech. They are, by definition, noisy. That is the point, is it not?

Second, should a restriction be placed on the demonstration and a demonstrator violate it and arguing in court that they did not know about it, previously that was admissible. Under this law, it will not. A person on a demonstration will need to know all of the restrictions imposed on the demonstration or face prosecution.

Thirdly, a demonstration by a lone individual would have the same status.

Finally, the Home Secretary will be given powers to change a definition of “serious disruption” under a statutory instrument. This is a wholly inappropriate use of such a mechanism.

Why is there such a difference between the Home Office and the Department for Education on the question of free speech?

I trust that you will resist the attempt in the bill to curtail and criminalise free speech in our country.

Kind regards,

Andrew Grantham

Pic: European Peoples’ Party

1 comment so far

  1. […] that I had much expectation in the reply, but to read that the police violence is justified because of the pandemic – no mention that […]


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