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🚓 Letters to my MP: The Police Bill is a threat to British Democracy

Dear Chris Skidmore MP,

Our democracy in the UK is becoming increasingly fragile under this government. The Conservatives already enjoy a healthy majority bestowed upon them by the quirks of First Past The Post voting, and yet even with the system stacked in the government's favour a number of policies are being enacted which will weaken the opposition and damage our democracy.

I have written to you before about this and you have said that you:

A) See it as your job to represent all constituents, even those who didn't vote for you.
B) Favour first past the post voting precisely because it leads to a "strong opposition".

With that in mind, I ask that you please stand up for real democracy and oppose this government's attacks on the rights of the public, NGOs and opposition parties to organise and demonstrate for their cause.

This government has already weakened our democracy with plans to introduce voter ID (in reality voter suppression), change the electoral boundaries so that they are even more in the Conservatives' favour, restrict freedom of speech in schools, install Conservative partisans in top media jobs (BBC, Ofcom) and give agents of the state the power to commit crimes such as rape and murder.

Now the government wants to effectively ban peaceful protest via the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Section 59 of the bill, "Intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance", criminalises any and all activity which may cause even a minor nuisance to passers-by under a possible penalty of 10 years in prison. This is an incredibly dangerous piece of legislation which puts the UK on par with a number of failed states and dictatorships worldwide. If this bill passes unamended, it will be a dark day for democracy in Britain.

Please, consider amending this bill or opposing it entirely in order to safeguard British democracy and defend the right to peaceful protest.

Regards,

Dan Johnston




Chris' Reply

Dear Dan,

Thank you once again very much for your email. I fully appreciate the concerns you have raised with me about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and protests.

In this country we have a long-standing tradition that people can gather together and demonstrate, and the right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of our democracy.

As you will be aware a national lockdown is now in place. This means we must all stay at home and only leave for a small number of essential reasons as outlined in law. Everyone is required to follow these rules. It is for the police, in conjunction with the Crown Prosecution Service to determine whether an action warrants possible criminal proceedings.

Thankfully due to the impact of the most recent lockdown in England, as well as the ambitious vaccination programme, the Prime Minister has now outlined a roadmap out of lockdown. I absolutely understand the desire to fully reinstate our civil liberties, and I would like to make clear that as soon as it is safe to do so, this is something that I will wholeheartedly support, but in the meantime, we must follow the Prime Minister's safe and gradual roadmap out of restrictions.

More generally, I would like to make clear that under no circumstances do I believe that protests should become violent. The rights to a peaceful protest do not extend to harassment, intimidating behaviour or serious disruption to public order.

Of course, the responsibility for the maintenance of public order lies with the police, who have a range of powers to manage protests. How they deploy their powers and the tactics they use are rightly an operational matter for the police but I am pleased that we live in a country where policing is by consent.

Over recent years I have been concerned by the extensive disruption that some protests have caused. In particular, stopping people getting on with their daily lives, hampering the free press and blocking access to Parliament.

I welcome the fact that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protests that have a significant disruptive effect. These powers will allow the police to safely manage protests where they threaten public order and stop people from getting on with their daily lives. It is good news that the Government is taking action to ensure the crucial balance between the fundamental right to peaceful protest and the rights of people to get on with their daily lives is maintained.

I appreciate this might not be what you wanted to hear, however I do hope it can be of some use to you at this time. Thank you again for taking the time to contact me, and if there is ever anything else I can do for you as your local MP, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

With very best wishes,

Chris




Conclusion

In his own words Chris believes "the right to protest peacefully is a fundamental part of our democracy" but he welcomes "the fact that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will strengthen police powers to tackle non-violent protests".

Basically Chris doesn't support the right to peaceful protest at all - a worrying development for all democrats in Kingswood.