Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech confirmed the Conservative Government’s intention to scrap the Human Rights Act, and introduce a ”British Bill of Rights” to replace it.
This proposed new law, flagged as a ”counter-terrorism” initiative, demonstrates the staggering hypocrisy of a political party that claims to support and defend ”British values” but which is actually engaged in an ideological war against just such long-established British values — freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and the right of law-abiding citizens to be left alone by the state.
In a speech last year Cameron claimed that the UK has been ”a passively tolerant society for too long, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone.”
This was an extraordinary declaration, actually an acknowledgement that those whom Cameron intends to target with new laws have committed no crime under the existing legal system.
“This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach”, Cameron proclaimed. “As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values. Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality.”
Cameron’s reference to “one nation” is especially sinister. It suggests that anyone challenging the political interests of the British ruling class could be targeted for surveillance and repression. The new bill will include a series of measures targeting groups and individuals deemed by the government to be “extremist.” This term is defined so vaguely as to encompass a wide spectrum of political activity.
Though presented officially as an anti-terrorism bill, the proposals make clear that the Conservatives are determined to vastly expand the repressive powers of the state. The new bill would enable “disruption orders” for individuals and “banning orders” for groups. The proposed measures could – and no doubt would – be used against any popular opposition threatening the government’s agenda of ideological austerity at home, and aggressive militarism abroad.