Pomp, Protests and Democracy

Pomp and Protests

Coronation Day made many people across the United Kingdom proud to be British. The pomp and ceremony alongside people exercising their fundamental right to protest, within the law, is a balance crucial in our democracy. However, reports of arrests and police overreach has raised serious questions.

Last night’s Met police decision to take no further action against members of the Republic group detained ahead of the coronation piles more pressure on Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Chief Constable Mark Rowley to explain the exact circumstances of the arrests.

Overnight the Met issued a statement expressing “regret” that six Republic activists had been prevented from taking part in a planned protest in Trafalgar Square. Despite Republic engaging with the Met’s protest liaison team, which assured the group they would be allowed to exercise the right to peaceful protest, arrests were still made. 

What is also causing deep concern is that three volunteers who work on the women’s safety campaign Night Stars were also arrested. A 37-year-old woman, a 59-year-old woman and a 47-year-old man were taken to a South London police station, questioned, held for some 14 hours, and eventually released on bail. A very distressing experience that has left one of the women traumatised.

Protestors were detained by officers who suspected them of seeking to “lock on” — without, it has since become apparent, any real justification as they did not possess any lock-on devices. Locking on was criminalized in the act, largely in response to protests by the Extinction Rebellion Group, which deployed extreme actions to highlight the climate emergency.

Upcoming Event: Speak Out - 24th May

The Public Order Act – New Offences That Move Us Closer to being a Police State

On the 3 May 2023, new criminal offences of locking-on and going equipped to lock-on came into force under the Public Order Act. This new lock-on offence carries a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

By way of background, The Public Order Bill builds on the public order measures in Part 3 of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, one of the acts that received royal assent on 28 April 2022 that gravely concerns Gina Miller and the True & Fair Team as moving the UK towards an autocratic state. Amongst other things, the Bill updates the powers in the 1986 Act enabling the police to impose conditions on a protest, provide for a statutory offence of intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance and increases the maximum penalty for the offence of wilful obstruction of a highway.

But the Bill also seeks to introduce other new criminal offences that erode people’s fundamental rights to protest: 

a new offence of obstructing major transport works. This measure will cover certain behaviour which obstructs or interferes with the construction or maintenance of major transport projects such as HS2, and carries a maximum penalty of six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

Introducing a new offence of interference with key national infrastructure. This offence covers any behaviour which prevents or significantly delays the operation of key infrastructure, including airports, railways, printing presses and downstream oil and gas infrastructure. This carries a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both.

Extending stop and search powers for police to search for and seize objects (such as lock-on devices) that may be used in the commission of a protest related offence. Very worryingly, the bill provides for both a suspicion-led power, amending section 1 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, and a suspicion-less power. Suspicion-led stop and search is where a police officer reasonably suspects that a person is carrying an object that is made or intended for use in connection with a protest related offence. When the suspicion-less stop and search power has been authorised, it will allow a constable to conduct a stop and search without the need for suspicion.

To be handing the police more powers at a time when they have been found to be institutionally racist, misogynistic, and lacking in proper recruitment and governance processes is highly alarming. What is also alarming is that the Labour Party has been far too quiet on whether they would amend these acts. 

True & Fair opposes the closing down of people voices on the streets, in the courts and at the ballot box, and urges any future government to amends Acts that were rushed through by the 2019 Tory Government that diminish our rights. Which brings us to the local election.

ID Requirement Damage to Our Democracy

In the lead up to the local elections we, along with many others, were very concerned about the barriers the new photo ID requirement under the Elections Act 2022 would pose at polling stations. Before election day there was an evident lack of awareness amongst voters, confusion and a lack of funding or preparedness by local councils. What was a solution to a problem that did not exist, looked likely to cause many more problems for voters. 

Throughout the local election day on 4 May our hello@ email box was receiving emails from people angry at being disenfranchised and turned away from polling stations due to issues with photo ID. They ranged from having the wrong documents, to requirements to remove masks:

An NHS nurse being refused the right to vote due to her NHS photo not acceptable.

Despite assurances that out-of-date Id would be accepted, people were turned away.

A seriously immunocompromised young lady was turned away because she wouldn’t take off her mask to vote.

Several women who have a different surname to that on their photo ID turned up with their Marriage Certificates as well but were not allowed to vote.

A significant problem will be lack of data to assess the depth of disenfranchisement. The Electoral Commission says it will publish initial findings from the vote, coupled with polling on voters’ experiences, in June, with a full report in September. But so-called greeters were outside some polling stations reminding people of the need for ID but did not take a note of those who were turned back. The only such tally was made by electoral staff inside polling stations which will give a false result.

The Tory government’s voter ID requirement has undermined our democracy. True & Fair proposes the urgent repeal of this legal requirement before the general election so British citizens are not denied their right to vote.

Hung Parliament on the Horizon 

Dig beneath the headlines and the local elections results, and Prof John Curtice says the results are an indication not an affirmation of what is likely to happen at the general elections in 2024. The key messages to have emerged from the ballot boxes are that Labour can be hopeful, it was encouraging for the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, but not as calamitous for the Conservatives as they had predicted due to not all the votes going in Labour's favour – the spread across Lab, LibDems and Greens in a FPTP system means they could still win!. 

The big question is Labour on course for a majority government in 2024? While Labour's projected national share of votes was seven points up on what it achieved in May 2019, the party's tally is no better than its score in last year's local elections. This raises questions about tactical voting for not juts Labour but also the LibDems as voters expressed discontent with the government, rather than genuine enthusiasm for Labour's alternative.

The LibDems saw their best performances in local elections since they went into coalition with the Conservatives in 2010, with their share of the vote (20%). That said, the LibDems were disappointed that in wards where they are challenging the Conservatives locally, there is little sign so far of them winning the tactical support of third-placed Labour supporters. 

When Gina Miller launched True & Fair in 2022, she and her team conducted various polling methodologies and modelling, voter sentiment research and torus around the country showed no clear path to a Labour majority but the prospect of a hung parliament in 2024. The local election was the first real test, and it appears to confirm a Labour minority government in 2024. 

This is a golden opportunity for True & Fair

Securing tactical votes from disillusioned Labour supporters, and those of one-nation Tories who do not view the present Tory Party as their party, and inspiring the huge numbers that did not turn out to vote (in many areas turnout was c.25% in the local elections) in the seats where we are standing candidates, is crucial to True & Fair’s chances of capturing seats from the Conservatives at the next general election. 

Just When You Thought Things Couldn’t Get Any Worse

Those of us who believe in a different vision for Britain must not be complacent. There are those who also have a different vision but a much more right-wing, autocratic, anti-freedom agenda. They are mobilising and so must we – the fight for the future of our country is on!

Here are two to look out for:

- next week’s gathering of the National Conservatism Group in London which will see speeches from a string of senior Tories including Suella Braverman, Michael Gove, Jacob Rees-Mogg and David Frost, and predicts the event could pave the way for the birth of a British Tea Party movement similar to that which reshaped the U.S. Republican Party a decade ago.

- This Saturday 13 May, the Conservative Democratics Organisation will host there first conference in Bournemouth – the Take Back Control Conference!

Call For Action

We are working on our pre-election manifesto which will set out our vision for the future, focussed on practical reforms and policies, informed by practisers, experts, and specialist stakeholders. 

In the meantime, we need your help. 

Please share our website and top line policies, follow, and share across social media. Encourage others to become members and subscribers and volunteer if you are around or near one of our candidates. Together we can effect change in a hung parliament scenario by being a strong, passionate voice against the status quo and for truth and fairness.

Have a great week,

The True & Fair Team