Writing, as I do, as an elderly and old-fashioned Englishman; I am often puzzled by the use, by politicians, of the oldest trick in the political armoury: along with its bland acceptance by the 57-million strong herd of mute sheep which is the British voting population. The politicians write, discuss, amend and then vote into Law proposals to combat a certain problem; and then profess complete surprise and dismay when others then use this Law in an entirely different manner, against people who could not possibly be considered active in regard to the first problem. Allow me to intrude upon your comfortable existences on this late June day, and, by giving examples; to tell you how you have been lied to in the past, and how you will almost definitely be lied to in the future.
Remember the ASBO, or the Anti-Social Behaviour Order? They came about through the Blair Govt’s need to show that they were ‘doing something’ about harrasment, public drunkenness and intimidation of neighbourhoods. The intent, or at least the published intent, was aimed at teenaged gang members who could be singled out, and banned from congregating with their fellow-members. Unfortunately, the use of ASBOrders went out into the wider world, and they were used to supposedly stop a young woman from committing suicide by jumping off bridges, to stop pigs from digging under a fence; an ASBO was proposed to stop a pet sheep from eating cemetery flowers, but this was rescinded when the true dastardly culprits were discovered: namely, a pair of wild deer owned by Princess Michael ( who strangely enough was not threatened with an ASBO); and a woman being banned from her own privately-owned home because the neighbours objected to her visitors. ASBOs were later removed from Statute, and replaced by the less-easily remembered CBO or Criminal Behaviour Order, which is a bit like a C.B.E. but much easier to obtain.
Then we could move to the well-loved (by the authoritarians amongst us) R.I.P.A., otherwise known as the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Now this small treasure was dreamt up by the Snooper brigade during a long wet dream to allegedly make things easier to intercept the communications of terrorists and others who would wish us harm, and this noble endeavour was promoted as doing just that. Up to the present date, a grand total of ONE prosecution involving ‘National Security’ has been successful. Plenty more intrusions of personal privacy have taken place under RIPA, such as the secret surveillance and spying by Poole Borough Council to check whether a family was justified in claiming a school place for their child; or such vile and serious crimes as Test purchases of a puppy, Test purchase of dating agency services , Surveillance of tarmac re-surfacing service, Movement of Pigs, Fraudulent Escort Agency , Dog related offences, including fouling; along with four acts of the deadly Fly Tipping menace, as well as the heinous and troubling ‘Smoking in non-smoking premises’. In my own Durham County, the Council officers approved over two hundred surveillance operations, resulting in ONE conviction, again for Fly Tipping.
So, to the reason for my diatribe. We are about to be deluged with reasons why we should embrace the Extremism Bill, along with EDOs, or Extremism Disruption Orders. Now I am all in favour of disrupting terror planners or facilitators, or indeed whatever; but the wording of these EDOs gives a latitude so wide you could drive a cruise ship through the definitions, and no-one would notice. The EDOs would be used to go “beyond terrorism” to “eliminate extremism in all its forms”. EDOs would be triggered by “harmful activities of extremist individuals who spread hate but do not break laws”. For a court to impose restrictions upon an individual, it would have to be persuaded that the individual was “spreading, inciting, promoting or justifying hatred on the grounds of disability, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and/or transgender identity”. The orders will also be used to “tackle those venues and facilitators that help extremists to continue their activities”.
Let us just examine, in more detail the underlined sentence! If I write that I believe homosexuality is a perversion, and that homosexuals are perverts; that is my own opinion. But it could, and indeed would, be argued that I am preaching hatred of both the act, as well as the actor. I believe that the reader can fill in the blanks as well as I can. Some may well state that the EDL, when marching and demonstrating against the Islamisation of Great Britain, are themselves ‘extremists’ because they are stating a view contrary to the received view of those who rule us, which is that Islam, and all Muslims, are just defending their religious views, and besides that they don’t really mean what they say when they call for ‘All Infidels who preach against Islam to be beheaded!’. The BNP would probably be the first port of call for the ‘Speech Fuzz’, because they openly state that all Muslims should be deported. Maybe I agree with them. maybe I don’t, but again, I repeat that the ‘deporting’ bit is their opinion; and are we now going to ban or lock people up for having or stating an opinion?
So write to your MP, and state that the EDO is indeed a step too far, and should be the subject of a mssive rethink, before we wander down the slippery road towards this, along with its very home here!