Democracy

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Which potential party of government knows that it owns a bank?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 24/05/2024 - 1:06am in

I heard Labour Party election strategy supremo Pat Mcfadden say that Labour had to “generate the funds” to do all the things it wanted to do, so not much would be possible immediately. ‘Generate the funds’ is a trope closely related to ‘finding the money’ and straight out of the Thatcher playbook that government has... Read more

Vast Majority of Those Turned Away Over Voter ID in Local Elections Were ‘Non-White’ According to Polling Station Observers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 8:51pm in

Seven in ten voters turned away due to issues with photo ID during this month’s local and police commissioner elections in England appeared to not be white, according to the first major analysis of the May 2nd voting process. 

That compares to just a quarter of the population in England and Wales who are not white, according to the latest 2021 census. The research by the non-partisan group Democracy Volunteers suggests that people from ethnic minorities are far more likely to have faced issues with the voter ID rules – posing serious risks of discrimination in the imminent General Election on July 4th. 

One in fifty voters – 2.1% of those observed – overall were turned away for lack of ID, mostly in urban areas, the report out today (May 23rd) has found. 

The demographic differences were stark, according to the 150 volunteers who observed 725 polling stations on May 2. Fifteen percent of those excluded were 'white passing' men, 26% were 'non-white passing' men, 15% were 'white passing' women, and 44% 'non-white passing' women.

That comes to over two-thirds of those turned away appearing to be from ethnic minority backgrounds, and is a significant rise from the 55% in last May’s elections. While that could partly be due to London having mayoral elections this year, the figure is "much higher than the population and needs to be addressed," Democracy Volunteers warned. 

In contrast, observers noted 12 voters were allowed to vote without showing ID; most of whom were 'white passing'.

Via Democracy Volunteers

The 2.1% figure of voters observed being turned away is nearly double what Democracy Volunteers observed in the 2023 local elections, where 1.2% of voters were turned away for not bringing the appropriate identification.

Director Dr John Ault described it as a “worrying rise” in the numbers of those being prevented from voting because of the new rules around having show photo ID. 

The report on the May 2024 local election calls for the next Government to extend the list of acceptable forms of photo ID, to ensure ID checks are conducted at the presiding officer's desk rather than by ‘bouncers’ at the door of the polling station, and to consider setting up a system of “attestation”, where a reigstered voter can legally vouch for the identity of someone who lacks ID.

The report also found that 24% of polling stations lacked adequate privacy for ID checks, and a similar number of polling stations had issues with so-called ‘family voting’, where family members enter a voting booth together and collude or direct the family’s voting intentions as a bloc.

Harry Bush, deputy director of Democracy Volunteers, said: “A lot of [alarm] bells are ringing” about ID checks.

“At a large number of polling stations, ID was being used as a way to get access, but wasn’t properly checked at the desk. That’s worrying. The whole point of an ID check is to prevent personation…It defeats the point of having an ID check in the first place.

“ID checks are not being conducted in an equal way,” he added, calling for extra training for staff. “Their role has changed significantly to become [that] of a bouncer or border agent,” he said. 

In some cases, staff let people vote without proper checks if they recognised or were friends with them, which is against the rules. 

John Ault, director of the group, told Byline Times: “A big part of what we do is speaking truth to power… 2.1% of voters being turned away is 2.1% more than who should be turned away.”

Asked about the risks at the July 4th General Election, he said: “I think we’ll see more people turned away…People forget that Scotland has only had one parliamentary by-election where voter ID is required. Voters in Scotland may be completely unaware.” The voter ID rules are from Westminster legislation, and aren’t used for Scottish locals or Holyrood elections. But everyone in the UK will need ID for the General Election.  

Harry Busz added: “An attestation system could really help break the back of the problem. It won’t be in place before the General Election. So it’s about education.” 

Voters who don’t speak English well are more likely to struggle with the rules, he said. But many could also be hit by the fact that names on ID and the electoral roll must match.

“If you’ve changed your name recently, you need to re-register with your correct name. We need more detail in the messaging than just ‘register’,” he said. 

Update: This piece has been amended to correct a typo - it originally said the election was June 4th. It is of course July 4th.

If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

Neoliberalism: ‘Capitalism’s Response to Democracy’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 6:00pm in

George Monbiot has spent decades condemning Britain’s political, economic, and media establishment. Comedian Nish Kumar – at an event he described as “designed to give Daily Mail readers a heart attack” – interviewed the veteran Guardian columnist live at London’s Conway Hall last week. Both speakers offered interesting insights into the upcoming general election and the future of British politics – especially relevant to Britain’s disillusioned young progressive population. 

Monbiot may be 61, but the room was packed with young people. As we jotted down notes and held our questions for the Q&A, the pair on stage walked the audience through the decline of British democracy – beginning with the story told in Monbiot’s latest book (co-authored with film-maker Peter Hutchinson), Invisible Doctrine: The Secret History of Neoliberalism. 

Monbiot describes “neoliberalism” – the all-encompassing (and yet somewhat ill-defined) economic dogma of 2024 Britain – as “capitalism’s response to democracy”. Trade unions, regulatory frameworks, welfare systems, and the other democratic limitations placed on capitalism have been subverted because “democracy is a problem that capital is always trying to solve”. 

This now ubiquitous ideology, he claims, posits that “competition is the defining state of humankind” and that “any attempt to interfere in the discovery of the righteous by the invisible hand of the market is illegitimate and should be wiped out”. That includes democracy.

In addition to prompting the US-led overthrow of democratically-elected governments in countries such as Chile and Indonesia (as detailed brilliantly in Vincent Bevin’s The Jakarta Method), he argues that neoliberalism culminated in Western democracies that are “fundamentally unable to answer our questions”, because the real decisions about how to govern have already been made in lofty conference rooms elsewhere. 

The Austrian and Chicago economic schools – the original incubation chambers of neoliberal ideology – first inculcated their doctrine into politicians on the right. Thatcher and Reagan were not visionaries but “cyphers”, Monbiot observes; “channels for a pre-existing philosophy” that had spent decades percolating amongst fringe economists and social thinkers.

Ultimately, according to Monbiot, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton represented their near-total victory over the entire political spectrum. Thatcher, memorably asked about her greatest political accomplishment in 2008, once famously responded that it was Tony Blair.  

The result, in Monbiot’s narrative, is that Britain has been converted – against the public will – into a “rentier’s paradise”, a system built on the monopolisation of land and other crucial resources that “parasite[s] people’s productive activity”. 

Politically, the failure of traditional politics to facilitate meaningful debates has created an “anti-politics” – Monbiot’s euphemism for the rise of Trump, Johnson, Bolsonaro, and a plethora of other anti-establishment right-wing populists around the world. 

From Monbiot’s perspective, the question remaining for the next election is not about the defeat the Conservatives, who hold responsibility for the state of crisis in the UK today, but a much harder question about how to defeat an ubiquitous global economic system and slow or reverse the “commercialisation of everything”. 

Neither Monbiot nor Kumar view Keir Starmer’s Labour Party as a solution to that second dilemma.

Monbiot describes Starmer as a “coward” who “kicks down” the vulnerable and “kisses up” to the powerful, heading a political project that’s “failing by design”. He describes our entire system as “the thinnest and weakest version of democracy possible”. 

When asked what the answer to this, Monbiot observed: “They have a story, and we do not.”

John Meynard Keynes, whose economic theories dominated mid-century politics in Britain and the US, had one. The neoliberals, with their tales of freedom, choice, and liberty, have one. Even the far-right have a rabid and hateful tale to tell. Those who believe in democracy are left mostly just trying to mitigate the damage. 

According to Monbiot, the story that needs to be told begins right where the neoliberal story falls short. Where neoliberalism breeds loneliness, he believes we should emphasise a “politics of belonging”. Where it enclosed land and resources, we should build new and accessible commons. Where it simplifies our social dynamics into unfeeling numbers, we should embrace the complexity of the systems that drive our lives. Where it breeds distrust, trust people. 

"We should preach to the choir – and grow our choir a little bit bigger every year,” he argued.

For Monbiot, “deliberative and participatory” democratic systems in the here and now are the answer, as well as a need to “ignore those in Westminster that have nothing to do with us”. We should simply start creating the democratic world we want to live in, and eventually we’ll reach a tipping point where the entire population gets on board, is his view. 

It’s a powerful message, but I was left wondering what the catalyst for this democratic change is supposed to be, if it wasn’t the invasion of Iraq, the 2008 financial crash, or even the COVID pandemic. Who will be the ones to undertake it? 

Back in 2003, Monbiot penned a polemic on youth politics for the Guardian entitled “Rattling the Bars”. In it, he condemned the zombie governments of the West. The “structures” of democracy still exist, he wrote, “but the life within them has died.” He argued that “the young have not lost interest in politics. Politics, of the kind represented at Westminster, has lost interest in the young”.

Perhaps then, just as the neoliberal system’s own failures could create the nucleus of a new and compelling story, those left out of mainstream politics will be the ones to tell it. Twenty-one years later, we’re still trying to find a way to “rattl[e] the bars of our enclosed and corrupted parliaments without succumbing to their enclosure and corruption”.

As I have written in these pages previously, there’s a lot we could do to bring about a more utopian mindset in Britain; to restore hope and foster the belief that real change is possible. As Monbiot would say, we just need to start 'embodying the democracy’ that we want.

If You Can’t Even Elect A Candidate Who’ll End A Genocide, How Real Is Your “Democracy”?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/05/2024 - 12:18pm in

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

https://medium.com/media/fd36701631d6d60cf30a3e379ae09cb1/href

The Biden administration has reportedly approved of an Israeli assault on Rafah, the last slightly safe city in the Gaza Strip, and is openly preparing to work with Congress to punish the International Criminal Court for seeking arrest warrants of Israeli officials for war crimes. Biden is a monster who belongs in a cell at The Hague.

I talk about Biden’s criminality a lot, but I should probably clarify that I don’t do so because I believe Trump or even Kennedy would be acting any kinder toward the people of Gaza if they were president. All three of the arguably viable US presidential candidates are virulent Zionists who have all made it clear that they would back Israel’s genocidal atrocities with adamant fervor.

A lot of fuss gets made over the west’s brand of democracy. Wars of aggression have been waged under the banner of spreading it throughout the world and allowing the people to control what their government will do. But what you very seldom see discussed in mainstream discourse is the fact that there are a great many issues that this form of so-called democracy never allows the people to vote on.

The genocide in Gaza is arguably the single most urgent matter in the world right now — partly for how horrific it is in and of itself, and partly for its potential to explode into wars which would bring far greater devastation to the region. But nobody’s allowed a vote on whether this will continue or not, even in the heart of the US empire which is making it all possible.

The only candidates who stand any chance of getting elected are all committed to making sure this mass atrocity continues, because if you ever want to get anywhere near the presidency you have to make a whole lot of deals with powerful forces who were never elected by anybody.

And this just says so much about the nature of this “democracy” — a word which literally means “rule by the people”. If the people were actually in charge, there would be some option available to them to end the worst thing happening in the world right now. But the people are not in charge. When it comes to matters of the most importance, they never get a vote.

Americans don’t get a vote on whether or not vast fortunes should be poured into funding a war machine which stretches around the globe; the option is never on the ballot.

They don’t get to vote on whether or not the drastic action needed to prevent environmental collapse should be taken.

They don’t get to vote on whether or not the US empire should be escalating against nuclear-armed nations like Russia and China with ever-increasing aggression.

They don’t get to vote on whether the wealthy should be getting richer and richer while the poor have to struggle harder and harder to survive.

They don’t get to vote on whether the wealthy should be allowed to use their wealth to influence political affairs in a way that gives them more and more wealth and power.

They don’t get to vote on whether they should have their minds pummeled with empire propaganda 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by rich and powerful people who are invested in manipulating the way they think, act, vote, shop and work.

They don’t get to vote on whether their police force should be getting more and more militarized, or whether the surveillance practices of the US intelligence cartel should be getting more and more intrusive.

They don’t get to vote on whether the US should have the highest incarceration rate in the world and the profoundly unjust legal system which gives rise to it.

They don’t get to vote on whether the internet should be getting more and more consolidated and censorship-heavy as Silicon Valley megacorporations move into more and more collaborative relationships with the US government.

They don’t get to vote on whether there should be billionaires when there are people living on the streets.

They don’t get to vote on whether their government should be encircling the planet with hundreds of military bases and working to destroy any nation which disobeys it while their own people struggle and suffer at home.

If you want to vote on something the powerful don’t care about, there’s a possibility that your vote might have some sway. You might have some tiny degree of influence over women’s reproductive rights, for example, or whether or not gay people can get married. But when it comes to the mechanisms of the imperial machine like war, militarism, propaganda, oligarchy, capitalism or authoritarianism, your hand will get smacked away the instant you move to touch them.

So it’s not really democracy then, is it? It’s not really rule by the people if all the most important and consequential decisions are made by forces with no accountability to the electorate, while the people are confined to a toddler’s playpen in the corner arguing about pronouns and fatphobia.

And what really sucks is that so many people believe this is freedom and democracy. The people will never know freedom until they first understand how profoundly unfree they really are.

_________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece here are some options where you can toss some money into my tip jar if you want to. Go here to find video versions of my articles. Go here to buy paperback editions of my writings from month to month. All my work is free to bootleg and use in any way, shape or form; republish it, translate it, use it on merchandise; whatever you want. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. All works co-authored with my husband Tim Foley.

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Stop the Student Votes: Leaked Memo Exposes the Real Purpose of Voter ID 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 6:52pm in

A leaked memo from the Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer has finally given the game away about what the real purpose of the Government’s Voter ID law was.

In the memo, Mercer reveals that he repeatedly lobbied Downing Street for veterans to be able to use their veteran ID cards in order to vote.

His requests were denied by those around Rishi Sunak due to fears that it would “open the floodgates” to students also being allowed to use their ID cards to vote.

This is particularly revealing as it suggests that the Government’s real motivation for imposing voter ID was not to prevent fraud, as they claim, but to prevent certain groups of voters from voting. 

The omission of student IDs from the list of accepted voter IDs was always suspicious. As Byline Times reported at the time, the list includes multiple forms of photo ID used by older voters, while deliberately excluding forms of ID used by younger generations.

The Government has always struggled to justify this. Now we know why.

Mercer is not the first Government figure to give the game away about the real purpose of voter ID. 

As we reported last year, the former Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg admitted to the National Conservatism Conference that the ID law which was dreamt up by Boris Johnson’s Government, was in reality a “clever scheme” to "gerrymander" elections towards the Conservatives.

However, he suggested that the plans had “backfired” due to many older Conservative voters being less aware of the changes.

“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections”, Mogg said.

One of those bit by the scheme was Johnson himself, who was reportedly blocked from voting at this year’s recent local elections due to not having the correct ID.

However, while the Johnson story grabbed the headlines, the changes also disenfranchised large numbers of ordinary voters, often for obscure reasons.

Individuals this paper spoke to say they struggled to get their ID accepted at polling stations, with one attempted voter barred from voting due to him having grown a beard.

The exclusion of veteran ID cards as an acceptable form of ID also had an effect with British Army veteran Adam Diver telling this paper that his veteran ID was refused as “unacceptable”.

“I felt deflated and invalidated for my service" he told us.

"I still feel rubbish about it, hours later. I served for 27 years, and the staff still said no. I thought if you could use it anywhere, you should be able to use it for voting.”

“Initially, I felt angry, but now I just feel deflated. I’m concerned that other veterans might not know about these rules. I run veterans groups and have conversations with them every day”.

Following our report a Government spokesperson told this paper that they were now “consulting” on allowing veteran ID card.

However, no such consultation on also allowing student ID yet appears to be taking place.

Infected Blood Inquiry: Why a ‘Misconduct in Public Office Act’ Could Hold Those Behind State Tragedies, Scandals and Frauds Properly to Account

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 6:00pm in

Tags 

Democracy

The words of Sir Brian Langstaff, chair of the Infected Blood Inquiry, could not have been clearer: "clinicians did not put patient safety first", he said, "whilst successive Governments and the NHS, compounded the agony by refusing to accept that wrong had been done".

The infected blood scandal resulted in more than 30,000 people being infected with HIV and Hepatitis C from 1970 to 1991, through contaminated blood products and transfusions. Approximately 3,000 of them have since died.

In his damning 2,500-page report, Langstaff set out the systematic failures of the state and acknowledged that there had been a cover-up.

Rishi Sunak rightly condemned the shame that this scandal has brought to public life – a sentiment echoed by Labour Leader Keir Starmer, who spoke of "an unprecedent injustice that has spanned the terms of numerous governments".

Prime Minister Rishi SunakPrime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the shame that the infected blood scandal has brought to public life. Photo: Alamy

The clarity of Langstaff’s report, however, is in stark contrast to the utter confusion and ambiguity in UK law when it comes to dealing with matters that may amount to criminal misconduct in a public office. 

The UK has no statutory framework for dealing with those who have acted in a nefarious, fraudulent, or grossly negligent manner while nominally carrying out activities on behalf of the state for the public.

This absence in recent years has resulted in confusion for those who have been adversely affected by the activities of those holding public office.

The Hillsborough Disaster, the Post Office Scandal and the Grenfell Tower Fire are all disasters that arose, partly or wholly, as a result of failures by the state or those acting on behalf of it. Similarly, the COVID PPE Scandal, Partygate, and elements of the links between government and media that were unearthed during the Leveson Inquiry are all other examples of the state acting with an appalling disregard for those it serves.

The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 resulted in the deaths of 72 people. Photo: Bettina Strenske/Alamy

First, there is the outrage – often as a result of a newspaper scoop unearthing the misdeed. Then the sullen response of the government minister, who invariably announces a public inquiry. Often years later, we are presented with the results of the inquiry and further statements of shame expressed by suitably contrite politicians. This is followed by, invariably, very little other than more confusion and more distress to those concerned as our law lacks the necessary clarity to deal with the misdeed in a just and proper manner.

Hillsborough saw the death of 97 innocent football fans as a result of institutional failures of the police and football administration, yet few would even begin to argue that those victims have enjoyed any justice. A with all the other state-instigated scandals of recent years, despite the obvious elements of harm and culpability being present, time and again, those responsible seem to walk away without a blemish to their name. 

Sadly, despite the findings of the Infected Blood Inquiry, it is quite possible that, once the indignation and expressions of remorse have quietly been forgotten, the victims of this deadly scandal will be left similarly exasperated as to why the perpetrators of such a gross crime and cover-up remain unpunished. 

The implications of our failure to adequately deal with state-level misconduct are clear and profound. If there is little to deter the state from acting in a way that is, at the very least, contrary to the public good, then standards in public life will diminish, while confidence in those acting for the state will evaporate. 

At present, the criminal offence of misconduct in a public office is a common law offence, whereby it must be proved that the individual was acting as a public officer and, without reasonable excuse or justification, wilfully neglected to perform their duty or misconducted themselves to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder.

There are clear problems with this definition.

First, it is not clear who a 'public officer’ is. For example, if someone enters into an agreement with a government to provide personal protective equipment that turns out to the faulty, are they, by virtue of their contractual agreement with the state, a public officer?

Second, what amounts to 'reasonable excuse or justification’? In what circumstances can a minister or civil servant be justified in withholding their WhatsApp messages or destroying documents?

What amounts to wilful neglect or determines whether an act has undermined or abused public trust in the office holder?

A statutory framework may not cure all of these evidential and legal problems with the stroke of a pen, but, if such a framework was in place it would be an important step towards setting out the parameters of probity that must be achieved by anyone who purports to act for the state.

A Misconduct in a Public Office Act could, at the very least, ensure that any government minister or official who wilfully or recklessly misleads the public is guilty of a criminal offence. It could ensure that any organisation that enters into an agreement with a government, and then attempts to cover-up the shortcomings of their goods or service, is guilty of criminal offence. It could ensure that failures in the procurement process that sees government ministers or civil servants awarding contracts to friends and benefactors rather than the most worthy bidder, are dealt with as offences of dishonesty rather than dismissed as part-and-parcel of the trappings of office. 

A Misconduct in a Public Office Act could also establish a better, fairer, way in which government deals with the press to prevent collusion in obviously false stories, while also protecting our democratic institutions and elections by making it clear that facilitating or allowing foreign powers to meddle in our democratic processes would amount to a criminal act. 

Sadly, the days when those in government or public administration could be relied upon to act competently and in accordance with the public good appear to be behind us. We can’t simply sit back and wait for the next Grenfell Fire or another Post Office Scandal.

It is clear that the public needs protection from the excesses of the state. The only way to ensure this is by putting into place a wide ranging statutory framework which means that those who are given the task of acting in the administration and delivery of public policy are held to the highest standards – knowing that a failure to do so may lead to a criminal sanction.

This, of course, won’t help the victims of Hillsborough or those needlessly infected with contaminated blood. But it may ensure that such disasters don’t happen again. 

Gareth Roberts is a barrister specialising in criminal law

The rottenness of private equity

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 6:16am in

The scourge of private equity has apparently reached Bloomberg and the Bank of England – but seemingly not the Labour Party who seem still to be cosying up to this inward investment – mostly from abroad. Most thinking people think that buying a company and then loading it up with debt so that the purchaser... Read more

This is American… but the UK is not so far off…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 22/05/2024 - 5:07am in

And in some ways is not not such a bad idea – what with UK billionaires growing their wealth in a similar manner to their US counterparts and out of all proportion to the wealth of the rest of us… It might be problematic in controlling current billionaires but surely they’d gradually have to wind... Read more

Sunak’s ‘Anti-Extremism’ Adviser Demands Protest Bans to Protect Defence and Energy Firms While Working as Lobbyist for Arms and Fossil Fuel Industry Groups

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/05/2024 - 10:52pm in

The Government’s so-called ‘independent’ adviser on domestic extremism has singled out defence companies and energy providers for protections through draconian new anti-protest measures – while himself being a paid lobbyist for organisations representing arms and fossil fuel giants.

John Woodcock – now known as Lord Walney – states in a new Government commissioned review of protest groups that “Defence companies and energy providers that are vital to local economies, national security and resilience are being particularly targeted by extreme protest groups" adding that "they are fringe groups with few supporters yet are causing significant damage. "Far too little is in place to support businesses and industries that are impacted by disruption or targeted by extreme activists blocking their premises and causing criminal damage.”

He calls for the Government to consider bringing in new measures allowing businesses to sue protest organisers for damages on the grounds of 'disruption' caused to their business.

“Defence companies and energy providers that are vital to local economies, national security and resilience are being particularly targeted by extreme protest groups. They are fringe groups with few supporters yet are causing significant damage", he states.

“The Government should consider ways to ensure increased resilience of supply for defence manufacturers and energy providers whose operations are being disrupted by illegal protest. This could include setting a protective buffer zone around certain sites or expediting injunctions on certain protestors not to enter such a Zone,” the former Labour MP writes. 

As reported by Byline Times last week, Woodcock’s own House of Lords register interest declarations reveals that, among other roles, Lord Walney is:

  • Paid chair of the Purpose Defence Coalition, members of which include Leonardo, one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, with “extensive links” to Israel’s military. Leonardo has been targeted by Palestine Action, which is mentioned over 100 times in the report
  • Paid adviser to lobbyists Rud Pederson, clients of which include the oil and gas giant, Glencore.
  • Paid adviser to the Purpose Business Coalition, members of which include fossil fuel giant BP.
  • Paid chair of the Purpose Defence Coalition, members of which include Leonardo, one of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, with “extensive links” to Israel’s military. Leonardo has been targeted by Palestine Action, which is mentioned over 100 times in the report
  • Paid adviser to lobbyists Rud Pederson, clients of which include the oil and gas giant, Glencore.
  • Paid adviser to the Purpose Business Coalition, members of which include fossil fuel giant BP.
  • Lord Walney even mentions BP by name in his review, critically writing: "Since the submission of this report, a new UK-based protest group identifying itself as Energy Embargo for Palestine forced the British Museum to close. Its leadership published a statement on the leftwing Jacobin website demanding the museum sever ties with BP after Israel granted the company gas exploration licences off the coast of Gaza. A banner displayed by the group read ‘Sponsored by BP=Sponsored by Colonial Genocide’."

    The former Labour MP does not mention his business interests in the report.

    The Conservative Government adviser also visited Israel in January this year, funded by Elnet, an NGO promoting cooperation between Europe and Israel. It was founded in 2007 as a European pro-Israel advocacy group, to counter “widespread criticism of Israel in Europe”.

    According to NGO Action on Armed Violence, Purpose Defence Coalition member Leonardo “equips Israel with Aermacchi M-346 aircraft and parts for Apache attack helicopters” while the “company’s site in Edinburgh is responsible for producing the laser targeting system used in F-35 fighter jets”.

    Walney also calls for new powers to force protest groups to pay towards policing of their own protests and for police forces to be able to restrict the "frequency" of protests on the grounds of costs.

    Tim Crosland, director of the climate group Plan B, told Byline Times: “This is not an independent report. Lord Walney is a paid lobbyist for the defence and energy industries. He is recommending more protection for defense and energy companies and more repression for those exposing the immense harm they are causing to the public, not just in terms of health but also in twisting the discourse.

    “The commentary has focused on Lord Walney, but no one has questioned why he is presenting this as an independent report to the public. The Home Secretary must have done due diligence, but he is still a paid lobbyist. The report was commissioned by James Cleverley and sponsored by the Home Office.

    “The right to protest is a universal right, and charging for policing would be the privatization of our basic rights. Many people are not in a position to take those risks and would be unable to participate in our politics.

    “This approach seems to stem from the perceived success of some of the injunctions around Insulate Britain taken out by e.g. Transport for London, which have been extremely harsh, costing tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds in some cases. 

    “This seems to be a way to silence people, but it doesn't seem very practical. How would it work in practice? This idea makes rights and justice inaccessible, allowing those with deeper pockets to dominate.”

    Following our report, the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas raised a point of order with the House of Commons Speaker on Tuesday.

    "This morning the Home Office commissioned report from Lord Walney was presented in Parliament using the motion for unopposed return procedure, effectively protecting it from any kind of legal challenge", Lucas said.

    "However, the report reads as a highly political document and it includes proposals, for example, for very serious restrictions on civil liberties and human rights...

    "I understand... Lord Walney's interests as a paid advisor for the arms and oil industry are registered in the Register of Lords interests. But could you advise the House... whether it would be at least healthy for scrutiny for that to be an additional requirement for any relevant interests by report's author to be specifically flagged for this house as well?"

    In the same official review of protest groups, Woodcock argues: “Brute force must not be allowed to win the argument." But he backs tougher enforcement by police that would in many cases prevent public displays of disagreement taking plays.  

    The crossbench peer calls on the Government to "expand the grounds on which a police force can recommend a march is not permitted to go ahead on a particular date beyond the narrow grounds that it risks serious public disorder," representing a major additional restriction on the right to protest.

    Walney also supports a "broadening" of the definition of "encouraging terrorism" to include anyone who praises a terrorist group, likely meaning anyone sporting logos or espousing slogans shared by groups like Hamas would face prison. 

    And he backs shifting the balance of resource requirements of policing the public's right to protest “with other frontline priorities" – in order to reduce the "frequency" of some protests, effectively banning or limiting the weekly Palestinian solidarity protests that have taken place in London since October. 

    The lobbyist and Government adviser proposes exclusion orders around Parliament, effectively making it illegal to protest outside the Palace of Westminster. 

    Woodcock's review criticises the “extreme left” for allegedly “systematically” seeking to undermine faith in parliamentary democracy and the rule of law. He cited polling claiming it shows public dissatisfaction with the current legal balance, between maintaining order and supporting the right to protest. However, he appears to have ignored other polling data indicating that many believe the Conservatives’ clampdowns on protests have gone too far

    Woodcock also calls for his own role to be made permanent and “properly resourced” to monitor so-called extreme protest movements.

    He proposes new mechanisms to restrict activities of non-violent direct action groups like Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, and Palestine Action. 

    One method proposed is to restrict these groups' ability to organise or fundraise if they engage in activities that could lead to imprisonment or cause serious disruption or injury. This would, in effect, be a ban, as movements require funds to operate. 

    He also wants the police to have the power to apply to the Home Secretary to prohibit processions if they believe they will likely result in “intimidation”. This broad remit could effectively allow the police to ban any protest in advance, if they think it could intimidate someone. 

    And his call for protest groups to pay for policing marches is viewed by critics as an indirect ban on protest. 

    A spokesperson for the left-wing group Momentum, which is mentioned in Walney's report, said: "This blatant conflict of interest further discredits the Walney Review. Lord Walney has well-documented financial ties to the defence and energy industries – it is absurd and wholly improper for him to be proposing Government policy which benefits these industries at the expense of the right to protest. His 'review' should be left to gather dust – and Lord Walney removed from his position."

    Lord Walney and the Home Office have been contacted for comment.

    If you have a political story or tip-off, email josiah@bylinetimes.com.

    Conservatives have made the UK world beating again

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/05/2024 - 10:15pm in

    A quite remarkable chart from the ever industrious John Burn Murdoch from the FT shows that Britain has the highest rate of homelessness in the developed world: Now there seems to me to be a bar chart explanation required because it seems that some countries’ bars appear twice which, I think, means that they display... Read more

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