Posts Tagged ‘Labour’

Freedom and the Law

Saturday, August 7th, 2021

Freedom is something we almost universally value, but which is often hijacked by various groups, particularly on the extreme right to support particular causes which have little real connection with our undamental rights. Freedom is certainly not the freedom to do what we like regardless of the effect it has on others.

Freedom is not the right to own and carry guns or other weapons. It isn’t the right to spread disease we may have by not taking sensible precautions such as wearing a face mask in crowded places. It isn’t the right to increase the risk of others getting lung cancer or to drive after consuming alcohol or drugs.

Arguably the most important of our freedoms is the right to hold and express political and religious ideas and to express these. But that is not absolute, and rightly there are laws against hate speech and incitement to others to commit criminal actions or threaten the lives of others.

Back in 2005, the Labour government brought in a law to criminalise protest in Parliament Square. It was clearly a law which imposed unnecessary restrictions on our freedom and one which was brought in for a trivial reason, to end the embarrassment to the Labour ministers of one man, Brian Haw, continuing to protest, particularly over Iraq war and its disastrous consequences. That Tony Blair was annoyed by a regular reminder of his lies was not a suitable basis for legislation.

A regular series of harassment by police and others – almost certainly at the urging of the Home Secretary – had failed to shift this persistent protester, and civil servants were ordered to add a section to the bill which became the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 to make his protest illegal. In the event the act failed to apply to his protest and I wondered if this was a little deliberate subversion by at least one of those responsible for its drafting rather than simple incompetence. Because his protest had begun well before the SOCA law came in on 7th April 2005, it was apparently not covered by it. As I commented, “rather a lot of egg on government faces there.” This initial ruling by the High Court of Justice was eventually overturned by the Court of Appeal and these sections of the law were replace by other restictive laws in 2011.

On Sunday 7th August 2005, protesters came to Parliament Square to deliberately disobey the law, and the police came, some rather reluctantly, under orders to arrest them. The protestors argued that protest is a human right and cannot be restricted by law in a free society.

Brian Haw was there, but protesting legally as it appeared that the act didn’t include him. He held up a placard with the words from a speech in Boston by US Scretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
if a person cannot walk into the middle of the town square and express his or her views without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or physical harm, then that person is living in a fear society, not a free society. We cannot rest until every person living in a ‘fear society’ has finally won their freedom.”
interleaved with his own comments on Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Belmarsh and the Iraq war and more.

The police swooped on a few of those with posters or placards and arrested them, leading them away but their heart was clearly not in it and the great majority of the protesters were untouched, though
they were warned that their protest was illegal. As I commented: ” I saw five people arrested for simply peacefully holding banners supporting the right to protest. It happened on the square opposite our Houses of Parliament, and it made me feel ashamed to be British.”

When the protest in Parliament Square ended, protesters were invited to take part in another illegal protest inside the one km restricted zone around Parliament, but on Westminster Bridge. Again taking their lead from Boston, though this time from 1773, and tipping tea into the water, campaigners calling for a low-level tax on foreign currency exchange transactions, as proposed by Nobel prize-winning economist James Tobin in 1978. This would deter speculation on currency movements, giving governments greater control over their fiscal and monetary policies, and reducing the power of speculators to affect the markets.

The connection between the tea bags torn to tip tea into the Thames, produced by large multi-national companies who are among the currency speculators, and the Tobin Tax, seemed a little weak – as doubtless was the brew in the river – though it did all alliterate nicely for the Westminster Tea Party – Time for Tobin Tax.

We are now seeing a law going through Parliament which will even further restrict our right to protest, increasing discriminatory policing, criminalising some traditional ways of life and seriously restricting and controlling protests in a huge shift further towards a police state. Unfortunately a large Conservative majority makes it seem inevitable that our freedoms will be significantly reduced.

More on My London Diary for August 2005.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Strangers Into Citizens 2007

Friday, May 7th, 2021

One of the great failures of British politicians in my lifetime has been over immigration. Since Enoch Powell’s infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech in Birmingham in April 1968, both major parties have engaged in a desperate contest to show they are tougher on immigration than the other.

Immigration as we moved from Empire to Commonwealth wasn’t just a moral issue of living up to the promises the country had long made to its overseas subjects – but had failed to live up to. It was also a matter of economic and social need, for workers, nurses, bus conductors, doctors and more to keep the United Kingdom running. By the 1960s, a third of junior doctors were from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and in 1963 Enoch Powell, then minister of health launched a campaign which recruited a further 18,000 doctors from India and Pakistan.

Immigration controls had of course begun earlier, but the 1962 Conservative Commonwealth Immigrants Act began a new series of anti-immigration measures. Labour followed this with their 1968 Act, a panic measure to restrict the arrival here of Kenyan Asians. The 1971 Immigration Act and further legislation restricted even restricted the numbers of foreign nurses – who the NHS was and is still very reliant on.

On and on the politicians have gone, increasing the restrictions and playing the numbers game promoted by racists rather than adopting a positive approach and stressing the great advantages that immigrants have brought to this country. While in the Tory party attitudes have largely been driven by straight-forward racism and the residues of imperialism, Labour’s policies seem more cynical and solely based on middle-class electoral assumptions about working-class racism.

Of course there are working-class racists. But there is also working class solidarity that crosses any lines of race, and which could have been fostered by the Labour Party and the trade unions. Instead they have left the field largely open to the likes of the EDL and the lies of the right-wing press. In this and other ways Labour has not lost the working class, but abandoned it.

The vicious and racist policies imposed in recent years by Theresa May against migrants, particularly those here without official permission but also those with every right to be here but without a huge archive of paperwork by which to prove this – the Windrush generation have met with opposition from some mainly on the left in Labour, but they built on the policies of the New Labour government before here.

Labour have abstained rather than voted against so much discriminatory legislation, and their opposition to Priti Patel’s draconian bill which aims to criminalise Roma, Gypsy and Traveller lifestyles and increase the surveillance powers of immigration officers as well as introducing new ‘diversionary cautions’ against migrants to allow police to force them to leave the country has at best been half-hearted.

Of course there are exceptions. Honourable men and women in both parties who have argued against racist policies, and MPs who have voted with their consciences rather than follow the party line – and sometimes lost the party whip. And of course those in some of the smaller parties and outside parliament, particularly various religious leaders, some of whom took a leading role in the Strangers into Citizens March and Rally on May 7th 2007 which called for all those who have worked (and paid their taxes) here for more than four years to be given a two year work permit, after which if they get suitable work and character references they would be given indefinite leave to remain.

Although this still would not change our terrible mistreatment of those who arrive seeking asylum, it did seem a pragmatic solution to a major problem which governments have found intractable. But as the organisers of the event and many of the speakers insisted, it needed to be part of a wider package of fair treatment for those applying for asylum or immigration. But the political parties were not listening and seem only able to think of more and more restrictive, racist and authoritarian policies which drive us further into becoming a police state.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

A People’s Vote

Thursday, May 21st, 2020

Around a million people came to the start of a march from Hyde Park last October to call for a referendum on the Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson. Although when we held the referendum in 2016 a small majority won the vote to leave Europe, by the time it had actually become clear what this would really mean many had changed their minds.

But we had a government driven by a small group of people determined we should leave whatever, and whose whole existence was predicated on getting Brexit done and prepared to lie and lie again to do so. Some at least of them stood to make millions or billions out of leaving, and others feared that European legislation might soon force them to pay the large amounts of tax they are avoiding.

Facing them was an opposition which was divided over Europe and with a large group of MPs and officers whose main aim wasn’t to provide meaningful opposition to the government but to undermine and replace their leader. Their activities had already lost enough seats in the 2017 election to deny Labour a chance of leading a government and they were hell-bent on making sure of a disastrous result in the next which was expected before long and took place in December.

The Lib-Dems had shot themselves in the foot in July’s leadership election and that left only the 35 SNP members and the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas as an effective opposition.

So while this huge protest was an outpouring of feeling representing a large proportion of the public who feel that now we knew more about what Brexit we should be asked to make an informed choice on whether to leave Europe, it stood little or no chance of success.

Although it is now clear that staying in the EU is far better than any deal that Johnson can negotiate – and that the Tories will do their utmost to reach a ‘no deal’ exit – nothing short of the kind of huge-scale popular revolt that would bring the government down can stop it. The people I was photographing on the streets of London were certainly not the kind of popular mob that would need, and it is difficult in these times to see how that could be achieved – except perhaps by a government ban on Strictly, that Bake Off and the Archers.

More pictures at March for a People’s Vote.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

Suicide Crisis

Thursday, February 13th, 2020

I hadn’t realised until I went to this event the terrible scale of the suicide crisis this country is now facing. It isn’t something that is entirely evenly distributed and I have to think for a long time to recall someone I know personally who has actually killed themselves. But while talking to a friend a few months ago she told me that over 20 people she had know had taken their own lives, all disabled people in desperate circumstances because of cuts in benefits, either because of unfair assessements or following benefit sanctions.

I had a shock a few weeks ago, waiting for a train at a busy London station, standing on the platform when something had clearly gone wrong, with railway staff running down the neighbouring platform to stop an incoming train. I glanced back down the track and quickly turned away as some distance away there was clearly a body and a great deal of blood on the line. My train was just coming in and I got on and left without knowing what had happened, but several times a year the trains on my own line are halted because someone has jumped in front of a train at another station.

The last person I knew who did so was a photographer, Bob Carlos Clarke, who in 2006 walked out of the Priory Hospital in Barnes and threw himself in front of a train at a nearby level crossing. A year or two earlier I’d had some long telephone conversations with him about his book ‘Shooting Sex: The Definitive Guide to Undressing Beautiful Strangers’ and he had sent me a CD-Rom with some of his pictures, though I don’t think I ever got round to writing more than a short note about it – it wasn’t my sort of photography.

I’d come across suicide – or rather attempted suicide – at a much closer distance in my teenage years when I’d actually interupted someone who was trying to electrocute themselves, pulling away one of the mains wires they had wrapped around a finger and had burnt into their flesh. It was an event that seared itself into my mind too.

What shocks me now are the statistics on teenage suicides, with UK official figures showing more than 200 school age children now kill themselves each year. The campaigners were laying out 200 pairs of shoes to represent these 200 fatalities, 200 lives ended. One of the main factors that lead to this is the failure of mental health services, which simply lack the resources to deal eefectively with the problem, particularly with the problems of young people. Speakers told some horrific stories of teenagers waiting for months to get the specialist care they desperately need or at being let down by what care is provided.

A number of MPs and others had pledged support and some were shown on posters with their promises in writing, GPs and psychatrists came to speak, along with both the Shadow Minister for Mental Health & Social Care Barbara Keeley and Shadow Secretary of State for Health Jon Ashworth came and pledged a Labour government to action. But unfortunately we haven’t got a Labour government.

More at: Stop the suicide crisis.

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

Travelcard & more protests

Thursday, August 29th, 2019

I do like to get my money’s worth from a Travelcard. Because of some Tory gerrymandering in the 1960s the area where I live was the only part of Middlesex not to become a London borough, which means that despite my age I don’t qualify for a ‘Freedom Pass’ but am still paying for rail and underground travel.

I do of course get a national bus pass, which does save me a great deal, and a Senior Rail Card gets me a third off my rail fares except during the morning peak – and is a bargain at £70 for 3 years. But still the travel to and around London working costs me around £1500 a year – yet another reason to curse the Tories.

The Freedom Pass was introduced by a Labour GLC in 1973, largely pushed through by the effort’s of Ken Livinstone’s Deputy Illtyd Harrington. Welcome though it was for pensioners, transport in London remained a difficult and expensive business for those of us younger at the time, with journeys generally requiring the purchase of a separate ticket for each stage in any journey.

Again it was under a Labour GLC that the Travelcard was introduced in 1983-4 (the later year for the one-day version) although its use was restricted until the Capitalcard in 1985 added rail travel to Underground and buses. This was replaced by a revised Travelcard in 1989 which included rail and DLR services, which despite changes in London’s governance and travel systems remains in use with only minor changes today.

The Travelcard made my extensive photography of Greater London from 1986-2000 possible, or at least greatly simplified the logistics, particularly in removing the need to queue at tube and rail stations to buy a ticket for each stage of the journey. Improvements in providing information about services, and latterly the online Journey Planner and Googlehave also greatly simplified the process, which previously had meant much tedious work with paper timetables and tube and bus maps as well as the London A-Z. Though with a little intelligence it often remains possible to find faster routes than those suggested online, which occasionally verge on the bizarre.

On April 30th my Travelcard first took me to Waterloo, and then on the tube to Westminster. After photographing the protests there it was back on the tube to London Bridge and then by rail to New Cross and a short walk to Goldsmiths. I then returned by train to London Bridge, again taking the tube to Westminster, where I photographed a protest by XR Families at the Treasury. I walked back to Westminster station and again took the Jubilee Line, this time to Finchley Road, with a short walk to cover a protest against a fundraiser to recruit young people to the Israeli army at the JW3 Jewish Community Centre. This is close to Finchley Road & Frognal station from which I caught the Overground to Richmond for a South West Railway train home.

I think the day would have needed a combination of 5 or 6 single or return tickets for the various stages in the pre-Travelcard era, each involving queing to buy a ticket from a clerk in the ticket office. I don’t think I could have contemplated a journey like this and had I done so it would have been expensive. I felt my Travelcard had served me well.

More about the last two protests of the day and of course more pictures:

XR Families and Children at the Treasury
Protest against Israeli Army Recruitment

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, please share on social media.
And small donations via Paypal – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.