Queen’s Speech and the Assault on Liberty

[Please see https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/opendemocracyuk/boris-liberal-dead-boris-authoritarian-reigns-supreme/?utm_campaign=Weekly%20flagship%20newsletter%20%28Week%2018%2C%202021%29%20%28RHC4Rs%29&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Newsletter%3A%20oD%20weekly&_ke=eyJrbF9jb21wYW55X2lkIjogIllqQ1l3bSIsICJrbF9lbWFpbCI6ICJ0aGVyZWFsbWpyMjQ3QGdtYWlsLmNvbSJ9%5D

There are a number of points in the Queen’s Speech which are of constitutional importance and lean against democracy. I do not regard the UK as a democracy for a number of reasons, but do see it as potentially one. The UK government’s proposed measures take the UK further away from democracy.

Firstly there is a bill to have photographic evidence in order to vote at a UK general election. Reasons have been given that are not based on evidence, but are claimed to strengthen democracy. The main reason given is to counter a type of fraud known as personation, or claiming to be someone you are not as you try to vote; current protections against this are more than adequate. The effect is that anyone without photographic identification will be excluded. Democracy, as based on the principles of humanitarianism and equalitarianism, is a system to include all living inside a territory (of a state or of a city; indeed any locality) or who can claim attachment to that territory, without discrimination. This proposal to exclude is therefore anti-democratic.

[Equalitarianism here means equality before the law; it can be seen as part of egalitarianism, or as separate. As it stands this proposal would exclude millions of voters, mainly young ones and those from ethnic minorities.]

Secondly, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is against the legitimate and the necessary right to protest and “threatens to criminalise protesters who are noisy, disruptive or even ‘annoying’, while effectively outlawing Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities’ way of life” (see openDemocracy’s report above). The separate legal systems of Scotland and Northern Ireland mean that this Bill should it become an act will not apply over the whole UK, but the bulk of the UK’s popation will be affected. As above, it is also unnecessary as illegitimate protest is already covered by other laws. Further, it makes the police responsible for deciding what is legitimate protest and thus making them make law rather then follow it as a police force should do.

“The government’s plans for immigration … [propose] a system that ties people to their employers, is unresponsive to labour needs within the economy and shuts out working-class migrants” (see openDemocracy report). Clearly the first and third effects are anti-democratic; the first comes close to slavery and the third violates humanitarianism and equalitarianism. The second is mostly foolish and, taken with the third, effectively harms the economy of the UK and thus is against the interests of the people of the UK.

The proposed asylum policy is quite possibly illegal under international, but is at best highly discriminatory seeking to prevent most refugees routes into the UK. Yet again the humanitarian element necessary for democracy is violated.

The Judicial Review Bill aims to curb the current right of ordinary citizens to challenge the government by recourse to law. Laws are necessary in a democracy and this will give the government the right to ignore whichever laws do not suit them.

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