Creeping towards Authoritarianism

We’re continuing to witness unnerving developments in this current Conservative government. The blatant yet brash creeping towards authoritarianism has most recently manifested in a proposed bill to silence open journalism. Obsessing over crushing a public voice, the most overt assault against democracy in the UK has now been issued.

The incremental stages can be mapped out plainly. The creeping towards authoritarianism has been neither coy nor cunning. It’s about appointing friends to positions of power, currying favour with the wealthy through facilitating lucrative contracts, and quashing those who would bring attention to such indiscretions.

Even worse, we’re being forced to contend with rampant misinformation pouring out of Downing Street. In a surreal transpiration of events, Labour MP Dawn Butler was ejected from the Commons for exposing the distance between Boris Johnson’s statements and the truth, whilst the latter has never been held to account for his lying.

Politicians might infamously stretch the truth, but it seems there’s truly no limit to the claims they can make without repercussion.

In the context of this worrying trend, lockdown created a dangerous precedent. It doesn’t really bear comment, since the potential implications for authoritarianism have been discussed at length, and it’s incredibly confusing to actually digest current rules. Following the 19th of July, it’s difficult for comfortably anyone to know where they stand.

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Kill the Bill –

Another segment previously discussed at length, but still feeds a narrative of creeping towards authoritarianism. The most controversial articles attracting the greatest interest effectively revolved around imposing greater police powers in relation to protests.

A number of elements enshrouding the bill were awkward and paradoxical. Freedom of expression was muzzled as the police were gifted far greater power, despite demonstrating an inability to wield that responsibility, evidence by the Bristol protests and Sarah Everard demonstration. Footage exhibiting a stark contrast with the Rangers football celebration occurring within weeks of those events provided a clear set of double-standards.

Irritatingly, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was actually filled with a number of valuable protections for victims, and a focus on rehabilitation over punishment for minor offenders. It’s clear the hope was these clauses would overshadow the true priority of silencing dissent.

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Statues –

I do feel like I’m repeating myself a lot. My grievances over statues are perpetuated, however, because the issue continues to be so fundamentally misunderstood, often deliberately.

Despite the baseless statements of many, the debate is not about history. History is unchanged, regardless of what we say about it. Equally, statues are irrelevant within the study of history. I never gleaned anything of value by engaging with a statue.

They are a celebration. Statues are about what we choose to honour from history. Studying history is about what we choose to remember and learn from, what is perceived as important and what can help us better understand ourselves. I suppose both the study of history and statues are about modern identity, but the latter expresses considerably more pomp without any associated substance.

Yes, everything has an agenda. It’s completely obtuse to pretend otherwise when discussing statues. What frustrates me is the latest laws protecting statues regardless of whom they might depict. They can fuel a distinct future narrative and contemporary attitude. They reflect the society we aim to build and the ideologies we strive to promote. This entrenchment in defence of Britain’s colonial past is negative and unproductive.

Someone like Marjorie Taylor Greene arguing for statues of Hitler and Satan is just bizarre. Contrary to her apparent belief, no one ‘learns what they did’ because you have statues of them. It is slightly amusing that she evidently doesn’t know Germany has specifically prohibited statues of Hitler or any Nazi memorabilia for the exact reason that they inspire and attract favour. Someone, most of the German population has still stumbled onto knowledge of the past. Statues are just not about learning. That never happens in the streets. However you feel about the past, you need to accept that it involved a lot of suffering for as much as some people prospered. That legacy remains today. Acknowledging that does not equate to accusing any individual or body of committing crimes. History should be judged by the standards of our time, because that’s the whole point. It’s about learning how far we’ve come, assessing the mistakes of others, and trying desperately to improve.

Anyways, staying relevant to creeping towards authoritarianism, the potential for open discussion has once again been extinguished. Whether you like them or not, laws introduced in December 2020 mean Britain’s statues are here to stay for a long time.

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Hereditary peerage –

I might be late on this, but since it’s been in the news recently, why not reiterate: there should be no hereditary peers. It’s not a good system. It’s undemocratic. It’s completely antiquated.

Compounded by the revelations that ‘Queen’s Consent’ has influenced thousands of laws, handing power to the unqualified yet well-connected and enabling our monarchy to interfere in affairs conjures an image of tyranny.  Obviously, this is not the fault of the current Conservative government.

Still, it’s another feature of codified law that needs updating.

Creeping towards authoritarianism –

They’re coming for the media. Already, large swathes of the press are ruled by a centralised oligarchy. The greatest threat, however, comes from a proposed fourteen-year jail sentence for journalists who ‘embarrass the government’.

Reporters or journalists who handle sensitive information will be treated as foreign spies, unable to rely upon the public interest defence. It’s a move designed to shield the government from the consequences of its wrongdoing, without addressing the wrongdoing itself. Arguably, instead of threatening whistle-blowers, we should instead be trying to encourage our officials to act with a little more decorum and respect.

It remains to be seen how far ‘embarrassing the government’ will go. Allegations of corruption? Bullying or sexual impropriety? Purposefully neglecting various demographics during a pandemic?

We can probably also reach a general consensus that Matt Hancock embarrassed himself.

As always, we do have to thank this government for outmanoeuvring themselves. Despite attempting to declare herself a champion of law and order, Priti Patel failed to increase the promised police numbers and has now received an overwhelming vote of no confidence from the Police Federation of England and Wales amidst her introduction of pay freezes. Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock are gone. Whether enough people will ever care that Boris Johnson continues to lie remains to be seen.

Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts on the recent developments. Alongside these contemporary commentaries, I also write travel blogs and short stories if you’re interested. Feature image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

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