The government has floated the idea of having undercover police officers in nightclubs to increase safety for women.tbz.foto | Flickr

Content Note: This article contains brief mention of gendered violence and discrimination.

There is something incredibly sinister about the government’s proposal for undercover police to be stationed in nightclubs. Considering that this was the reaction to the murder of a young woman - Sarah Everard - by a police officer, it seems like an immensely tone-deaf response, even by this government’s standards. Such a measure however fits into a pattern emanating particularly from the Home Office of seeking to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself to crack down on our civil liberties in Britain.

The assault on our liberties hasn’t been direct but rather framed through their infamous ‘culture war’ lens. One can see for example that the now infamous Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been shrouded in rhetoric and measures that frame it as a response to last year’s Black Lives Matter protests; threatening 10 year sentences for damaging statues and effectively banning protests outside Parliament. By alluding to last summer’s protests, the government are hoping to stoke anger among social conservatives in their voter base as a premise upon which to diminish all of our rights.

“The government is taking an axe to the rights of its citizens, both at home and abroad.”

The complete disregard that a lot of the country has for the rights of minorities is evident in the fact that Travellers have been talking about the dangers of its measures to criminalise trespass far before the protest and statue elements of the bill came to public attention. The government is banking on such apathy for migrant, minority and activist rights to push through increasingly illiberal police state-style legislation that will affect all of us. Similarly, the precedents set by Shamima Begum’s citizenship revocation or even Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s effective abandonment by the foreign office seem to reduce British citizenship to a privilege and its protection to rewards. The government is taking an axe to the rights of its citizens, both at home and abroad.

The Conservative Party as part of their so-called ‘War on woke’ have dismissed legitimate concerns about civil liberties as liberal moral panic. This has been evident in their barraging of ‘activist lawyers’ and disparaging of the judicial review process and the Human Rights Act. The government has used this narrative to stop lawyers from delaying deportation flights and continue Hostile Environment policies that severely clamp down on the rights of migrants in the UK. Whilst they have been framed in the most comical of ways - as defence against a mythical woke threat looking to undermine ‘our way of life’ - these moves are inherently dangerous and threaten any notion of Britain as a ‘liberal democracy’.

Protests have been occurring up and down the country opposing the Policing Bill.@vedakohli | Instagram

Labour haven’t been blameless however in helping to feed into this narrative that human rights and civil liberties are the preserve of metropolitan, liberal elites. Their abstention in votes on the Overseas Operation Bill and the Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill underlines a failure to stand up for the rule of law and human rights- largely due to concerns about being perceived as soft on crime.

The idea of liberal policies not playing well with the ‘Red Wall’ block of voters that Labour wants to win back in 2024 have seen the party take a step back from anything that could conceivably fall into Tory ‘culture war’ framing. This has only changed recently, as the public outrage surrounding the Policing Bill has forced the Party to announce it will be voting against it.

There is a stark irony in death-penalty advocate Priti Patel accusing those standing in her way of being extremists and idealogues whilst advancing some of the most authoritarian legislation the country has seen since Blair’s anti-terror bills. There is considerable effort being expended to shield Boris from responsibility for these acts- by attaching them to Priti Patel, they’ve created a narrative of her as a rogue actor and somewhat unrepresentative of the rest of the government or indeed the Prime Minister.

Throughout the pandemic, Boris’ delayed decisions to implement national lockdowns on three occasions have, particularly by the media, been presented as indicative of an ideological reluctance to curtail our liberties. ‘Freedom-loving’ Boris has so far quite effectively been able to distance himself somewhat from the increasingly authoritarian/illiberal actions and words of his Home Secretary.


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We however shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Priti Patel is the only Conservative who holds democracy in contempt. The Prime Minister unlawfully prorogued Parliament, evaded the scrutiny of interviews and debates during the last election campaign, and has overseen one of the most patently corrupt programmes of ‘contracts for the boys’ during the pandemic.

Further to this, Johnson was at the helm of one of the most sustained disinformation campaigns of modern times; making a litany of false claims surrounding Brexit. A movement of dishonesty and grift, which culminated in the 2019 election where 88% of adverts run by the Conservative Party were deemed misleading.

His government have also been making inroads on our electoral system; the 2020 Parliamentary Constituencies Act is expected to help the Tory party by about 10 seats by scrapping seats in historically Labour voting areas. What is more, this same Act has nearly doubled the election spending limit, allowing wealthy Tory donors to further increase their stranglehold on British elections. This is before one begins to consider the plans for a Voter ID law that experts warn will disenfranchise poorer people under the pretext of tackling essentially non-existent electoral fraud.

The truth is that our freedom and democracy is under assault from all angles by the government. By framing issues in a divisive manner they are seeking to bring out the worst in the public - banking on a public willing to give up its own civil liberties to fulfil a desire to see minority groups have their rights curtailed.