This election started off being about Brexit, with Theresa May debuting the strong and stable phrase that would become the only words of English she would utter for the next six weeks. The election then turned to being about hope, as Jeremy Corbyn’s once floundering Labour Party released a radical manifesto that offered a real alternative to the unfettered free markets and cruel austerity that has caused so much inequality, destitution and has left our public services in tatters. Despite the Conservative backing media’s daily Two Minutes Hate for Jeremy Corbyn this vision was gaining traction and Labour was climbing in the polls. But then the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London changed the tone of the election again. Security was suddenly the issue of the day and, rightly, after these tragedies we are asking who can keep Britain safe.
Theresa May’s response? A tearing up of what is left of our civil liberties and a quickening of the right wing march towards authoritarianism.
Theresa May has always had authoritarian instincts, when things don’t go her way her first act is always to slam down the jackboot. As Home Secretary May pioneered authoritarian legislation such as the Investigatory Powers Bill, better known as the Snooper’s Charter, which would have dramatically increased the powers of the government to spy on its citizens, innocent and guilty alike, meaning that our rights to privacy and free speech on our phones or the internet would never be safe again. We are well familiar with the image of the totalitarian Leader’s secret police opening the letters of its citizens to search for seditious speech. Well in the 21st century this is the same thing. More heinous is May’s introduction of secret courts where the accused cannot be present, their lawyer cannot be present, they cannot know the governments case or challenge the government’s evidence. Is there any right more indicative of a free society or a democracy than the right for all citizens to a fair trial? Well in Theresa May’s Britain this right no longer exists.
In her time as Home Secretary Mrs. May also supported censoring the internet, classifying non-violent political activists as terrorists, condoned the arrest of journalists of terrorists and allowed the vetoing of freedom of information requests, denying a key pillar of public oversight over government. She even had consultations with the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia, one of the most totalitarian countries on Earth, seeking advice on the running of an ‘effective’ criminal justice system.
At this point I have little trouble calling Theresa May a wannabe tyrant. Even calling this general election could be seen as an authoritarian as seeking the vastly expanded majority she was likely to get before polls narrowed is a pretty naked attempt to crush opposition from Labour and less authoritarian Tory backbenchers to her government program. May clearly wants an elective dictatorship and the freedom to wield government power without the danger of oversight from courts or parliament.
Even before the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London the Conservative manifesto had dangerously authoritarian elements. The Conservative manifesto contained proposals for a government controlled internet, similar to that of dictatorships like China and North Korea, where the government would be able to control what you read, post, share and publish online. These measures are ostensibly designed to stop terrorism but we have already seen Theresa May is more than willing to use measures designed to fight terrorism on innocent members of the public and political speech she disagrees with. The proposals also include language that has widely been interpreted to mean the banning of pornography of Britain’s state internet bringing government enforced moralism to the UK.
After Manchester and London Theresa May has once again donned her black shirt and expanded her assault on British liberty. Never a fan of the Human Rights Act her first response to the atrocities was to rip up any part of the Human Rights Act that gets in her way and expand the power of the police. Liberty is the opposite of terrorism. It is anathema to the kind of totalitarian Islamo-Fascist state they want. These people hate freedom, and it would seem our Prime Minister agrees.
But all this makes us safe, right? Theresa May may be putting me in ever tighter chains but at least it works! No, no it doesn’t.
Because even with these expanding powers and without pesky human rights to worry about the police have not been able to prevent people slipping off to join ISIS or committing atrocities. And why is this? Not because the government needs more of our freedoms to add to the fire but because the police need more money. The government has been simultaneously giving the police more to do while drowning them under funding cuts. The Police Federation has warned as much, saying there would be consequences as community policing is gutted and 1000 armed police as well as 20,000 regular police are laid off . The Prime Minister’s response to this warning? She accused the police of crying wolf. Manchester and London are unfortunately another reminder of he human cost of austerity.
Theresa May wants authoritarian rule but isn’t willing to pay for it. Yet this doesn’t make me feel any securer in my personal liberty. As a guarantor of my freedom Theresa May’s bargain basement Stasi not having the time to search my e-mails for thought crimes or the resources to buy the black bag to put over my head is pretty poor. I’d much rather have a law setting out in black and white what inviolable rights and freedoms I have that I can use in a publicly accountable court system. A Human Rights Act maybe.
But what is Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s alternative to tyranny on the cheap? Well how about a properly funded police force? 10,000 new police officers on the streets? Giving the police the resources they need to do the job? An increased focus on community policing to stop marginalised communities feeling like they’re under siege and turning to terror? All of that sounds pretty good to me. And on top of that how about cutting off trade deals with terrorist funding countries like Saudi Arabia to prevent terrorists getting the money they need to commit atrocities and spread the hateful ideology of terror? Labour will do that . Theresa May would rather sell them weapons and get advice from them on how to run our courts. Overall labour has a sensible plan for Britain’s security without sacrificing our liberties. Jeremy Corbyn really is the Prime Minister who could make us safer.
Theresa May’s poundshop fascism doesn’t make us more safe, it only makes us less free. It’s often been said that you can’t have freedom and security. But in this election, for the only time I can think of, freedom and security are the same option on the ballot paper and that option is Labour.