Safeguarding a woman's right to choose, protecting peaceful protest, welcoming Kim Leadbeater to Parliament - Weekly update 09/07/2021
It was fantastic to see new Labour MP Kim Leadbeater introduced to the House of Commons this week to represent the Batley and Spen constituency. I know she will be a great MP and advocate for the people of Batley and Spen and I look forward to working with her over the coming months and years.
There was a very moving question from Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi this week during Prime Minister’s Questions. Like so many people in this country, Tanmanjeet was denied the opportunity to say goodbye to his grandmother as she lay dying in hospital during the pandemic and then was not permitted the closure of a funeral, instead having to watch proceedings online, alone. His pain was clear for all to see and it is a pain that has been experienced by too many over the past year. We have all followed the Government guidance and sacrificed so much which makes it all the worse when you see UK Government ministers flouting the rules themselves. Hancock has now resigned. He should not have been given the chance to, and should have been fired immediately. But the UK Government waited to see what they could get away with after Cummings was let off the hook for his jaunt to Barnard Castle to ‘test his eyesight’ and they tried to do the same for Matt Hancock. It has become abundantly clear over the past year that this UK Government is lacking in anything resembling integrity.
The appalling Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons this week – a Bill that would not be out of place in Bolsonaro’s Brazil or Putin’s Russia. Despite a significant number of Tory MPs expressing disquiet about various aspects of the Bill, they chose to set aside those concerns and the concerns of their constituents, and vote along Party lines to secure Boris Johnson his majority for this malicious and threatening Bill. There was nothing in the Bill to address the epidemic of violence against women or girls – no measures to increase minimum sentences for rapists, for those who break the anonymity of rape survivors, to create a new offence of street harassment, or make misogyny a hate crime, or to toughen sentences for domestic abusers or murderers. There was nothing in there to decriminalise abortions so that women who take pills at home, for example during a pandemic when services are closed to many, are not at risk of prosecution, or to prevent the appalling abuse of women outside clinics which provide abortion services.
There were, however, significant measures to curtail our freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Protest is a fundamental right in our democracy – we’ve been protesting government decisions since the 1300s and the Peasant’s Revolt. Now this Tory Government wants to allow police to be able to shut down protests that “result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried out in the vicinity”. I don’t know if any Tory ministers have ever been to a protest, but the point is to make yourselves heard. This involves an element of disruption and noise. Without protest, it’s possible women wouldn’t have the right to vote, it’s likely that gay people wouldn’t be able to get married. Protest may be uncomfortable while it is happening, but it is a vital aspect of having your voice heard and making politicians and decision makers listen. We have to protect this vital freedom.
I have some serious concerns about this Bill and the UK Government’s priorities. The Bill makes it an offence to damage a statue and increases the penalty to 10 years’ imprisonment. In contrast, Ben Bradshaw’s amendment which would make failing to report a hit-and-run an offence was rejected. A hit-and-run that may result in the death of a person still only carries a 6-month prison sentence. This Tory Government is placing the importance of a statue of a person, who may or may not have been a slave trader, above the importance of a real person today. It would be laughable were it not so tragic and were it not so utterly disgusting that these are the priorities of our UK Government.
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