A government scared of its people

THE BBC’s Newsnight anchor man Jeremy Paxman has been ordered, by a Downing Street flunkey, to apologise for calling David Cameron a “complete idiot” for comparing the events being prepared to commemorate the centenary of the start of the First World War with preparations for last year’s royal Diamond Jubilee.

A year ago a young woman demonstrator was charged for displaying a banner that accused Work and Pensions Secretary Ian Duncan Smith of having “blood on his hands” because of the rising number of deaths of seriously sick and disabled people shortly after the degrading and distressing work capability assessment (WCA).

And more recently police have called on active members of the high-profile campaigning group Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), accusing them of “Criminal acts against the Department for Work and Pensions”. There could be a charge of harassment and intimidation of an individual but not a Government Department! These campaigners are being threatened with ridiculous trumped up charges as a way of intimidating them — because their campaigns are being successful.

We also have a lobbying bill, making its way with great difficulty through Parliament, that would gag trade unions and community groups who were unhappy in any way with Government policy in the year preceding a general election.

We also have had attacks on the press from security agencies who claim they need unfettered and unchecked freedom to tap all electronic communications in order to prevent terrorism. And the definition of terrorism is widening to include any kind of political dissent.

And we have measures to curb the press that started out as a way of stopping news empires such as that of Rupert Murdoch from prying into the lives of vulnerable individuals, demonising them and making their lives hell but which have ended up as measures that will do nothing to curb Murdoch and his ilk but will impose expensive registration and bureaucratic control over smaller publications.

Furthermore there is a new Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill that would grant local authorities, police and even private security firms sweeping powers to bar citizens from assembling lawfully in public spaces.

This Government seems very afraid of us. It is becoming paranoid about all criticism, even satire and is slicing away at the “freedom of speech” that bourgeois democracy affects to uphold.

There is a hard right-wing element on the fringe of the Tories that is campaigning to turn the clock back to the days before the 1960s, when there was an explosion of freedom to criticise and mock those in power, student rebellions and demands for equality. It is associated with “Generation Identity” and they don’t have to work hard to convince many Tories that all the ills of the modern world date from 1968 and the coming of the “loony lefties”.

But there are other Tories and Liberal Democrats who believe in bourgeois democracy who are quite alarmed at the rapid erosion of the right to free speech that is happening.

Meanwhile on the streets working class campaigners against the cuts are beginning to have some successes that include MPs voting against a new bloodbath in Syria, the saving of Lewisham Hospital from cuts — and a few others, the pushing back of the Islamophobic EDL, a few successful actions against the bedroom tax and the saving of the Independent Living Fund. It is still patchy but the mood is up and rising in Manchester, in Brighton, in south London and many other places.

These campaigners are not likely to take a lot of notice of police attempts to curb their rights to speak out, to assemble and to march.

And yes, our Government does have something to fear — working class justice!