John McDonnell MP
Harold Laski, professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the Labour party in the Attlee period, said that in this country, we will not see the arrival of fascism with some dictator strutting in his uniform, bedecked in medals. Instead, the risk to our freedom will come from the creeping, incremental erosion of our civil liberties, leading to harsh Conservative authoritarianism. This Bill is a step in that direction. It is a step in undermining the constitutional safeguards of our liberty, secured over generations of protest and struggle. It threatens the very basic human freedom of assembly and association.
The Bill is aimed not just at the traditional progressive campaigners and trade unions; its target is the young—the younger generation that rejects the racism, sexism and misogyny that permeate our society and understands that its future is being placed at risk by the existential threat of climate change. Through their participation in mobilisations such as Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion, the young have discovered their power; so, too, have this Government recognised the power of the young. The Bill is about ensuring that the younger generation are prevented from exercising that power.
I caution the Government to learn from the past. For centuries, our history has shown that when the Governments have imposed legislation that strikes at the heart of our liberties, our people simply refuse to accept and comply with unjust laws. If a Government persist, division and conflict are always the result, so I warn the Government that they provoke our younger people at their peril.
If anything defines the disgraceful depths to which this Government have sunk, it is the attack in this Bill on the last group in our society against whom it appears that for some it is still acceptable to openly racially discriminate: the Traveller community. Under this Bill, they will suffer the threat of not only action by the police but even the loss of the homes in which they live. I urge colleagues to wake up to the threat of this Bill, and to vote against and defeat it at every stage of its passage. That is what I commit to doing.