Defend the right to strike rally Defend the right to strike rally. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

The Tories’ crushing of civil liberties goes hand in hand with their attacks on workers, observes Attiq Malik

On Monday night the Tories voted down amendments to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill which they are rushing through parliament to outlaw effective strike action. The attack on trade union rights is part of a tranche of authoritarian legislation and increased police powers the Tories are implementing to stop working people organising.

Events over the coronation weekend made it crystal-clear that Sunak and his cronies are attempting to steamroller through a new phase of state oppression. The Metropolitan Police arrested: organis­ers of Republic ahead of the anti-monar­chy protest; protesters wearing Just Stop Oil t-shirts and a journalist in their prox­imity; Night Safety volunteers carrying rape alarms the previous night; protesters deemed a threat by facial recognition soft­ware. Placards reading “Not My King” were also confiscated.

In a democratic society, the right to protest is a fundamental pillar that allows citizens to voice their grievances, chal­lenge injustices, and bring about progres­sive changes.

Rushed through parliament, using the coronation as an excuse, the introduction of the Public Order Act 2023 infringes upon this cherished right and undermines the democratic fabric of our society.

The Act, purportedly designed to ensure public safety and maintain order, grants the government broad powers to restrict and control public demonstrations. Its immediate use show that these powers can be used to encroach upon civil liberties and stifle dissent.

The powers given to the police in this Act and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, allows them to set noise limits and to arrest individuals simply on suspicion of causing disruption. It effec­tively silences dissenting voices, inhibits the free flow of ideas that challenge the status quo and shields those in power from accountability.

It’s clear that the Tories have their eyes on growing opposition to their government and particularly an advancing trade-union movement. Britain already has the most draconian anti-trade union legislation in western Europe, but since last year, union after union has smashed the legal obstacles designed to stop them striking.

So the Tories are now seeking to pass the Minimum Service Bill which will out­law effective strike action. Last month the Health Secretary took the Royal College of Nursing to court to stop them from taking a second day of strike action – and won on a technicality.

Rather than address the popu­lar demands for increasing wages and investment in public services, the Tories are determined to protect profits by clamp­ing down on our civil liberties and ability to organise.

The right to protest and strike had to be fought for and have been central to win­ning democratic and civil rights, workers’ rights, women’s rights and environmental protection.

It is crucial that we challenge such leg­islation to ensure that our civil liberties and democratic values are preserved. The world was watching when the anti-monar­chists were detained. Let’s make sure the next time they look there’s a movement challenging this draconian Tory assault.

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