FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2014
If we judge David Cameron by his actions rather than by the noble words about “freedom of speech” and the “free press” that he used in Parliament in November 2012, it is absolutely clear that he has an attitude to press freedom more befitting a tyrannical leader of North Korea than the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
In November 2012 David Cameron bragged to parliament about how much the people of Britain can be be proud of: “the oldest democracy in the world; freedom of speech; a free press;
“We should be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press. In this House, which has been a bulwark of democracy for centuries, we should think very, very carefully before crossing that line.” [Hansard]
Now, you don’t have to be any kind of politics obsessive to know that when David Cameron
- Cameron said “We’ll cut the deficit, not the NHS” then launched a £20 billion programme of cuts to the NHS.
- Cameron said “no more top-down reorganisations of the NHS” then launched the biggest top-down reorganisation in the entire history of the NHS.
- Cameron claimed that “We’re paying down Britain’s debts” even though the national debt is still growing rapidly.
- Cameron claimed that the OBR had stated that austerity is not responsible for depressed economic growth, when they had actually admitted that austerity was almost entirely responsible.
- Cameron said that the government are “making work pay” but the average wage has fallen in real terms every single month since he came to power.
- Cameron said that fracking would substantially reduce gas prices in the UK but even George Osborne admits that this is a misleading fiction.
In light of this track record, it is probably wise to start from the default position that when David Cameron says something, assume that the opposite to be true.
There have been ample demonstrations that David Cameron’s fine words about the importance of “freedom of speech” and “press freedom” are nothing more than hot air. In this article I will briefly outline three of the most apparent.
The Gagging Law
Any government with the slightest regard for “freedom of speech” would certainly not have pushed through legislation designed to limit the freedom of speech of the non-profit sector, but this is precisely what Cameron’s government has done.
It is absolutely clear that the “Protection of Corporate Lobbying and Silencing of Legitimate Political Debate” legislation was designed to silence charities, religions, protest groups, community organisations and trade unions from criticising Tory party policy. Iain Duncan Smith’s angry rhetoric against the Trussell Trust food bank confirms it.
Despite the protestations of the voluntary sector that the “Gagging Bill” represents a blatant attack on their freedom of expression, and attempts by the House of Lords to unpick some of the most draconian elements of the legislation, the Tories managed to get this abomination of a bill through parliament.
The main ray of hope is that the first prosecutions against the charities/religions/protest groups that dare to ignore these new draconian laws in order to speak out against the government will attract far more attention to their causes than simply letting them alone ever would have.
The “Deregulation” Bill
If the attempt to hide legislation designed to attack the freedom of speech of the non-profit sector in a bill ostensibly aimed at controlling corporate lobbying wasn’t sneaky enough, the Tories then tried to hide an attack on the freedom of the press in a so-called “Deregulation Bill”.
The “Deregulation Bill” is a hotch-potch of legislation covering ten different government departments which is being rushed through parliament as fast as possible. One of the most contentious parts of the bill is Clause 47 which would allow the decision to confiscate journalistic material to take place in secret courts, which is clearly an attack on the “free press“.
The “Gagging Law” and Clause 47 of the “Deregulation” Bill are attacks on our freedom of speech and the freedom of the press, however they are quite obscure legislative efforts to undermine our freedoms. There is absolutely nothing obscure about this next example.
In July 2013 David Cameron and his goonsthreatened to shut down the Guardian newspaper and imprison their journalists overthe Edward Snowden leaks. Within the space of eight months Cameron had gone from lauding the “free press” and worrying about “crossing the Rubicon” of press censorship, to threatening to shut down one of the most famous newspapers in Britain unless they complied with his demands.
It doesn’t matter what your views on the Guardian (leftist drivel, a good newspaper or sold-out to neoliberalism long ago), the decision to send his deputy security advisor to threaten to shut them down demonstrates that all Cameron’s noble words about “freedom of speech” and the “free press” were just vapid hot air.