Let’s start with the bad news.
Social gatherings of more than six people will be banned from Monday. Government commands like this raise little more than an eyebrow these days, but they should raise a ruckus.
The need to limit social contacts may be arguable — but if it is a winning argument, why isn’t the case being made democratically? Why isn’t Parliament voting on this major incursion into our lives? Why is there such an absence of democratic debate?
We must never accept being ruled by diktat.
As our director writes in today’s Telegraph,
“An important opportunity for a course correction will arrive in Parliament in coming weeks, when MPs will have the chance to repeal the Coronavirus Act. The Act represents the biggest expansion of executive power in a generation, and contains some of the most extreme powers in modern British history. If Parliament is serious about taking back control of our laws, the time is now.”
The motion to renew the Coronavirus Act hasn’t been tabled yet — as soon as it is, we’ll let you know how to take action.
Now for the good news!
An important exemption is set to be put in the new restrictions on gatherings to protect the right to protest.
For months, we’ve been lobbying Government to end the criminalisation of people exercising their democratic rights to protest, whatever their cause. Now, it looks like we’ve won! Protest organisers will have to comply with public health guidance and conduct risk assessments — we'll analyse these details as soon as the new law is published. This is a huge improvement on the previous outright ban on demonstrations.
The right to protest, particularly in the context of the state’s growing authoritarian powers, is a vital freedom in any democracy — we will always defend it.
Thank you for standing with us at this critical time.
Madeleine Legal & Policy Officer