Alex Massie

Move along now son. Or else...

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Via NHS, I see Henry Porter is doing good work. You could hardly make this stuff up. It makes Anthony Blair look like a beacon of modesty, transparency and honesty. Yes, it's not just our Labour masters but all the "authorities" that are to blame - but at every available opportunity Labour has enabled and encouraged this sort of madness...

Which brings me to the third panel in the triptych of Gordon Brown's conference pieties - his love and support of the freedom to protest. Clearly this does not extend to the demonstration tomorrow, timed by its organisers, CND and Stop the War Coalition, to coincide with Brown's statement on Iraq. It begins at 1pm with a rally in Trafalgar Square and is due to proceed, with the octogenarians Tony Benn and Walter Wolfgang at its head, to Parliament Square.

That is where it becomes a problem. Instead of using the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, the law preventing demonstration within a kilometre of Parliament Square without police permission, the authorities have disinterred a Sessional Order of the House of Commons of the Metropolitan Police Act of 1839, passed at the time of the Chartists.

With archaic relish, they have banned the march because it may impede the progress of any MP or peer who wants to attend Parliament (it is surprising there is no mention of Mr Speaker's coach and four). The organisers have guaranteed that access, but the ban stays in place, which is odd given that the Prime Minister is on record as saying he wants to repeal the section of SOCPA that requires police permission. As everyone now realises, the use of Sessional Orders may stop all demonstrations while Parliament is sitting. The repeal of the relevant sections of SOCPA, if it happens, will not make the slightest difference.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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