Charles Moore Charles Moore

The power of Penny Mordaunt

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The police have said sorry for arresting anti-monarchy protestors under the wrong legal rubric on Coronation Day, but is that really a lead news story, as it was on Tuesday’s Today programme? If the police had failed to contain the mini-mob and a couple of them had, as they intended, obstructed the processional route, there would have been a huge and justified outcry. Coverage like that of Today makes no allowance for the fact that these protestors are not ordinary citizens. Protest is their full-time job, as is making a monkey of the law. Every week, I receive notice in my inbox of protests by this coalition of organisations which explicitly promises trouble. As I write, I am looking at one which says, ‘Animal Rising Declares Intention To Disrupt The Derby Festival’. Why is an intention to disrupt a legitimate right? The smaller print of the Animal Rising announcement also attacks the new Public Order Act and its measures against ‘locking down’ (at issue in the Coronation Day case). It adds: ‘Animal Rising claims that this new legislation will not deter people from taking action and that it represents the actions of a government not fit for purpose… The need to address the climate and nature emergencies to create a better world for everyone is more important.’ Which is quite close to saying that a very small mob should rule.

Meanwhile, the Online Safety Bill trundles through the Lords. It is immensely complicated, sometimes genuinely incomprehensible, but the core problem is simple to state. The spirit of this law is that of a character in The Simpsons. Helen Lovejoy, the interfering and judgmental wife of Reverend Lovejoy, pastor of the Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism First Church in Springfield, always cries out in any situation: ‘Won’t somebody please think of the children?’ In order to protect children from a harm it cannot precisely identify, the current Bill threatens to destroy the value of encryption services such as WhatsApp by, in effect, decrypting them.

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