With the Government mired in scandal and so much of its reform agenda set adrift, it is nice to be reminded of that it is in the process of bringing forward some worthwhile legislation.
The Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill is one such. It is in the news this morning because Labour is being urged by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens to unite with them in the House of Lords to strike down a batch of amendments.
It will be an interesting moment for the Opposition, who are trying to leverage the Prime Minister’s many self-inflicted wounds to present themselves to voters as a serious and viable alternative party of government. Whatever one thinks of New Labour, the party’s one election-winning formula of the last 40 years, it didn’t mess around on law and order.
Can Sir Keir Starmer shake off the influence of the self-indulgent wing of the left? Or does he pitch his camp on the side of Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion?
The debate around the PCSC Bill revolves around we draw the line on what constitutes an essential ‘right to protest’. Much like the ‘rule of law’, half the battle seems to be what each side can smuggle in or out of the definition of this phrase.
Nobody actually disagrees that citizens have the right to express their opposition to government policy, after all.
But it does not follow that this creates a protect right to mount what are effectively coordinated attacks on national infrastructure and day-to-day life, incurring direct costs in the tens of millions and indirect economic costs much greater still, simply because one has a political motive.
It ought to go without saying that any group that seizes control of a highway and arrogates to itself to decide whether or not emergency vehicles get through should be cleared from the street as quickly as practically possible. Or that nobody has the right to harass another private citizen or blockade their business on political grounds.
Yet according to Jenny Jones, a Green Party peer, this is merely “effective protest”. Is that the Labour view, too?