Wow. It’s been busy. Parliament was prorogued in advance of the Queen’s Speech on Thursday, but before that happened, lots of legislation was rushed through at lightning speed. We barely had time to blink.
While we’re all glad it’s the weekend, I can’t say we’re particularly thrilled with everything (or pretty much anything) that’s happened this week.
Here’s lots to talk about and dissect, so read on for your not-to-be-missed bumper weekly recap as we take you through what’s been going on.
No joke title this time, it’s been a bad week for British democracy …
A valiant fight
This week, the Elections Bill unfortunately passed through both Houses of Parliament and is set to become law. This is a bitter disappointment to all of us after Best for Britain supporters campaigned so hard for over a year <[link removed]> against this dangerously authoritarian Bill.
We did manage to secure some wins through our work on the Bill. We prevented the Government from being able to ban campaigners and we stopped third party campaigners from being prevented from working together. Your tireless campaigning and generous donations has made this work possible.
Independent Electoral Commission
On Monday peers backed amendments to the Elections Bill, introduced with help by Best for Britain, which would have safeguarded the independence of the elections watchdog. However, despite the chance of running down the clock and defeating the Bill in its entirety, on Wednesday these amendments were at last defeated after the Government forced the House to sit until late.
This means that ministers will now be able to influence how electoral law is applied both to them and their opposition. . We’ll keep a close eye on how the new powers are used in practice, and we will campaign to make sure that reversing this law is at the top of the to do list of any new government.
There’s plenty more anti-democratic legislation on the horizon though, as the Queen’s Speech is soon to reveal, so we need to make sure all our legislators are prepared to keep fighting. Send an email to your MP here <[link removed]>.
Read more about what happened with the Elections Bill here <[link removed]>.
Human rights on the line
The Nationality and Borders Bill also passed <[link removed]> and is set to become law. It contains provisions for: offshoring asylum seekers to Rwanda, discriminating against asylum seekers depending on how they arrive in the UK, and the removal of protections from victims of modern slavery. It is an affront to democracy and to the human rights that everyone should expect to be granted.
It was rammed through by the Government on the same day as the Elections Bill (are you sensing a pattern?), again with limited time for consideration or scrutiny.
Don’t expect things to be done and dusted here though. Scrutiny over the lawfulness of the clauses in the Bill is likely to escalate, especially with regards to the deal the UK has just made with Rwanda. It’s not over yet.
Loud not allowed
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was also finally pushed through <[link removed]> by the Government this week, though not without stiff opposition. The House of Lords had originally sent amendments to the Bill to the Commons which would have prevented the criminalisation of noisy protests and also protected static protests from having harsh conditions imposed upon them. However, on Tuesday night, after an intense day of consideration, the amendments fell and the Bill passed.
As you can imagine, we’re gutted. But following a fiercely fought campaign alongside friends and supporters from across civil society, we’re hugely proud of everything we’ve done together. Thank you for your support!
A glimmer of hope
The Judicial Review and Courts Bill has now passed into law, but not before the Government made a significant concession. The Bill originally sought to weaken the courts’ ability to enforce decisions made as a result of judicial review - this has now been watered down and the courts will retain most of their power <[link removed]> in making a judicial review decision. This is a very positive outcome, as the Bill originally would have made judicial review decisions only applicable in the future.
A little silver lining around a rather menacing and miserable cloud.
That’s quite enough terrible legislation for now.
Eyes on the election
The local elections are just around the corner. On 5th May, plenty of us will be heading to the polls as more than 4,350 seats are contested.
While local elections generally concern local issues, in some ways they can be seen as a barometer for the mood of the country. Labour is leading in the polls, but there have been warnings <[link removed]> that this may not deliver a shattering defeat for the Conservatives. Labour already holds many of the seats up for grabs in this electoral cycle.
If Labour does perform, the question will still remain if it is because people are genuinely enthused by Labour’s policies, or because they are put off by the Conservatives with Johnson at the helm? Local elections rarely translate directly into general election results.
NI look at this
Meanwhile, Sínn Féin look set to make history on the same day by becoming the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly despite the likelihood that they will lose seats from their 2017 tally. This would make them the first Nationalist party to do so in Northern Ireland’s 101 year history. They currently enjoy a 6 point lead above the current largest party the DUP who face a massive backlash from Unionists over their mishandling of Brexit.
Don’t expect there to be much celebrating though. Most expect that there will be no return to power sharing while DUP discontent remains over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the prospect of serving as deputies to a Sínn Féin First Minister will likely stiffen their resolve. The NI Protocol prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland and exactly what the DUP want to replace it with is unclear. We’ve been asking this question since 2016.
The huge news this week is of course Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter <[link removed]>. Despite Twitter initially resisting Musk’s moves, the board soon capitulated and allowed the multi-billionaire to have his way.
Money can’t buy you everything though because although Musk will now have an extraordinary level of control over the platform, and although he can harp on all he likes about introducing a ‘free-speech’ agenda to Twitter, it has been through his use of the platform that Musk has exposed his thin skin and personal tendency towards the idiotic.
For example, who remembers the time when Musk took to Twitter to cast unfounded aspersions on a cave diver <[link removed]> involved in the rescue of twelve Thai school boys? All because the cave diver challenged Musk’s rather outlandish proposals for rescuing the boys.
For someone who claims an obsession with free speech, Musk seems remarkably thin-skinned. But this week it also emerged, he may not be buying Twitter at all. <[link removed]> What a waste of everyone's time!
It is now sadly obvious to even the greatest champions of Brexit that the whole experiment has been an utter disaster. But of course politicians don’t like to admit that they’re wrong.
Announcing that anticipated import checks and controls on goods coming into the UK from the EU were to be delayed (again) till the end of 2023 <[link removed]>, the Minister for Brexit Opportunities Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed that this was all to do with the war in Ukraine. But even if there wasn't a war, why would we ever want to pay more for anything? Wasn’t this the guy who told us things would be CHEAPER?! <[link removed]>
In denial part two
Jacob Rees-Mogg further doubled down by openly admitting that the checks and controls (or getting Brexit done) ‘would have been an act of self harm’ <[link removed]>. So glad we agree.
Mogg has been going around empty desks in the Cabinet Office leaving passive aggressive notes to civil servants who were not in the office. So we mocked him up a new one for this farce.
In denial part three
Maybe it’s a Government thing…this week, Boris Johnson has been studiously avoiding the real issues his Government faces and trying to allocate blame elsewhere.
At PMQs this week, Keir Starmer laid into Boris Johnson on the cost of living crisis, accusing him of letting prices ‘get out of control’ <[link removed]>.
Johnson hit back claiming that Labour left Britain ‘bankrupt’ in 2010. Blaming Labour for all Britain’s woes might have worked once but the Tories have been in power for over 10 years now.
This week the Prime Minister burnished his reputation as a man of action by calling together his brain trust to think of creative ways to deal with the cost of living crisis <[link removed]>, three months after the energy price hike was first confirmed and weeks after he increased taxes on working people.
New polling out this week shows that six in ten people <[link removed]> are cutting back or going into debt as a result of the cost of living crisis. That is a huge figure and it demonstrates how significantly we as an extremely wealthy country are failing our people.
Nevertheless, one person seems to be smiling about it. Dominic Raab was asked this week about the cost of living crisis on Sky and seemed to be unable to shake the smile from his face <[link removed]>. Is it schadenfreude?
Even more unfunny is the fact that this crisis has been severely compounded by Brexit. Former Bank of England official Adam Posen has this week argued <[link removed]> that 80% of the UK’s inflation can be explained by Brexit. Lovely to know that this Government’s flagship achievement is actually giving us all a significant clobbering.
Warnings this week have emerged suggesting that the UK’s handling of talks exploring potential US and UK trade deals may be on rocky ground.
The US wants to ensure that any trade deal protects workers’ rights <[link removed]> and that unions are involved in the consultation process. The UK has been criticised for failing to involve unions and for its laissez-faire attitude to the implications for workers.
This outlook appears to be on a collision course with that of the US. Will Britain buck up its ideas or remain in not-so-splendid isolation?
The Daily Mail has this week doubled down on its misogynistic smears of Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner.
The author of the offending article claimed Rayner used ‘Basic Instinct’ style leg crossing and uncrossing to distract the PM. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, asked the editor of the Daily Mail, David Dillon, to meet with him, but this was declined on the grounds of ‘press freedom’ <[link removed]>.
Dillon claimed <[link removed]> that Rayner had actually boasted and joked about using the ‘Basic Instinct’ tactic, which has understandably sparked further furore <[link removed]>.
Oh how I love living in the 1950s!
And it gets worse
An unnamed Tory MP has been accused of watching porn openly <[link removed]> in Parliament in front of female colleagues.
The Chief Whip has now ordered an investigation to be conducted - although his name is being kept quiet despite every hack in SW1 now on the hunt for the ‘porn king of parliament’. <[link removed]>
This news once again points to a culture of sleaze in Westminster, that we know extends from unpleasantness to sexual harassment and worse. 56 MPs are facing allegations <[link removed]> of sexual harassment and misconduct.
Disgraced Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan will step down from his role on Saturday. It’s taken him two weeks from saying he would resign to actually resign.
This slow-coach attitude towards doing the right thing is not just incredibly painful for his victim, but it is also an affront to all taxpayers. In between saying he would resign and stepping down, Ahmad Khan has drawn £3,500 of his annual salary <[link removed]>.
That’s all for this week - have a lovely long weekend and we’ll see you on the other side!
Senior Campaigns and Policy Officer, Best for Britain
P.S. It's really easy to support Best for Britain's campaigns and be first to know what's going on. £5 per month will make you a Best for Britain Citizen of the World. Join now <[link removed]>.
Published & promoted by Cary Mitchell on behalf of Best for Britain, the campaign name of BEST FOR BRITAIN LIMITED registered at International House, 24 Holborn Viaduct, London, EC1A 2BN. Best for Britain is registered with The Electoral Commission.
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