Election '97: Redgraves stage warning over British police state

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The Independent Online
The spectre of fascism entered the election yesterday when leaders of a campaign run by the actress Vanessa Redgrave and her brother Corin said Britain was well on the way to becoming a police state.

Only vigilance stood between us and the death camps of Nazi Germany, the group's press launch heard. Many politicians were "pinstripe fascists" and somewhere in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, there were ordinary citizens who could easily end up running death camps.

The Charter for Basic Rights, which calls for the repeal of the Police, Criminal Justice, Asylum and Prevention of Terrorism Acts and the trades union laws, is fielding just one candidate in Tooting, South London.

In other areas it asks voters to question their candidates on human rights issues, but suggests that the Liberal Democrats' views are nearer to its own than those of the other parties.

Mr Redgrave said provisions in the Police Bill which allowed the bugging and burgling of private homes "constitute the sinews and apparatus of a police state."

"You may think there is no fascist party here that commands the kind of support the National Front has in France. But here we have pinstripe fascism. There are plenty of politicians whose beliefs are identical to Le Pen's," he said.

The Charter's candidate, actor and lecturer Jan Koene, said people should consider how the Third Reich was able to take power in Germany.

"I'm not saying Britain in '97 is the same as Germany in the '30s. We don't have as many open fascists yet. But it had to come from somewhere, and that's our warning."

His election address warns voters to talk in whispers or sign language if they have to consult a solicitor.

"Under the Police Bill the police can bug the office. Or your doctor's surgery. Or they can tap your telephone. There are five times more telephone taps per head in Britain than in the USA or Canada.

"The real messages of Britain that stick with me aren't in the manifestoes," Mr Koene said. "They are the homeless in Charing Cross Road, the prison ships off the coast, one in four out of work. The gap between the rich and poor is worse than it has been since Dickens."

The group claims the support of Harold Pinter, and although Ms Redgrave was in America yesterday the actress Saffron Burrows, who starred in Karaoke, was at the launch to give her support.