A number of celebrities across the world of culture have joined the voices condemning the UK government’s new policy bill.
The legislation, which critics have called “draconian” and “a dark stain on our democracy” passed the first hurdle in the House of Commons last night.
MPs voted by 359 to 263 to pass the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, a nearly 300-page document that contains a range of new laws, such as tougher penalties for knife carriers and killer drivers.
It is the section on “public order” that has caused the most consternation, however, with the bill including a new public nuisance law that would make causing “serious annoyance or inconvenience” a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
On Twitter, the singer-songwriter Lily Allen wrote: “I keep seeing people tweet that you can’t have a functioning democracy without the right to protest.
“If it’s not abundantly clear to you by now that this govt doesn’t care about democracy, you’ve not been paying attention.”
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke shared a video of Labour MP David Lammy vocalising why the Labour Party were voting against the bill, alongside the quote: “…those who cause annoyance could be jailed for up to ten years…”
Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden wrote: “Everything I feared from this Govts huge majority is coming to pass and the section on protests in the Policing Bill should be sparking outrage...
“Are we so worn down we don’t care for our democratic freedoms? We just let them slip quietly away?”
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Actor Hugh Laurie joked: “Under the PCS&C Bill, a person causing ‘serious annoyance, distress or inconvenience’ may be imprisoned for 10 years. Also, anyone who is mean, or doesn’t pass the parcel, or eats too much cake.”
Comedian Sooz Kemper wrote: “The high-profile thinkers of Right-Wing Twitter are opting for a ‘the left’s hysteria around the policing bill is just fear-mongering’ approach. Their actual fear that they’re backing not just the wrong horse but a psycho horse that might be spiralling out of control is palpable.”
The bill’s defenders have claimed that the “recent change in tactics” used by protestors, such as the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion, have highlighted gaps in existing legislation passed in 1986.
However, civil liberties group Liberty condemned the vote on Tuesday evening as a “dark stain on our democracy”, and an “assault on basic civil liberties”.