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UK politics

Priti Patel’s “Orwellian” power grab

Police arresting a woman at a vigil for Sarah Everard in March. James Veysey/Shutterstock

The government’s new policing and crime bill “wouldn’t look out of place in Soviet Russia”, says Camilla Cavendish in the Financial Times. And ministers are trying to prevent Parliament from scrutinising it. Home Secretary Priti Patel last week added 18 pages to the bill that weren’t there when MPs voted for it in July. These “Orwellian” additions include giving the police power to stop and search people “without suspicion”, and to arrest and imprison protestors who cause “serious unease” to bystanders. It’s dangerously vague language.

This isn’t not the only example of the government’s “new despotism”. In the past 20 months it has used an “emergency procedure” clause in the Public Health Act 91 times to unilaterally set rules. Then there’s a host of obscure legislative tricks: bills are often drafted only in outline, with the important detail left to secondary legislation that cannot be amended. “Henry VIII powers” let ministers repeal or amend acts with little scrutiny. “Some will ask, why can’t an elected government do what it wants? The answer is that it can, but in the daylight.” And it’s “astonishing” that our government doesn’t seem to wonder how others might use the powers it is busily creating. “Today’s Home Secretary seems to hate climate change protesters. Tomorrow’s may hate you, dear reader.” 

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