The 55-year-old peace protester is about to become Britain’s most wanted man, the first target of new legislation. Blunkett is to outlaw “permanent encampments” outside Parliament as well as the use of megaphones. The measure will be included in legislation establishing the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the FBI-style body that ministers allege is needed to fight gangsters, the specific law against Mr Haw’s activities is a desperate last resort. Westminster Council was the first to try to evict him, but its injunction was thrown out by a judge who ruled that the peace protester was not an obstruction. The Speaker and the Commons Procedure Committee also admit that Mr Haw’s rights to protest could not be over-ridden by medieval statutes guaranteeing MPs safe passage in the streets of Westminster.
Sir George Young MP has ranted that terrorists could hide behind the peace protester’s banners and “pick us off as we arrive at or leave the House”. (What a sensible thought, the terrorists could camouflage themselves as a poster, the 50 or so security cameras and idle policemen would never spot them.) No other democracy would allow “this shanty town” in the middle of the its capital he said.
Mr Haw rightly says “It’s my right to be here. It is my life to be here … all the lords and ladies opposite bleating away as if I had found a loophole in the law that entitles me to be here. Yes. It is called the Human Rights Act.” I detest Brian Haw, his messy protest and everything he stands for, but I think he has every right to protest. What is the point of fighting a war on terror if it costs us our freedoms?
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Rob Colvile reviews Russell Brand’s new book:
“Oddly, the person I feel sorriest for isn’t Brand himself – although he certainly comes across as a rather pitiable figure, projecting his own brokenness on to the world around him – but Johann Hari. Drummed out of Fleet Street for plagiarism, the former Independent columnist has washed up as “my mate Johann, who’s been doing research for this book”. For a genuinely talented polemicist, it would have been a humbling experience to have to treat this sub-undergraduate dross as the scintillating wisdom of a philosopher-king.”