Tuesday 19 May 2015

The utter Tory contempt for traditional British values

One of the most commonly used Tory propaganda narratives is that there is a big problem with people who don't respect traditional "British values". The Tories love to cast themselves as the protectors of British values, and propose all kinds of draconian measures such as the abolition of free speech, the scrapping of the concept of innocent unless proven guilty and indoctrination schemes to instill a very Tory version of British values in all of our school children.

In this article I'm going to consider the shocking hypocrisy of a political party that claims to support and defend British values but which is actually engaged in an ideological war against long-established British values such as freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair trial, and the right to be left alone by the state if you're a law abiding citizen.

The right to a fair trial

Not only is the right to a fair trial one of our most cherished British values, it's also one that has proven so popular that it has been adopted by liberal and democratic nations all across the world.

It should be a matter of pride to British people that our nation inspired the world in this way, but our ancient right to a fair trial has been severely eroded by the Tory party, and looks even more threatened by the Tory efforts to scrap the Human Rights Act and withdraw the UK from the ECHR.

One of the most blatant Tory attacks on the ancient British right to a fair trial was when they introduced Secret Courts so that defendants could be tried in a courtroom they are not allowed to enter, on charges they are not allowed to know, based upon evidence they are not allowed to see.

Anyone who thinks that such a crude assault on the concept of open and fair justice is compatible with British values must have a very different interpretation of British values to my own, and to those of anyone who believes that justice needs to be seen to be done fairly, otherwise it's not justice at all.

It's no surprise at all that the Tories want to get rid of our human rights, since their secret courts legislation is so blatantly at odds with Article 6 of the ECHR which states that "everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law".

Freedom of expression

Another long-established British value is that people should be free to express their views, as long as those views are not incompatible with the law. Thus one person has the right to interpret British values in one way, while others may disagree very strongly indeed. What unifies the vast majority of versions of what British values are is that people should have the freedom to believe and express their own values, as long as they are not breaking the law by doing so.

The Tories are pushing forward with new measures to revoke this right to free speech. If Theresa May and David Cameron get their way, it will no longer matter whether the expressed opinion is lawful or not (or even if an opinion has been expressed at all) if the government or the security services take exception to the individual, they'll be able to ban them from freely expressing their views.

The Tories have used the age old "bogeyman tactic" to scare people into agreement, but a person would have to be completely ignorant of the concept of function creep to imagine that any such laws would only ever be used against suspected Islamist extremists. Once the state has awarded itself the ability to silence people with no evidence at all of any actual wrongdoing, who would be naive enough to imagine that such draconian restrictions on freedom of speech would never be used against other people too.

Another factor to consider is that once the right to free speech is abolished and these draconian new censorship laws are enforced, how would it even be possible for us to know that they weren't being used to censor law abiding citizens?

It's beyond obvious that the first thing the state would do if they were using these laws to censor people who aren't radical Islamists (political agitators, investigative journalists, environmentalists, people speaking out against high profile paedophile MPs, anti-corruption campaigners, whistleblowers etc) would be to prevent the targets from ever speaking out about the fact they are being censored by censoring them every time they try to complain about it.

Not only are these proposals to scrap the right to free expression at odds with traditional British values, they're also at odds with Article 10 of the ECHR which protects our "freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority"

The presumption of innocence

Another traditional British value that the Tories are ever so keen to scrap is the idea that people should be considered innocent until it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty.

Theresa May's draconian new proposals to revoke the right to free expression from people who have broken no law whatever is clearly at odds with the presumption of innocence.

What Theresa May want to replace the presumption of innocence with is a system where agents of the state only need express a "reasonable belief" that the target might do something bad, in order for draconian restrictions on their freedom of speech and their freedom of assembly to be imposed.

If the Tories get their way then agents of the state will no longer have to actually prove that someone has done anything wrong, or even that they are planning to do anything wrong. All they will have to do is claim that they suspect that the person may at some point do something wrong. Essentially the Tory party are legislating against the possibility of thought crime. In order to be a potential target for these censorship proposals the individual won't even have to be guilty of thought crime! - All that it will take is for somebody in power to claim that they suspect that the individual may be guilty of thought crime in order for their freedom of expression to be revoked.

The right to privacy

Yet another traditional value in Britain that is under Tory attack is the idea that law abiding people have the right to privacy.

When the Edward Snowden leaks revealed that the British surveillance state was mass trawling the private communications data of countless millions of innocent people, and doing so without the approval or oversight of parliament, the Tory reaction was to rush through some "emergency legislation" to allow the security services to continue mass trawling our private communications data with complete impunity.

The idea that agents of the state should be able to trawl through our emails, our social media postings, our webcam conversations, our online transactions and all of our other private communications data is not only completely at odds with the traditional British belief that law abiding people have a right to privacy from state snooping, it's also at odds with Article 8 of the ECHR which enshrines a right to "respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence".

Freedom from harassment by the state

There are few British people of any political persuasion who would support the idea that the state should routinely harass law abiding citizens.

In May 2015 David Cameron famously complained that the British state is too tolerant, and declared his intention to make sure the state interferes more in the lives of law abiding citizens. If you read his actual words it's impossible to infer any other meaning:

"For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'." - David Cameron, May 2015
It is interesting to note that this statement is about as clear an attack on an established British value as it is possible to make. Cameron clearly admits that freedom from state harassment is a long established British value, but one that he wants to see abolished and replaced with a system where law abiding citizens won't be left alone by the state.

David Cameron has clearly expressed the idea that the traditional British custom that law abiding people deserve to be left to get on with their own lives is somehow wrong and needs to be scrapped. To express such a thing is appalling enough in itself, but the fact that the person saying it loves to dress himself up as a protector of British values is even more repulsive.

Essentially what David Cameron is saying is that in order to "protect British values" we need to scrap British values.


I believe that stuff like the right to a fair trial, freedom of speech, the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy and freedom from harassment by the state are all long established British values, that are not only believed in by most British people, but also have very long historical precedents, some of them going back as far as the Magna Carta.

When David Cameron and Theresa May deliberately attack and destroy these concepts, they're actually guilty of attacking and destroying the British values they claim to be upholding.

The sad thing is that so many people are so easily fooled that all the Tories need to do is show them a picture of an Islamist extremist, then cast their plans to destroy long-established British values as the only alternative, and tabloid minded people will bleat for their own rights and values to be abolished.

 Another Angry Voice  is a "Pay As You Feel" website. You can have access to all of my work for free, or you can choose to make a small donation to help me keep writing. The choice is entirely yours.

Austerity is a con
Who are the real extremists?
The myth of right-wing patriotism
How George Osborne has created more debt than every Labour government in history combined
Who were the 51 MPs to oppose DRIP?
The Tory ideological mission
Austerity and economic illiteracy
Secret Courts and the very Illiberal Democrats
The Tory "Gagging Law" is passed
Margaret Thatcher's toxic neoliberal legacies

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