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14th Mar 2021

Labour to vote against ‘draconian’ Police and Crime Bill this week

Wayne Farry

Opponents say that the bill is being rushed through by Priti Patel to impose ‘draconian crackdowns’ on our civil liberties

The Labour Party will vote against the Police & Crime Bill this week, Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy confirmed on Sunday morning.

The bill, which is being brought forward by Home Secretary Priti Patel, has been accused of including “some of the most draconian crackdowns on the right of peaceful protest we’ve seen in our lifetime”.

The plan to implement new police powers, such as an expansion to stop and search and greater use of covert intelligence gathering like facial recognition tech, comes off the back of a HMICFRS report, ordered by Patel following the Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests last year.

The expansion of stop and search has been touted “to prevent serious disruption caused by protests”, leading to concerns among many that the new bill will massively hamper the British public’s ability to carry out one of the cornerstones of a democracy.

Worries over the bill were only intensified by the conduct of Met police officers at Saturday’s vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, an event which saw peaceful grieving for a murdered woman broken up by heavy handed and aggressive tactics by police.

Of the bill, Lammy said: “This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest”.

Lammy’s statement on Labour’s voting intention comes after party members had earlier revealed that they had been told to abstain on the vote by party leader Keir Starmer.

The first comments by Starmer, a former director of public prosecutions who fought against police overreach, in the wake of Everard’s killing, saw him call for a higher police presence on our streets, a statement considered wildly inappropriate and tone deaf by many.

And last year, when the Commons was presented with legislation aimed at exempting law enforcement from prosecution if they commit criminal acts like torture, rape and murder, Sir Keir whipped the Labour Party to abstain.

If his front bench MPs defied the whip, as Nadia Whittome did, they were sacked.

So, has the abstainer-in-chief finally found a backbone? We’re about to find out.