Freedom of assembly and expression have supposedly been hard wired into our unwritten constitution. There are arguments for another time perhaps that that is a myth exploited by successive governments so that the majority can control the vociferous revolutionary minority which exists in this country as it does elsewhere. Apart from 1939 - 1945 it has largely succeeded. Many, perhaps most of the general public will find it incredible that until 1968 theatre censorship had existed since the sixteenth century and a 1737 Act appointed the Lord Chamberlain as official licenser of plays and regulated restrictions on drama. Little changed regarding the censorship of plays with the passing of the 1843 Theatres Act, which was still in place over 100 years later. Oh! Calcutta! is an avant-garde, risque theatrical revue created by British drama critic Kenneth Tynan. The show consisting of sketches on sex-related topics and full frontal nudity was a smash hit in the West End where I saw it in 1970. It was a reaction to the artistic freedom offered by the abolition of restrictions and censorship. Similar changes allowing freedom of expression artistically, politically, individually and en masse were a characteristic of the latter half of the 20th century. And then at exactly this time came the IRA and murder wholesale, the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union followed by a prime minister lying to parliament to allow British troops to be aligned with Americans in the invasion of Iraq further eroded general confidence that what could be termed a British way of life really did exist on a different level from other western nations. Not just different but better: not just better but way better. The tumultuous political events this century have seen so far; a financial crisis followed by austerity, Scottish nationalism rearing its ugly head, lies upon lies persuading so many that it`s better pissing in from outside the EU tent than pissing out from inside, a trio of the most incompetent prime ministers in a century and a pandemic which has changed the lives of millions for ever.
All the above and more have led to the above Act. Prior to its Royal Assent I sat in an hour long stationary queue on the M25 with thousands of others owing to proto fascists calling themselves activists attaching themselves to the tarmac obstructing traffic. Some of those have been jailed after blocking roads, disrupting court proceedings and in one case climbing on top of an aeroplane in an attempt to draw attention to the escalating emergency. Earlier protesters blocked oil refineries. Members of protest group Insulate Britain spent Christmas serving prison sentences for contempt of court for breaching injunctions banning their road block protests. Ben Taylor was jailed for six months after telling judges if they freed him he would “go out and block the highway at the earliest opportunity” and would keep doing it until the government acts. The government has acted but perhaps not in the way Taylor and his ilk had hoped for. Their fanaticism bordering on early tactics of 20th century fascists has led to precisely what they perhaps wanted but this country desperately cried out for; authority to ensure the minority cannot rule the majority by a complete disruption of the lives of that majority for political ends. No doubt so called environmental groups wish to see provocation ensue by the imposition of the Act and sympathisers flocking literally to their banners and barricades. Their desire is anarchy followed by revolution. The history books are complete with examples. This part of the Act; Part 3 Public Order at least is required reading for all who can consider themselves a patriot....a person who loves, supports, and defends his or her country and its interests with devotion but refute the nomenclature nationalist..... a person who strongly identifies with their own nation and vigorously supports its interests, especially to the exclusion or detriment of the interests of other nations. The difference might seem subtle but it might be the difference between this country being fit for our children and grandchildren or fading into the twilight of history as others have throughout time.