Socialist Party
| Print

1 July 2009

Councils try to gag us

There has been much talk in the wake of the MPs' expenses scandals of the need to make politicians more accountable, extend democracy and empower people and their communities. However, look beyond this PR exercise and there are scores of examples where genuine attempts to organise and protest have been restricted by manoeuvres by the political establishment.

James Kerr, Lewisham Socialist Party

Of course these restrictions barely touch the main parties. They have huge sums from their wealthy backers to spend on getting their ideas across in the mainstream media. The Tories spent 1.2 million alone at the last election on a single mail-shot to supporters.

Draconian measures

The Socialist Party and the community campaigns we are involved in across the country rely on street stalls, public meetings and demonstrations to get our ideas out and discuss them with workers and youth. It is exactly these methods and organisations like ours in particular that have been targeted with draconian measures.

Exeter City council is debating the introduction of a ban of all political groups from Bedford Square in the city. They are using complaints about a BNP activity there to ban all groups from the square. A ban is in effect already in place with the unelected city centre manager refusing all recent requests for permission to set up a stall in the square.

In Worcester, campaign groups have reported that, while allowed to have a stall, they have been quoted a charge of 25-75 for a permit by 'not-for-profit' organisation VisitWorcester, apparently to pay for admin costs.

This is one of many cases where local authorities are attempting to 'clean up their streets' and remove any signs of opposition. They introduce bye-laws, lengthy applications for permits or promote constant harassment from town centre managers and the police to intimidate any group or individual into not holding a stall.

An example that has been reported in the pages of The Socialist was in Liverpool where the council attempted to stop paper sales and stalls in the main shopping centre. Tony Aitman, a Socialist Party member, was arrested for "wilful obstruction" after refusing to stop selling papers. Campaigners organised a 'mass stall' to defy the ban with 12 different organisations holding simultaneous stalls. The harassment of the stall holders was stopped as a result.

This demonstrates that regardless of the threats made by local authorities, when countered by mass opposition they're unworkable.

Subtle

The tactics used by councils have been more subtle than this in some cases. In Swindon and Dublin, councils have restricted the handing out of leaflets under the guise of litter prevention but in the knowledge that it will make it difficult for organisations to get their material out. This is even though the majority of rubbish in city centres is caused by food and drink packaging, but do retailers face a ban on their products?

Couple this with extensive laws against postering in public places and many smaller organisations struggle to gain a public profile. If councils want to prevent postering why not provide more public noticeboards that communities can use to publicise their local events and organisations? Instead wall space is often taken up by advertising billboards, regardless of whether or not local people want them and which are too expensive to be used by the local community.

Even face to face meetings have been stamped on by local authorities. In Lewisham the Hand off Our Homes campaign, which successfully campaigned for a No vote in a ballot on council house stock transfer, had booked a meeting room at a local community centre.

On the eve of the meeting the local New Labour council (the main supporters of the Yes campaign) waded in demanding public liability insurance before the meeting went ahead. Did this demand apply when events the council approved of were being run there or was it a convenient technicality?

Clearly the main political parties, when pulling the strings on local councils, can use their position to block any opposition. The only way for this to be stopped is, like in Liverpool, to organise and fight back against these measures and make them unworkable.

Working people should decide what material they read and what meetings they attend, not a thin layer of politically motivated council stooges.




http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/articles/7504




Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube

LATEST POSTS

triangle13 Jun No to Trump and Tory racism

triangle13 Jun Civil service pay strike ballot: vote yes!

triangle13 Jun How can we fight for trade unions that fight for women?

triangle13 Jun Health unions accept divisive NHS pay deal - but fightback could have...

triangle13 Jun Build an anti-racist workers' movement

triangle13 Jun Grenfell: still waiting for justice

triangle9 Jun PCS members in DWP say: Pay up now!

More ...

WHAT'S ON

triangle19 Jun Manchester Socialist Party: Trotskyism & the Transitional Programme

triangle20 Jun Caerphilly & RCT Socialist Party: After the Italian elections - Which way for Italy?

triangle20 Jun Cardiff Central Socialist Party: What is fascism and is it a threat today?

triangle20 Jun Hackney & Islington Socialist Party: The 1000th issue of the Socialist

CONTACT US

Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777

Email: info@socialistparty.org.uk

Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 0798 202 1969

East Mids: 0773 797 8057

London: 020 8988 8786

North East: 0784 114 4890

North West 07769 611 320

South East: 020 8988 8777

South West: 07759 796 478

Southern: 07833 681910

Wales: 07935 391 947

West Mids: 02476 555 620

Yorkshire: 0114 264 6551

ABOUT US

What we Stand For

About the Socialist Party

Our 2015 election manifesto

Joining the Socialist Party - what will it mean for you

ARCHIVE

Alphabetical listing


June 2018

May 2018

April 2018

March 2018

February 2018

January 2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

2007

2006

2005

2004

2003

2002

2001

2000

1999