Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Lock ’em up!

Mark Thomas explains why he is campaigning for the Department of Public Prosecutions to investigate Gordon Brown and other MPs for breaking their own law

July 29, 2008
5 min read

Such is the state of democracy in Britain that you could be forgiven for thinking that there are two types of MPs: those who have been in prison and those who should be. There are many reasons to sling the blighters behind bars, not least of which is the fact that they are an MP, crime enough in most folk’s books. However, there is now an even more compelling legal and moral reason to call in the police to deal with our honourable members. Put simply – we have them bang to rights. They have broken the law and there is a way we might get these elected miscreants in the dock. This is how we can do it.

MPs have a curious habit of passing laws and then believing they don’t really apply to them. No more so than the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, sometimes referred to as the ‘Brian Haw law’ as it was framed specifically to kick out the veteran peace protestor Haw from Parliament Square. Socpa, as it’s fondly known, requires us to get permission from the police should we wish to demonstrate in an area of London that spans from Tate Britain to the Mall and over Westminster Bridge to the South Bank of the Thames.

This is the law that Maya Evans was arrested under for reading out the names of the Iraqi and British war dead at the Cenotaph. She did not have permission and was convicted of taking part in an illegal demonstration.

But this is just the start of the Kafkaesque madness of this law. One person with one banner counts as a demonstration and must get permission from the police six days in advance of holding said banner. I have had to apply for, and have been given permission, to wear a red nose on Red Nose Day in Parliament Square as this is classed as a demonstration. I have got permission to stand holding a small banner saying ‘Support the Poppy Appeal’, as this too is deemed to be a demonstration.

This law is not just idiotic, it is totemic. Nowhere is the relationship of the citizen to the state so clearly defined as here. We have to account for ourselves to the state, while the state becomes less accountable to us. This is not the way things work in democracy.

However, MPs who rushed this law through parliament with little heed to what it really meant could now find themselves on the receiving end of it. On 29 August 2007, when Gordon Brown, along with Ken Livingstone and Nelson Mandela, unveiled the Mandela statue in Parliament Square, they took part in a political demonstration. They celebrated the life of a man who ran the armed wing of the ANC, dedicated his life to the collapse of apartheid and made political speeches.

Did they have permission from the police under Socpa? No. They have broken the law.

Wrexham MP Ian Lucas spoke about the need to redesign the Union Jack flag to include the Welsh dragon on 6 November 2008. He was then photographed holding said flag in Parliament Square. Did he have permission under Socpa? I think not. And if I need the police to say I can wear a red nose, then he needs them to say he can wave a politically contentious flag.

As there is no definition of what constitutes a demonstration you have to turn to the Oxford English Dictionary, which states a demo can be ‘an expression of opinion’. Thus each time an MP speaks to the TV cameras on College Green they could be breaking the very law they blithely rushed through parliament. They are, after all, expressing an opinion, vocally and intended for public consumption, in an area where they need to write to the police six days in advance for permission.

Just before Christmas my lawyers wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions asking them to investigate MPs, including the prime minister, for breaches of Socpa. The DPP insisted that the police should judge if there was a case to answer and the matter is now in the hands of D/Supt Peter Newman of Westminster South Division.

Will the police bring charges against Mr Brown and Mr Lucas and a host of other offenders? I doubt it, which is why I am preparing a legal fund to challenge any decision not to prosecute.

Here is how you can help dear reader. You can buy a badge – I put Gordon Brown in the dock – online at www.markthomasinfo.com for £2. All monies not used in the legal case will go to Index on Censorship.

You can also go to www.shopanmp.com and report any MPs you see on the news giving interviews on College Green or Parliament Square, so we can constantly update D/Supt Newman with a list of fresh offenders. If luck is with us, Jack Straw won’t be picking a shit-kicking fight with prison officers over no strike agreements – they could be locking his cell door if he is not too careful.

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power

What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains

The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme

Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it

The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going

A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism

Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase

Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields

Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton

Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi

A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain

Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank

Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded

West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson

Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens

Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age

Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today

The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics

Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun