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Sunday, October 10, 2021

Tories are the new authoritarians

As Liberty point out there is already a strong authoritarian streak running through this Conservative government. They point out that during the pandemic, the Government frequently made drastic changes to our rights and freedoms with barely a moment’s notice with next to no oversight from Members of Parliament. COVID regulations have been created and amended upwards of 425 times – with many coming into force before or on the same day that MPs first had a chance to debate these changes.

They add that the Government is shutting down accountability by trying to make it much more difficult to challenge the powerful in court, they are legislating to gag protestors and to prevent people publicly standing up for their beliefs, they have set up a a secret ‘clearing house’ for freedom of information requests, regularly screening hundreds of requests from journalists and campaigning organisations before refusing to release information to them, and they are introducing voter suppression measures to make it harder for their opponents to win elections.

So really it should be no surprise to see a backbench Tory MP urging them to go further. The Mirror reports, Stoke-on-Trent North MP, Jonathan Gullis, has called on teachers who use the phrase “white privilege” to be disciplined and reported to Prevent as extremists. He also wants teachers who show support for Labour in the classroom to be sacked:

The phrase ‘white privilege’ is used to describe unseen advantages for people with white skin, in a society where most other people are of the same ethnic background as them.

But Mr Gullis claimed: “The term white privilege… is an extremist term, it should be reported to Prevent, because it is an extremist ideology.”

Prevent is a government programme to tackle extremist ideology that could lead to terrorism.

Mr Gullis continued: “It’s racist to actually suggest everyone who’s white somehow is riddled with privilege.

“So I hope that will be reported, I hope that will be looked into, and any teacher who’s perpetuated in the classroom ultimately should face a disciplinary hearing at the very least.

“Because it’s not what children should be listening to, it’s not appropriate for the classroom.

“The classroom is a place to impart knowledge, not to impart political ideology of the teacher standing in front of you.”

Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said: “The idea that white privilege exists isn’t extremist, it’s a widely accepted fact.

"These comments betray a wider desire in the Tory party to drive a wedge between working class communities, crack down on free speech in education, and impose right-wing values on teachers.

In many ways, this MP is putting up straw men to be knocked down, but underlying his remarks is a worrying lack of commitment to freedom of thought and freedom of speech. This government is becoming more and more authoritarian and that should worry us all.
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