The proximate cause of this observation is Norman Baker’s post “We’re not turning into authoritarians!” at Liberal Democrat Voice yesterday. The focus of Baker’s post is the Coalition’s proposals to reform anti-social behaviour legislation. The aim of the post is to assure everyone that:
It is utter nonsense to suggest we are targeting skateboarders, ramblers, youngsters playing in their local park, or anyone else going about their daily lives perfectly reasonably.
In reality the new anti-social behaviour powers are designed to protect such activities.
Not only that:
It has also been suggested that the Coalition plans to curtail rights to peaceful protest. This is also nonsense and nothing in the Bill does that. I have made it clear on the floor of the Commons that peaceful protest cannot be subject to a dispersal order and we do not believe that the public spaces protection order could be used in this way either, or to prevent wider peaceful protest, but in the light of the scare stories generated, I am looking at what further steps we might take to make this even clearer.
This intervention is somewhat at odds with most other commentary on the Coalition’s bill. The general view is that the bill is so shockingly loosely drafted that it could be applied to just about any activity that someone takes exception to. [Read more…]