The government: abject bastards (part 4,572)
And here's me thinking that Blair and co were too busy charging off all round the world to pay any attention to that irrelevant little island which pays their wages.
Yep - they've gone and done it. Not only have they passed the law banning a single individual from protesting outside the Houses of Parliament but (no doubt following the same logic as they did with the detention without trial debacle where they decided that they couldn't be seen to be discriminating against foreigners so gave themselves the right to lock us all up without warning) they've arbitrarily expanded the no protest zone as far as Embankment Tube and Lambeth Bridge.
As Robin Grant (in a rather nice piece complete with maps and everything) and Tim Ireland point out, this freedom of speech exclusion zone covers the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Treasury, the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry and Labour Party HQ.
You can add to that London Underground HQ, the London Eye, the Saachi Gallery, Horseguards and Tate Britain. Pissed off the tubes aren't working properly? You can't take your protest to them any more. Angry at the latest nominees for the Turner Prize? Better not shout any abuse at Tracey Emin. A republican? You can no longer shout at the Queen during Trooping the Colour. Want to lend your voice to Mayor of London Ken Livingstone's campaign to keep the Eye on its current site? Better watch out - you could end up in gaol.
What counts as a political protest anyway? That standard student uniform of a Che T-shirt? A charity wristband? A Rememberance Sunday poppy, necessitating the arrest of the entire Royal family, government and all the top military brass? Who knows?
Well, as Robin notes, they've left us a handy way to find out:
"it might be interpreted by some as a form of protest itself, if a group of say, 50 responsible citizens, wanting to avoid committing ‘serious organised crime’, were to apply for authorisation to demonstrate (for example they might be walking from the tube to St James’ park wearing their white band), everyday for a month. I imagine it might take up quite a bit of police time"Hmmm...