Charged for quoting George Orwell in public
In another example of the Government's draconian stance on political protest, Steven Jago, 36, a management accountant, yesterday became the latest person to be charged under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.
On 18 June, Mr Jago carried a placard in Whitehall bearing the George Orwell quote: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." In his possession, he had several copies of an article in the American magazine Vanity Fair headlined "Blair's Big Brother Legacy", which were confiscated by the police. "The implication that I read from this statement at the time was that I was being accused of handing out subversive material," said Mr Jago. Yesterday, the author, Henry Porter, the magazine's London editor, wrote to Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, expressing concern that the freedom of the press would be severely curtailed if such articles were used in evidence under the Act.
Mr Porter said: "The police told Mr Jago this was 'politically motivated' material, and suggested it was evidence of his desire to break the law. I therefore seek your assurance that possession of Vanity Fair within a designated area is not regarded as 'politically motivated' and evidence of conscious law-breaking."
Scotland Yard has declined to comment.
Some paragraphs I find interesting:
For Blair, that youthful baby-boomer who came to power nine years ago as the embodiment of democratic liberalism as well as the new spirit of optimism in Britain, turns out to have an authoritarian streak that respects neither those rights nor, it seems, the independence of the elected representatives in Parliament. And what is remarkable - in fact almost a historic phenomenon - is the harm his government has done to the unwritten British constitution in those nine years, without anyone really noticing, without the press objecting or the public mounting mass protests. At the inception of Cool Britannia, British democracy became subject to a silent takeover.Independent Online Edition > UK Politics
Last year - rather late in the day, I must admit - I started to notice trends in Blair's legislation which seemed to attack individual rights and freedoms, to favour ministers (politicians appointed by the Prime Minister to run departments of government) over the scrutiny of Parliament, and to put in place all the necessary laws for total surveillance of society.
There was nothing else to do but to go back and read the Acts - at least 15 of them - and to write about them in my weekly column in The Observer. After about eight weeks, the Prime Minister privately let it be known that he was displeased at being called authoritarian by me. Very soon I found myself in the odd position of conducting a formal e-mail exchange with him on the rule of law, I sitting in my London home with nothing but Google and a stack of legislation, the Prime Minister in No 10 with all the resources of government at his disposal. Incidentally, I was assured that he had taken time out of his schedule so that he himself could compose the thunderous responses calling for action against terrorism, crime, and antisocial behaviour