Wednesday 13 January 2010

Proscription and spin

One does not have to have any sympathy with some of the messages being preached by the organisations which were proscribed by the government yesterday to have concerns about whether the decision to proscribe them was the right one. It seems a pretty illiberal response to organisations promulgating messages that most of us don't like very much. It also raises questions about how we decide which organisations to proscribe; if I agreed with the approach, I think I could make a reasonable case for proscribing the BNP, for instance.

Clearly, if an organisation, or any individuals belonging to an organisation, commit criminal offences, they can - and should - be prosecuted. There are plenty of laws available to the authorities, and Labour seem to have added not a few to the list in recent years. Proscription seems to be based on a suggestion of illegality where either the firm evidence is defective, or else the will to take a case to court is absent.

At a practical level as well, I'm far from certain that proscription is likely to be successful; it's far too easy for an organisation to disband and reform under another name, or even operate less obviously as an informal network. Successor organisations can in turn be banned, of course, but the authorities are likely to be playing a permanent game of catch-up.

I'm left wondering whether it wasn't simply an effort to appear to be doing something in response to wholly understandable and justifiable public outrage. It might make people feel better, but it probably hasn't achieved very much.


Spirit Of BME said...

This is a dreadful law.
Democracy does mean that you have to put up with people that really get under your skin or bore you to death (PMQ`s is a good example.)
If this law had been with us from 1900 the Labour Party would have fallen foul of it in 1914 and 1926.
As for the Suffragettes -well they bombed a ministers house and set fire to many buildings - they would have been history.

Unknown said...

Just goes to show that some "proscribed" organisations are actually healthy for society!

(Plaid Cymru in 1928 for example?)