Press Watch 17/10/19

On the streets of central London, we have seen action by protestors against the state of our planet.

The mega-corporations who too often thoughtlessly exploit our natural resources and pollute our planet are rarely accused of anti-social behaviour let alone outright illegality. But the protestors who are trying to draw the world's attention to these problems have been arrested in their hundreds.

Now we find that it is possible that the police ban on climate activist group Extinction Rebellion protesting in London contravenes human rights laws and should be reversed. The FT reports an application for a judicial review of the police decision. Action to be taken in the courts says the Metropolitan Police’s blanket ban imposed on Extinction Rebellion’s London protest was unlawful, disproportionate and a breach of the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

The Met’s use of a section fourteen order ordered all Extinction Rebellion protesters to cease demonstrating in London or face arrest on Monday evening. But protests continued in defiance of the ban. It is now being claimed that the ban was “wholly disproportionate and inconsistent” with articles ten and eleven of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression and assembly.

In a nutshell, it is being argued that the police action is a hammer to crack a nut. Tobias Garnett, a human rights lawyer working with Extinction Rebellion’s legal team, said a hearing was likely to be heard today.

In the meantime, the media are reporting this morning that the Government announced that Boris Johnson will himself chair a new cabinet committee on climate change. Of course, no Conservative Government will ever bring about the systemic changes which are needed if we are to reverse the climate disaster which we face.

There are two issues here. The first is climate change itself and the consequences of human action on our planet. We are convinced that urgent action needs to be taken immediately and there are many ameliorative steps which can be taken. But in the end there will have to be a system change in how we organise our economy if we are to survive as a species and if the wonderful biodiversity of our planet is to be preserved.

The second issue is the right to protest in a free society. This right is paramount in a democracy, especially when so many feel that our political structures are no longer fit to handle our country’s complex needs. Of course, if people break the law, then they will enter the criminal justice system, but the law itself was never intended to wholly prevent protest in a city like London.

No doubt the Extinction Rebellion protestors are monitoring the effect on public opinion of their actions. Their purpose is surely to persuade people that urgent change is necessary and not to simply disrupt people's lives to little effect, whilst the real polluters continue their filthy work unabated.

Our view is that the police ban is an assault on our basic rights and needs to be withdrawn forthwith.

On another matter, new research is claiming that the Government is effectively massaging the unemployment figures. The Guardian reports that ‘Millions more people in Britain are without a job than shown by official unemployment figures, according to a study that suggests the jobless rate should be almost three times higher.

According to research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Centre for Cities thinktank, there is “hidden” unemployment in towns and cities. The study found that more than 3m people are missing from the headline unemployment rate because they self declare as as economically inactive, since they believe there are no suitable jobs available to them.

For this reason the report says that not 4.6% but 13.2% of the working-age population not in education are out of work. The OECD made the estimate by creating an adjusted economic activity rate, which removes students, pensioners, people caring for family and people with health issues. In a stark analysis of joblessness across the country, the assessment suggests the total number of people out of a job who could work from the official level of 1.3m to almost 4.5m.

The Centre for Cities meanwhile has said that urban locations faced the highest levels of hidden joblessness. Liverpool had the highest rate in the country, with around one in five working-age.

Press Watch is a look at the day's news by Labour MPs.

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