Lib Dems challenge coronation arrests

Back in the 1930s, there was a deep suspicion amongst courtiers of broadcasting royal events on the radio. They worried that the events would be demeaned by men listening to them in public houses with their hats on. Ninety years on, these courtiers would have been utterly disgusted at the prospect of women watching last Saturday’s coronation (as I did) on their phones on sunbeds in Spain, one pina colada to the good.

I hadn’t intended to watch any of it while I was away on my first ever girls’ holiday. Truth be told, I’d had trouble even mustering up indifference. However, one of our party had a friend participating and she wanted to see if she could spot him.

So I managed to marvel at some of the proceedings, including Penny Mordaunt’s impressive sword-holding while dressed as every Tory Boy’s Thatcherite fantasy.

However much I like the spectacle, I am far from convinced that a hereditary monarchy, even one with few powers, is the best way for our country to be governed. I am not too exercised by the question, though, as there are many more pressing things – including giving people the Parliament they ask for – that need to be done.

I totally get why protesters from the organisation Republic might want to make their point by protesting in the run up to the coronation. They have every right to do so in a democratic society. Yet heavy handed action by the Police saw protesters, and in one case a royal fan who was there to enjoy the day, arrested and deprived of their liberty for hours.  A retrospective expression of regret by the Police is just not good enough.

The events showed the flaws in the recently passed Public Order Act, exactly as our people in Parliament had warned as it was debated.

As you would expect, Lib Dems have been highly critical of the arrests. Alistair Carmichael, our Home Affairs spokesperson, said on Twitter:

Tim Farron said that tolerating protest would be the “most utterly British thing imaginable:

And in the Commons this week, Wendy Chamberlain, the only woman MP to have served as a Police Officer, questioned the training given to officers ahead of the event:

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, who was in the Abbey on the day, called on Charles to defend British values of freedom of expression in a speech in the Scottish Parliament:

“I wish King Charles III and The Queen well, and I hope in the years ahead that they will continue to defend the values that make our country great.

“Firstly, in upholding democracy and free speech. We are a country that proudly finds disagreement on almost every topic. We should never be a country which seeks to stifle either side of that disagreement, as we saw in the troubling actions of the Met Police in London on Saturday arresting republican protestors.

“Secondly, I hope the King would want people to have confidence in the transparency of his reign. At present, the Crown Consent procedure allows the monarch’s lawyers to flag concerns about legislation and request changes in secret. My party has been clear that details of these interventions should be made public. Like our other institutions, we have a right to know how legislative decisions are made. That is a cornerstone of our democracy.

“We are a quirky people, our traditions, our eccentricities and our humour are part of the rich composition that makes up the culture and identity of these islands. Saturday marked a moment in our national story, a turning of the page. I was glad to have been a tiny part of it.

One of the key purposes of Liberal Democrats is to defend human rights and  civil liberties against attack. Whether it’s the current Public Order or Illegal Migration laws or Labour’s DNA database, control orders and draconian pre-charge detention plans, our record on standing up for citizens against authoritarian measures is impressive.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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3 Comments

  • Jack Nicholls 13th May '23 - 10:34am

    I’m a libertarian republican (in the Chomsky sense, not the Rand Paul sense), and yet I cannot find a speck of difference between me and my most staunchly monarchists friends in our disgust at these arrests and the tissue of justification. My level of concern about where we are as a country has escalated sharply, and I’m genuinely ashamed to be British if this is us on display to the world. Great article Caron, as always.

  • Mick Scholes 13th May '23 - 2:39pm

    A timely statement at Federal or Parliamentary Party level telling people which parts of the recent Act we would seek to abolish and the timescale for same would be most helpful. Labour have made it clear they will not repeal this law. Can we also change the system so organisers of protest work with Local Government rather than the Police about what happens where and when? Move peaceful protest as far away from the concept of crime and illegality as we can, and make it a logistical issue, not a Police one. We may have to fight this on our own (Labour have made it clear), but a country that does not allow peaceful protest is not one I would want.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 13th May '23 - 7:05pm

    I would have preferred a more direct approach on this travesty from either our leader or the main Lib Dem Twitter. Both of which were shamefully silent about the arrests.

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