I hate my country. I hate the UK.
By this I mean I hate what the UK has become over the past decade. I hate it that people must rely on food banks to feed themselves and their children. I hate it that an unknown number will freeze to death this winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes.
I hate it that a deceitful and xenophobic campaign persuaded enough people that we should turn our backs on our natural partners in Europe, causing massive economic damage and exacerbating the above.
I hate it that a corrupt political system has allowed a man manifestly unfit for office to cling to the highest post in the land for three years longer than he should, with the connivance of a party that saw this as in their best interests, if not always in the interests of the country, during the worst crisis in living memory.
I hate what the UK has become, and I hope and pray that one day it is a better country.
Sunak’s plan to crush free speech
Rishi Sunak has said he intends to extend the Prevent programme, which is designed to combat extremism and terrorism, to cover those who “vilify’” Britain. He wants to focus on “rooting out those who are vocal in their hatred of our country”.
This has attracted criticism from at least one anti-terrorism expert as risking “straying into thought crimes”.
I do not for a moment think that Sunak believes extending the Prevent programme thus is a good idea or that it will ever come about. He is flailing around trying to gain votes from those members of the Conservative Party who seem more likely to back his rival, Liz Truss.
An unspecified number of those party members probably do think extreme anti-patriotism should be a criminal offence. A number probably want the death penalty reintroduced. There may even, in some bizarre Venn diagram, be some who overlap, some who want hanging brought back for those extreme anti-patriots, though I rather hope not. You would not want to risk sitting next to one of them on the bus.
Any future Patriotism Act would be unworkable
The problem with suggesting daft and extreme policies to curry favour with that membership base is that someone one day might think them a good idea. If I had told you two years ago that those arriving on our shores without due authentication would one day risk being deported to an African country apparently selected at random, I doubt you would have believed me.
The word “Orwellian” has become such a cliché that one hesitates to use it even when it is entirely justified.
It is quite possible to make extreme anti-patriotism and hatred for this country a criminal act, though. You just pass the necessary legislation. Note that Sunak has not suggested this. Any future Patriotism Act would be unworkable, because juries would simply not convict if they thought the actions they were judging should not be a criminal offence. We saw that with the Colston Bristol statue trial.
It only takes three members of a jury to refuse to convict and the trial collapses. And so does the retrial, and so on, and so on. Such legislation is unworkable.
There is by definition no way of proving how effective Prevent has been because we can never know how many terror attacks it has prevented
Whether the Prevent programme could indeed be extended to cover anti-patriotism is another matter. The way it works is that members of the public, teachers, for example, are encouraged to report individuals to the police if they feel they are in danger of being radicalised. The scheme is supported by an unelected but independent Counter Terrorism Advisory Network made up of lay people – survivors of terrorism, academics, faith leaders and other members of community organisations.
There is by definition no way of proving how effective Prevent has been because we can never know how many terror attacks it has prevented. To judge by the paucity of recent incidents, it seems to work rather well.
There are regional subsidiaries – East Anglia falls within the Eastern Region Counter Terrorism Advisory. Counter Terrorism Police are not required to act on information supplied by its members, and they are not accountable for any actions the police take as a consequence.
It all seems rather benign. There is, however, no apparent reason why Prevent should not be extended to cover extremes of anti-patriotism, as Sunak has suggested. Members of the public could, theoretically, report me for the above remarks, and I would come to the notice of the authorities.
This could, to say the least, result in some inconvenience to me, and possibly a police interview. I am not remotely suggesting this is going to happen one day. Except that, while I generally respect the police, some of their recent behaviour, especially on the part of the Metropolitan Police, has not exactly increased that respect.
And the police have, in the past, been somewhat overzealous in pursuing so-called “hate crimes” to the extent that the guidance has had to be changed.
All in all, it might have been better if Sunak, however desperate he is to become Prime Minister, had not raised the idea.
See you in the re-education camp.