The Tories are ramming home a multi-pronged assault on basic rights. They are targeting refugees, Travellers, climate change campaigners, and anyone who tries to protest in ways the government does not like.
The draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons on Monday by 365 votes to 265.
That’s a bigger majority than at the second reading.
Some on the left denounced militant protests earlier this year because it might make it harder to coax Tory MPs into opposing sections of the bill.
That strategy failed utterly as the Tories voted down attempts to protect some protests.
Labour voted against the bill, but its opposition has been wholly ineffective. During the third reading debate, a section of its MPs put forward plans to add harsher powers on some issues.
Labour has never called for resistance on the streets. And nor have most trade union leaders, despite the threat to strikers and demonstrations the bill includes.
The battle is not over. In reality the key arena for a fightback has always been the streets.
Now it’s clearer than ever that it won’t be parliamentary procedures and the House of Lords that will make a difference.
The streets will also be crucial for opposition to home secretary Priti Patel’s asylum overhaul.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s Covid-19 emergency powers remain in place until well into next year—even after all the restrictions are lifted on 19 July.
This gives the government powers to make law without parliament and act without complying with statutory duties.
Johnson and his government are happy to drop any regulations that protect health and safety. But they are unwilling to let go of the laws that give them “emergency” controls.
The Tories’ repression has two aims. One is to meet the resistance that they know will not be indefinitely postponed as they attack ordinary people.
It is to prepare for protests at the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, a resurgence of a movement such as Black Lives Matter or an acceleration of strikes and occupations.
The second is to create a section of “dangerous” people—enemies who can be scapegoated for the Tories’ failures.
Already, divisive rhetoric has been pushed against “illegal immigrants” or “woke” activists who threaten “British values”.
But this is just a taste of what is to come unless there is mass resistance.
If the bill passes all its stages, the battle will be to prevent its implementation in practice. Everyone needs to support those whose protests are targeted.
Taking the fight to streets and workplaces against the repressive state is the best and the only way to push it back.