The eyes of the globe will once again fall upon London today as the fourteenth Paralympic Games gets underway in earnest. It will be the second largest multi-sport celebration ever staged in the United Kingdom – second only to the hugely successful 2012 Olympic Games of just a few weeks ago. The event also marks the return of the Paralympic movement to its birthplace. What humbly began in the British village of Stoke Mandeville back in 1948, with just a handful of Second World War veterans taking part, returns to the capital more than 60 years on as the biggest Paralympics the world has ever seen.
The Government’s secret justice proposals are once again back in the spotlight. Recent media coverage has honed in on increasing evidence that – whatever concessions the Government has purportedly made – this Justice and Security Bill remains rotten to its core.
New Labour arguably left Britain more comfortable in its diversity and better protected by anti-discrimination law. Equal treatment for gay people advanced significantly and the Human Rights Act provides a modern Bill of Rights for everyone in the Kingdom. Curiously however, parallel laws dishonoured these values in thought, word and deed.
It’s no secret by now that the Government has decided to dust off and revive its predecessor’s plans for a Snoopers’ Charter. The Draft Communications Data Bill proposes to increase the collection and storage of “communications data” for the entire population. If it becomes law then records of all of our e-mails, texts, phone calls and the websites we visit will be gathered and kept hold of by private firms.
It’s more than three years since the scandal of blacklisting in the construction industry was uncovered, but the victims remain largely unidentified. Thousands of workers were effectively banned from the industry because they’d been identified as “troublemakers” and put on a secret database shared by all the major employers. And their crimes? Apparently almost any activity connected with trade unions, such as participating in lawful industrial action or raising genuine concerns about the safety of fellow workers. Most of the people on the list, which is also said to have included journalists and politicians, still have no idea that they were victimised in this way.
It’s been hard to resist the Olympomania in the air this week, and who would want to? The Games have showcased a Britain that is as diverse as it is talented, and given us the opportunity to celebrate the remarkable dedication and hard work of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities
With Parliament on its summer holiday and the small matter of the Olympic Games in town it’s not difficult to get distracted and overlook what else is going on. But we mustn’t forget that, when the politicians return, they’ll be picking up where they left off – and still seeking to revive the dreaded Snoopers’ Charter.
So the Metropolitan Police used the opening of the Olympics on Friday evening to have another go at Critical Mass, the monthly mass cycle ride around central London. It’s clear that the Met don’t like these slightly chaotic – there are no organisers and no planned route – pro-cycling outings on the last Friday of every month.