Lawbreaking by Just Stop Oil is as bad as similar acts by extreme-right, Commissioner for Countering Extremism says

21 May 2024, 19:25

Robin Simcox on Lord Walney's report

By Jenny Medlicott

Allowing Just Stop Oil to break the law ‘gives the green light’ for similar behaviour by the far-right, the Commissioner for Countering Extremism has told LBC.

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Sweeping measures to crack down on protests, including making organisers pay towards policing and a review of undercover surveillance of activist groups, have been proposed by Lord Walney in his landmark report on Tuesday.

Speaking to LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, the Commissioner for Countering Extremism Robin Simcox has said that lawbreaking by Just Stop Oil is as bad as far-right groups regardless of whether you support the cause.

Discussing the tactics of the extreme-left, Mr Simcox said: “Where there becomes a problem is when lawbreaking is involved in forwarding, in advancing an ideology.

"I suppose an apposite example would be Just Stop Oil, people of course, it’s a moral cause to want to tackle climate change, something which I think the vast majority of people in this country agree with.

“I think it’s also true to say the vast majority of people in this country don’t agree with blocking roads in furthering that cause.”

It comes after two protesters in their eighties from the climate group were arrested earlier this month after they smashed the glass surrounding the Magna Carta in the British Library.

Read more: Sadiq Khan dismisses Gove’s antisemitism warning as ‘flowery rhetoric’ - but agrees protest chant should stop

Read more: Just Stop Oil should be treated like terrorist organisations, government-commissioned report says

Mr Simcox said of the incident: "We'll look at a case like that and take the age profile out of it and look at actions. (The Magna Carta protest) is an unacceptable act really and I think we have to take a step back and say OK - climate change, (there's) broad agreement we should do something about it in this country but if we accept the principle that lawbreaking is OK if it's a cause we happen to agree with, we then also have to accept the principle it's OK when it's a cause we don't agree with.

"For example, if a far-right or extreme right-wing group start blocking roads because they didn't want asylum seekers coming into the country, or they wanted to shut down the small boats routes, if we give a green light to one - even if they may not be morally comparable - you're essentially giving a green light to the other.

"This is why I think you've got reiterate the principles, we make decisions in this country based on parliamentary democracy, we don't do it by threats, intimidation even when the causes are those we may agree with."

Under the report, Lord Walney recommends a series of severe changes to "protect our democratic values from intimidation", such as a blanket ban on face coverings at protests and making it easier for businesses or members of the public to claim damages from activist groups that cause disruption.

In his 292-page report on political violence and disruption, he also claims law enforcement do not know enough about "the extreme left".

He says: "I conclude, unsurprisingly, that there is a greater violent threat from the far right.

"Yet I find a worrying gap in our understanding of the extreme left, whose activists do not routinely employ violent methods yet systematically seek to undermine faith in our parliamentary democracy and the rule of law."

Asked about the report, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "Extremism has no place in our society. Threatening or intimidating behaviour that disrupts the lives of ordinary hardworking people isn't acceptable."

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