Starmer warns Labour MPs about talking to media except to pay tribute to the Queen

Starmer gags MPs
Starmer gags MPs

Starmer gags Labour MPs other than to pay tribute to the Queen

The passing of the Queen has seen thousands of people lining the road to pay their respects or eager to be part of this historical moment.

In Westminster Hall, the first mourners are filing in to pay tribute as the Queen’s Lying in State opens to the public for the first time.

The continuity of the monarchy does not allow for discussion, the moment a monarch dies the cry of the Queen is dead long live the King are the first words declared, a proclaimtion of succession, Charles III becomes king.

Succession is immediate, it does not allow for decent.

There has, however, been some small isolated protest. These protests have not been directed at the Queen but at the monarchy as an institution, in the main, they have been peaceful and only directed at the succession.

A woman in Edinburgh holding a sign reading “F*** imperialism, abolish the monarchy” was charged with a breach of the peace while another woman in London was moved from the gates of Parliament while carrying a “Not my king” sign.

People have been removed or even arrested by the police one 22-year-old man, heckled Prince Andrew shouting “you’re a sick old man” taken into custody by the police he explained, “Powerful men should not be allowed to commit sexual crimes and get away with it.”

Different laws, including “breach of the peace” in Scotland and the Public Order Act in England have been used in arrests linked to commemorations of the Queen’s death and the proclamation of the King.

The police crackdown on such protests has raised questions about freedom of speech in the United Kingdom.

Following a letter sent to the Police by a senior Tory MP David Davis, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy stated people “absolutely have a right to protest” against the monarchy following the death of the Queen.

The Metropolitan Police issued a statement following a viral video Ironically from Parliament Square in central London when a barrister who was holding up a blank piece of paper was asked for his details by an officer.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Cundy said: “We’re aware of a video online showing an officer speaking with a member of the public outside the Palace of Westminster earlier today.

“The public absolutely have a right of protest and we have been making this clear to all officers involved in the extraordinary policing operation currently in place and we will continue to do so.

Barrister Paul Powlesland filmed his interaction with an officer who claimed that the sign “may offend” people if he wrote, “not my King” on it. Mr Powlesland said he was threatened with arrest, writing on Twitter: “Just went to Parliament Square and held up a blank piece of paper. “An officer came and asked for my details. He confirmed that if I wrote ‘Not My King’ on it, he would arrest me under the Public Order Act because someone might be offended.”

The incident has been compared to the March 2022 arrest of a woman in Russia who was dragged away by police for holding a blank sign amid a brutal crackdown on dissent over the invasion of Ukraine.

Labour Party MP Zarah Sultana said, “No one should be arrested for just expressing republican views,”  “Extraordinary — and shocking — that this needs saying.”

It is very true this is a moment of great political and historic importance – whether you are a monarchist or, like me, a would-be republican. The death of Queen Elizabeth II should provoke some soul-searching about our own relationship with history and our future relationship with the present system of constitutional monarchy going forward. Personally, I believe there is a discussion to be had on the future role of the monarchy, I also believe absolutely in people’s rights to express their views and opinions, after all, that is all we have.

The right to freedom of speech is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

So it begs the question of why Sir Keir Starmer has now warned Labour MPs not to share messages on social media or speak to journalists apart from to pay tribute to the Queen during the period of national mourning.

The rules have caused some disquiet among MPs and shadow ministers who believe the party should continue to speak out about the cost of living crisis.

In guidance circulated this week, seen by the Guardian, MPs were asked to “suspend all campaigning and party activity” though continue to do casework and hold advice surgeries.

MPs have been advised to stay away from Westminster and the House of Commons building, where they work. They have been told to stop their political communications with constituents, including email updates and newsletters, which at least one MP said they had ignored to send their constituents an update on the energy freeze package announced last week.

The advice also says “you should not post anything on social media, except your own tribute or what you have been asked to share from the PLP office … you should make sure any posts on social media do not include political branding”.

It says: “You should not do any media, except for your own tribute to local outlets.” MPs are encouraged to cancel any of their own events during the state funeral.

Another shadow minister questioned the “ridiculous omerta” on speaking about political matters, and a number of MPs have broken cover to question the arrests of republican protesters and to speak out about the inflation figures.

One MP said they were frustrated by the “enforced radio silence” especially around the arrests of protesters. “Labour being outflanked by Sky News on this issue isn’t a good look,” they said.

Labour sources emphasised that the advice issued to MPs had been guidance about media handling and played down any prospect of MPs being disciplined for speaking out on other topics – depending on the egregiousness of the circumstances.

The source said most MPs had been understanding about the request to suspend political campaigning and no direct complaints had been made to Keir Starmer’s team.

It is an attack on open democracy to suggest that MPs be gagged on expressing their views on the current crisis that have left millions of people and business not knowing if they will get through this winter without falling into extreme debt.

It disturbs me that Starmer’s latest diktat will allow the Queen’s funeral to give cover for the government to conduct the handover of up to £150 Billion in public money to the Energy companies not only without parliamentary scrutiny but without opposition MPs able to comment on the under the table deal.

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