An interesting thread on identifying the right time to act and protest against Boris Johnsons government.


First published in February 2020.

I see a number of tweeps regularly asking versions of “Why aren’t we out on the streets protesting against this hideous government?”

It’s an interesting question so here are some thoughts on it.

Recently we’ve seen significant street protests in Hong Kong, Lebanon, Chile, Ecuador, Spain and elsewhere.

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BBC News

Largely, these protests have been spontaneous, long lasting, and have been opposed, often brutally, by the national governments.

The BBC article explores some of the reasons for these protests but they are broadly linked by a number of themes: inequality, government corruption, etc.

We’ve also seen protests in the U.K. I’m not talking here about organised marches, huge though they were. I’m thinking about two quite different protests, Extinction Rebellion (XR), and the instinctive response to the government’s illegal prorogation of Parliament.

XR protests continue around the world, are largely peaceful and gain a lot of press coverage. How effective they are in influencing government policy or getting support from members of the public is a discussion for another day because I want to look at the prorogation protests.

Prompted by Boris Johnson’s obvious lies about the reasons for prorogation and the duration of the parliamentary shutdown, there were sudden calls for protests in and out of Parliament.

With the “constitutional outrage” erupting in Parliament, street protests were happening across the country, with no sign of backing down. Why? My view is that the government messed up and took too big a step on the road to the new political landscape of low scrutiny and authoritarian rule.

The eventual judgement from the Supreme Court 🕷 brought an end to that episode but the government wasn’t chastened in any way. They learned a lesson and, since the election, are eagerly acting to ensure they don’t get tripped up again. Action against the courts, using the current deportation argument as a smokescreen and a paper thin justification, will continue.

So the question comes back. When will enough be enough for a broad spectrum of U.K. citizens to actively, peacefully, in real life, protest? One possible answer is never.

Incremental steps that, on their own, are never sufficient to cause widespread outrage, are how this government moves us from a broadly democratic, accountable society to something wholly different.

Add in the wholesale control of the bulk of the media, social media, and an online army of bots, trolls, and sock puppets, and things look bleak.

Street protests will inevitably be met by further crackdown on our rights, and threats to those involved.

I should probably state quite clearly that I’m all in favour of intelligent, peaceful protests. Violence is anathema to me and my friends, and solves nothing. Creative protest on the other hand can achieve a lot.

So what can we do? It’s quite easy to argue equally well that the right time for protest is now, later, never, or in the past and it’s too late. I don’t agree that it’s too late but I don’t think that now is the time either.

The purpose of protests can be simply to say ‘Not this!’ Equally, it can be about a clear objective, but, to be effective it needs to have support. Right now I don’t see that.

The media narrative is all with the government.

We might get lucky and Johnson will fail miserably or, like Thatcher and the Poll Tax, upset his core support. Labour might elect a leader capable of offering real alternatives and opposition in Parliament. COP26 may be a PR disaster.

All these are possible but ... we need to drive the story, connect Brexit to everything that goes wrong, campaign intelligently, support each other and try not to be endlessly distracted by stories of bridges, and every other shiny nonsense the government throws out.

And, most importantly, hope for a good summer – protest is much easier when it’s sunny! 😎

Tweets posted on 12 February 2020 by @mrEmTee.


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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 14 February 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

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(Cover: Geograph.org.uk/Julian Osley. - Demonstrators outside Downing Street protesting about the Government's decision to prorogue Parliament for a longer than usual period of time. | 31 Aug 2019. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)