It’s a strange paradox. The tougher that Tory home secretaries talk, the faster law and order seems to break down. Whoever’s in the role – Grant Shapps, Priti Patel, Suella Braverman – the same rhetoric grinds on, day after day: cracking down, clamping down, demanding tougher action. Now the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has joined in, reportedly launching “Operation Get Tough” and demanding the police use all the new powers available to them through the latest sweep of anti-protest laws.
Who’s listening? Certainly not us. Just Stop Oil knows first-hand that the legal system is collapsing. Some of our supporters’ cases can’t even be heard until 2024. Many of my friends will spend this Christmas in prison, most held without a trial, on remand. Jan Goodey, the first person to be convicted under the government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, was sentenced to six months in prison just last week, the first of many protesters who will probably be criminalised for caring. Instead of facing up to the challenge of ending new oil and gas, the government would prefer to silence the alarm bells.
Braverman talks tough to hide the reality of the collapsing justice system. After 12 years of tough talk on law and order, we have less of it than ever. About 75% of prisoners reoffend within nine years of release, and prisons are so full that some male inmates have been held in police cells. Meanwhile, women and people of colour are at risk from the very law enforcers who are supposed to keep them safe.
The faster law and order breaks down, the more Braverman ramps up the rhetoric, desperate to hide the cracks in case anyone notices. Well, Suella, we’ve all noticed. We’ve noticed you haven’t cut crime; instead you’ve filled prisons close to breaking point. You can’t clamp down on floods and you can’t arrest your way out of wildfires. The only way for ordinary people to salvage any hope of a stable, ordered society is to break the spell of the rhetoric and expose the decay this government is trying to hide.
When a kind, peaceful, brave man like Jan Goodey is sentenced to six months in prison for taking part in a Just Stop Oil action, the violence, thuggery and corruption of our government is exposed for all to see. The rightwing press might try to prop up this con, celebrating an eco-loon getting what he deserves, but this fiction looks increasingly weak and desperate. The reality of climate breakdown is inescapable, and something that most people in Britain are worried about.
So what can we do? As ordinary citizens, we have a duty to resist injustice. Sometimes this may involve breaking the law in order to expose the rot at the core of the system. In Britain we’re immensely privileged to have a legal profession that is able to speak out and join us in rescuing the rule of law from chaos and collapse. This autumn, more than 170 lawyers signed a powerful open letter stating that breaching the Paris Agreement will directly threaten law and order. “A stable climate is the foundation for a stable civilisation and the rule of law,” they wrote. “Breaching the 1.5C Paris temperature goal thus threatens disorder and the end of the rule of law.”
So it is an absurdity for Braverman and Sunak to rant about law and order while they issue licences for new fossil-fuel exploration. That’s why no one is paying attention. There’s absolutely no alignment between what they say and what is really happening. They use words the way an amateur magician uses misdirection, trying and failing to distract us from the government’s core purpose: to pursue short-term power and profit, no matter what the cost.
Let them posture away. Once you’ve seen through the show, the words are easy to ignore. For us, the tougher the rhetoric, the more encouraged we feel. We know it’s a direct reflection of how hard the government needs to work to cover up its betrayal of the public. And as ordinary citizens witness the betrayal, they’re increasingly taking matters into their own hands. The result is a resurgence of justice itself – taking place before our very eyes as the government rants on in the background, ignored, failing and desperate.
So join a Just Stop Oil talk online or in your area and stand up to injustice with us. The time is now.