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Londoner’s Diary: Anna Soubry says law to prevent protests near Parliament is verging on a nonsense

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A new week and a new Londoner’s Diary: First up, former Conservative Minister Anna Soubry dimisses the government’s new policing bill, telling us it is “headline-grabbing, easy, and therefore dishonest, politics”. Later, Bernardine Evaristo calls for more black, British women in the “literature ecosystem” as publishers, editors and critics, whilst Wolf Alice’s bassist reveals the secret feelings behind the band’s music. Then in SW1A, we hear how Dame Louise Casey nabbed herself top job and Theresa Villiers gets voters remorse.

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ANNA Soubry, the former MP infamously targeted by a mob in Parliament Square in 2019, has hit out at the government for trying to prevent protests in Parliament square, saying their new crime bill is “verging on a nonsense”.

“We don’t need any new laws [for protest], this is real headline-grabbing, easy, and therefore dishonest, politics,” Soubry told us this morning, despite her own torrid experiences in Parliament Square.

In January 2019 Soubry was surrounded by protestors while debates about Brexit were raging. James Goddard called the then Conservative MP a Nazi and a traitor. He received an eight week prison sentence, suspended for a year. She pointed out that Goddard and another man were both prosecuted under the existing public order act and added “both men received custodial sentences, of which I make no complaint at all. Justice was absolutely done.”

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 will have its second reading today. The Bill would give police more powers to control static protests. It includes jail terms of up to ten years for the offence of causing “serious annoyance”.

Soubry said “somebody’s got a fixation on 10 years in the Home Office, everything seems to have a maximum of 10 years.”

Police powers are also under the spotlight following the vigil for Sarah Everard in Clapham on Saturday night. Boris Johnson said he was “deeply concerned” by footage of women being arrested.

“The one area where we need new offences isn’t in this Bill,” Soubry said, explaining “and those are the offences pertaining to the behaviour too many women have to put up with as they go about their daily lives”. Time for a rethink?

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