Riding in on a wave of optimism and real belief in their mantra that things can only get better, they proceeded to enact some of the most authoritarian legislation in recent history. With fast-paced satirical style, this Bafta-nominated film shows how, in just over a decade, some rights and freedoms that took centuries to build up have been rolled back or cut away. The entitlement to habeas corpus – no detention without trial – established when the barons took on King John in the 13th century has, in some circumstances, been abolished.
Millions of CCTV cameras up and down the country undermine our right to privacy. A series of measures has made it more and more difficult to exercise freedom of speech and already led to the arrest of a large number of peaceful protesters. Director Chris Atkins has assembled footage to demonstrate how oppressive these new powers can be. The 82-year-old holocaust survivor was lifted bodily from a debate at the Labour Party conference for, as talking-head Tony Benn points out, “rightfully” saying that Jack Straw is talking “nonsense” about Iraq. We see a man who tries to protest against the treatment of this old man also set upon by security, and learn that he was later handled roughly – and that poor old Wolfgang was next detained by the police under the 2000 Terrorism Act.
We meet Moulad Sihali an Algerian refugee. He was cleared of all charges relating to a non-existent plot to manufacture the poison Ricin (a non-conspiracy that was “discovered”, conveniently enough, in the propaganda run-up to the invasion of Iraq), but has now been made a prisoner in his own home. He’s been fitted with a tracking device, is only allowed outside at certain hours – and then only within a one-mile radius of his house – and is forbidden to meet anyone who hasn’t been vetted by the Home Office. The specific charge against him? There isn’t one.
We hear how Maya Evans, a vegan chef, and her friend the writer Milan Rai were arrested under the Serious Organised Crime and Police act for reading out the names of people who have died in Iraq and occasionally ringing a (very quiet) Buddhist bell.