Rule Draconia: Tories and Labor Collude in Enabling Act for State Crimes

Photograph Source: Adrian Pingstone – Public Domain

The Tory government (with the collusion of the Labour leadership) is ramming through one of the most draconian and tyrannical laws ever seen in an ostensible democracy, a bill that will give a wide and ever-expanding number of state agencies the power to torture, rape and kill citizens without any legal consequences. This is no rhetorical exaggeration; it is the plain fact – as that notoriously far-left commie rag, the Spectator, points out.

The Covert Human Intelligence Sources Bill provides immunity for any government agent in undercover operations; and this goes far beyond those aimed at dire terrorist threats and big crime gangs, as touted by the bill-pushers. (Activities that are already given perilously wide scope in current practice.) It also includes serious crimes committed while pursuing operations launched “in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom, for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime or of preventing disorder.”

As the Spectator puts it:

“These are remarkably wide and loosely defined purposes. The ‘crime’ being fought need not be serious. … Indeed the wording is so wide that it will be permissible to issue them to combat activities that are not even criminal at all. ‘Disorder’ is a horribly vague word that encompasses lawful dissent. The Bill’s provisions would provide the intelligence services and the police with clear legal authority for sexual deception to be used to gather intelligence on political protest movements. …As with the intelligence agencies, there are no limits on the types of crime that any of these organisations will be able to authorise, up to and including torture, rape and murder.”

What’s more, this literal license for atrocity is not limited to the “security organs,” as the Spectator notes:

“Any police force is included, as are the armed forces, HMRC, the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Competition and Markets Authority, the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency, the Financial Conduct Authority and the Gambling Commission. In the most modern fashion, the Bill gives the home secretary the power to add other agencies to this list by future statutory instrument — without the oversight of parliament.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has decreed that the party will abstain on the bill — even if it is not amended to rein in just a few of its lawless and depraved provisions. He knows a Labour abstention means the bill will be passed by the gibbering rubber-stampers in the Tory majority. Several members of Starmer’s own shadow cabinet have resigned over this bizarre capitulation to a measure that will – without a shadow of a doubt – be used against the Labour Party itself and the unions that support it.

Some say Starmer’s de facto support for this ghastly Enabling Act is part of his “smart long game” to shore up Labour’s “electability”: can’t look “soft on crime” with “elitist” concerns about civil liberties if you want to get back those lost voters in the “heartlands.” But this bill is so draconian, so utterly berserk in its gleeful empowerment of practically every state agency to commit rape and murder in the name of “economic interests” or quelling “unrest,” that even the Spectator – a magazine about as far to the right as you can go without actually putting on a blackshirt for a torchlight rally – is sounding a frantic alarm against it.

There is actually no political benefit in abstaining on the bill. Starmer will, quite rightly, be condemned by those on his own side for his collusion in its passage, while of course the UK’s hard-right, oligarch-driven media will continue to paint him as a “loony left, criminal-coddling surrender monkey,” etc. Decades of such treatment still hasn’t taught centrists this undeniable truth: it literally doesn’t matter what you do or say, however moderate or accommodating or rightwing-lite it is – you will still be portrayed as a far-left extremist bent on Stalinist subjugation of the people. (We’re seeing this play out in the US election right now, where corporate bagman Joe Biden and pro-police prosecutor Kamala Harris are being depicted as radical socialists by the oligarch-driven rightwing noise machine.) If the Labour strategy on the bill is based on such political gamesmanship, it is a remarkably stupid approach, blind to the obvious realities of our time.

The other excuse offered – “it’s going to pass anyway, so why waste political capital on it?” – is equally bleak, and equally stupid. If you’re not going to oppose a bill whose evil is so evident that even hard-right conservatives like the Spectator oppose it, then what the hell are you doing in a “progressive” party in the first place? What are you there for, if not to fight against such things, even if you will probably lose this round? What “political capital” can you have, if you don’t stand for anything? People will see you rightly as an empty suit of clothes, not worth supporting.

Of course, it’s possible that Starmer – who is obviously not stupid – wants the bill to pass because he is in broad agreement with its principle of unbridled power for the security organs and police, whom he firmly backed in his years as Director of Public Prosecutions and Head of the Crown Prosecution Service. (Which earned him his knighthood.) He seems willing to accept those provisions in the bill which he has questioned in order to get its core powers of broad immunity for state crimes by security forces into law. If this is the case, then it’s actually far more alarming than the notion that he has foolishly blundered into the usual centrist trap of mollifying the right for no political gain at all.

In any event, it is almost certain that this abomination will win final approval by Parliament, without even the pretense of a fight by the Labour Party. It will lead – inexorably, inevitably – to the infliction of horrible human suffering and death for untold numbers of innocent people in the years to come. Many if not most of these will be people who join groups or take part in actions intended solely to improve the lives of ordinary people and advance the greater common good. They will be raped. They will be beaten and tortured. They will be murdered. They will be robbed and deceived, even to the point of entering false marriages and bearing children for strangers who are exploiting them and gaslighting them. (This has already happened repeatedly, of course, resulting in scandals and investigations. Now it will be perfectly legal for state agents to procure sex and impregnate women under false pretenses.)

Keir Starmer evidently believes this is not worth fighting against. The bill puts this simple question: “Do you support murder, rape and torture by government agents, with virtually no limits and no accountability? Yes or no?” And Starmer’s answer is: “I abstain. I step aside. I take no view on this matter.”

This is not leadership. This is not “smart.” This is capitulation to a monumental, catastrophic defeat for the cause of human freedom.

Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at His twitter feed is @empireburlesque. His Instagram is