During the Covid pandemic, we have become accustomed to our liberties being curtailed. We have grown used to having our movements restricted, and our interactions with other people banned, for the common good.
But, simultaneously, much more disturbing issues of freedom have arisen.
The Government’s police bill has signalled a willingness to severely limit our right to protest – we can assume the bill’s authors did not have pro-government protests in mind when they were drafting this chilling legislation.
On a global scale, freedom of speech is threatened by companies as much as governments.
The digital mega-corporations are happy to make billions from their positions of power, but are also increasingly abusing that power to censor digital communications.
Acting as judge, jury and executioner, they make their own rules about what we can and cannot say, and violate human rights based on corporate policies on a seemingly daily basis.
These companies control far more communications than any individual government and, as such, their censorship can be much more damaging.
Freedom of speech is that most fundamental human right, allowing us to engage in open and honest debate to test and prove viewpoints.
I believe a city such as London, one with strong tech credentials, must be at the forefront of the battle to protect our freedoms.
That is why, as your next Mayor, I will fight for digital freedom of speech and take these Silicon Valley technology companies to task.
Our fundamental human right to free speech must be respected in all places, including digital platforms, meaning we can all:
I will also champion the right to protest. The Government is using Covid as cover to restrict democratic freedoms that no country should be without.
This is not a minor issue. Throughout history, protest has been a vehicle for some of the most important changes enacted in this country and around the world.
Be it political and social emancipation or slavery, the right to work or the right to oppose war, environmental issues or political struggles, protesting is a legitimate and, indeed, crucial tool for citizens around the world.
As individuals, we probably agree with some causes more than others, but we don’t get to cherry-pick which causes are allowed a voice, and which are to be silenced if the Government’s policing bill is passed.
When you shut down protest, you shut down opposition. When you shut down opposition, you kill democracy.
The spirit of Speakers’ Corner must be championed and, as Mayor, I will stand up for the right to protest – even if those protests are against me.
It’s your freedom. Don’t give it up.