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facebookWouldn’t it be nice to live in a country that revered free speech, and where nobody could walk over our right to protest against unjust laws?

Some of you may think you do live in such a country; if so, you are mistaken.

Our ability to discuss such matters freely, from the courts of justice all the way down to the social media, is constantly under attack by the forces of Tory-led right-wing tyranny. They don’t want anything we say to get out. It might disturb the sleeping plebs.

Thank goodness these attacks are starting to receive the attention they deserve – such as the comments made by Baron Bach in the House of Lords last Wednesday (February 13), when he angrily voiced his concerns over changes to legal aid for social security cases.

He said the regulations passed that day (see the previous Vox Political article on the subject) made it “a day of shame for our country and its reputation as a civilised and just place to live and work“.

He said: “After 1 April, for those who do not have the means to pay – the vast majority, I would suggest, including many disabled people – where will they get the legal advice they need? They can get it now, but they will not be able to get it after 1 April. How will they receive advice on whether to start or not to start an appeal process? Who will advise them on the intricacies of the social security system?

Legal aid for welfare benefit advice will be abolished. However difficult the case, however much it may rely on points of law, there will be no legal aid either before or at a First-tier Tribunal, let alone an application to the Secretary of State for reconsideration.

“I hope that [the minister, Lord Freud] will not suggest that somehow welfare benefit law is so easy and unlegal that legal advice is never justified. He knows better than that, as does the House.

“Nor, I hope, will he use the argument that it will save some precious public money. Everyone agrees that abolishing social welfare law will cost the state, and particularly his department, much more money when early advice is not available.

“People’s legal problems, whether they are to do with welfare benefits, debts or employment, will get worse until one day, of course, the state will have to pick up the pieces from the broken lives that follow.

Does it not make a farce of our reputation as a country with equal access to justice as a major part of our legal system that no such equal access to justice is available to millions of our fellow citizens who are in receipt of social security in one form or another?”

He developed the point to its logical conclusion – that this is part of a government conspiracy to gag the poor: “It is too much of a coincidence that these legal aid cuts come at exactly the same time as radical welfare reform.

“It must be a deliberate government policy to bring in radical and damaging welfare reforms at the same time as making it impossible for the vast majority to appeal against the decisions that affect their daily lives.

It is a disgrace and a scandal.”

As above, so below: On Facebook, Vox Political tries to post links to its articles on groups where like-minded readers may benefit – with considerable success.

Until an incident a couple of weeks ago.

It seems Tory-supporting right-wingers have started to appear on these groups, where they have then been – I believe the term is – ‘gaming’ the Facebook complaints procedure to silence users like myself. They complain to Facebook that we are ‘spamming’ those groups. The authorities at Facebook – as any user knows – have never investigated such complaints. They act immediately to suspend the rights of the suspected offender to post on other groups.

So the right-wingers get their way, and – with the collusion of this vast social media provider – free speech is lost.

It’s now nearly two weeks since these Netbullies turned their attention to Vox Political. Despite frequent complaints to Facebook, this site’s ability to post to other groups has not been reinstated.

Every day, this site receives queries from administrators of those groups, asking what has happened and why Vox isn’t posting any more. It is clear that they did not want this interference in the operation of their group. And yet the authorities at Facebook not only allow it to continue, but enforce it.

This is as great an attack on free speech as the forthcoming restriction of Legal Aid. Perhaps greater – as discussions on Facebook help form public opinion. The right-wing Netbullies know that; they want to silence us.

Are you happy to let them?