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United Kingdom

Accusations of Conflict of Interest Directed at UK Government Adviser on Disruptive Protest

Activists have raised concerns over a potential conflict of interest involving the government’s independent adviser on political violence, John Woodcock. It has come to light that Woodcock, a former Labour MP now serving as a crossbench peer, has ties to lobbying groups representing companies that could benefit from restrictions on protests.

Woodcock has been conducting a review on the involvement of “far-left” groups in disruptive protests, including activism related to climate change and anti-war movements. Simultaneously, he chairs and advises lobby groups advocating for arms manufacturers and fossil fuel companies.

Scheduled for release next week after a three-year delay, Woodcock’s review is expected to propose bans on certain protest groups, notably targeting Just Stop Oil and Palestine Action. These recommendations could result in limitations on the groups’ fundraising and assembly rights in the UK.

Records in the Lords’ register of interests reveal Woodcock’s affiliations with lobbying firms representing companies like BP, Leonardo, Glencore, and Enwell Energy, all of which could potentially benefit from restrictions on protests against their operations.

Critics, including activists and environmental advocates, have expressed skepticism about the independence of Woodcock’s review, alleging that his recommendations align with the interests of the corporate entities he represents.

In response to the accusations, Woodcock emphasized the objectivity of his review process and the broad range of perspectives considered. He defended the transparency of his non-parliamentary interests, stating that his past positions are a matter of public record.

Woodcock’s political trajectory, from Labour MP to crossbench peer, has been marked by controversy, including his resignation from the Labour Party in 2018 amid misconduct allegations. Despite this, he was later appointed as the government’s independent adviser on political violence, tasked with investigating protests following events like Extinction Rebellion and anti-lockdown demonstrations.

His forthcoming report, titled “Protecting our Democracy from Coercion,” has stirred controversy with its proposed measures, including restrictions on protest activities and potential proscription of groups engaging in unlawful protest tactics.

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