The period of public mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II threw into sharp focus the question of freedom of speech in the UK.

This was highlighted by the arrest and charging of a woman in Edinburgh for holding up an Abolish The Monarchy poster.

Labour MP John Cryer commented: “It seems that a couple of police forces have decided to arrest peaceful anti-monarchy protesters. There are divergent views on monarchy all of which deserve respect but I cannot see why expressions of republicanism are in any way a threat.”

The mourning and celebration of the Queen’s reign was understandable. She gave a great life of service to the nation, people wanted to pay their respects.

But those who have other views should also have been allowed to express them. There was at times an almost simmering sense of intolerance towards anyone who did not agree with the establishment narrative about the monarchy.

The country over the 70 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign has prided itself on being the home of democracy and free speech. People denied these rights in other countries have often fled and found asylum and safety on these shores. What better time than when paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth’s reign to reiterate those values?

The recent police actions come at a time when successive British governments have been legislating to restrict freedoms of speech and assembly. This has in turn led to groups like environmental protesters, Extinction Rebellion, taking direct action.

Removing the valves of democratic accountability, like free speech, does not resolve problems but sees protest move into other forms.

Let’s not forget, in the north of Ireland meeting the peaceful protests of the civil rights movement in the late 1960s with violence led in the end to 30 years of war.

Democracy thrives when there are educated and informed citizens who are treated with respect, heard and taken notice of when they have a point to make. Majority and minority views should be equally respected.

On recent evidence, Britain seems to be drifting from this ideal toward a more authoritarian intolerant existence.

A truly fitting tribute to the memory of Queen Elizabeth II would be to ensure the tradition of this country for free speech, democracy and pluralism are restored and helped to prosper into the future.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead village and blogger. See