Last night, the UK government passed the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill. A bill gagging charities, NGO’s, bloggers, community groups and most attempts at organised opposition to the government in the year prior to a general election…and just in time for the General Election next year.
What is the Gagging Law?The Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, or Gagging Law, was hailed as the UK government’s answer to the issue of commercial lobbying.
But, this bill does not take on the political power of wealthy corporate lobbyists. Instead, it kneecaps any attempts at organised local and national opposition by civil society, so as not to influence the outcome of general elections. It is a gagging law. The law puts in place a range of bureaucratic and financial barriers amounting to a gag on free speech and effective opposition. These include:
- The maximum that can be spent before groups have to be registered with the Electoral Commission £20,000 in England and £10,000 in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
- Reduce the overall UK-wide spending limit before elections from £988,500 at present to a new limit of £450,000. To put this in perspective – campaign group 38Degrees has 1.7m members, this would mean neutering their spending power on posters, staff, adverts and ancillary costs to just 26p per member.
- Putting in place a spending cap of just £9,750 in a particular constituency, in the year running up to a general election – while the local MP can spend as much as they like until just 4 months from the election.
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