The current UK Government is surreptitiously attempting to pass a law which will be an affront to our human rights and freedom of speech.
When you live in one of the oldest and most influential democratic states in the world, there is a temptation to assume that you will always retain your undeniable constitutional rights without fight or effort and that your leaders will attempt to protect, rather than subvert, them.
There is the temptation to cast judgement over how other countries go about their business whilst not taking notice of important changes and movements happening right under your own nose.
This blog is as guilty, if not more so, than many others of taking up this perspective.
The UK Government is currently in the latter stages of pushing a Bill through Parliament that will restrict our Freedom of Speech and put yet more distance between the regular person and the political process that organizes and controls the way we live. This bill was put through the House of Commons just before the summer recess began and is now in the House of Lords, where the Government is seeking to pass it into law before Christmas.
The law in question, the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, will put huge constraints on Third Sector involvement in the political process. Essentially, it means that charities, local community groups, bloggers, NGOs and other such Third Sector groups will be restricted in what they can say and do in the year before a General Election.
Registered campaigners will not be allowed to spend more than £9750 in any constituency in the year before a General Election. That equates to around £800 per month. Even for small charities and campaigning groups, never mind the larger ones, this is not enough to sustain important information, outreach and democratic mobilization functions through leaflets, billboards, meetings, salaries, customer service and so forth.
In contrast, local MPs and politicians will have unlimited spending power up until 4 months prior to General Elections.
In a free, democratic society, groups should be allowed to come together to campaign and lobby as they wish. Whether this be for or against the installation of a wind farm in their local area or more ideologically and politically based campaigns over rights is of equal importance. It is our democratic right to speak openly and freely.
This bill was introduced under the pretension that it would curtail the influence of commercial lobbying on the political process. However, the details of the bill clearly show that a mere 1% of these commercial lobbying groups will be affected. If you are Tesco, G4S or other such large groups, your access to, and influence over, Downing Street and Parliament will not be restricted. If you are a grassroots organization trying to redress grievances, right wrongs, and better your community, your ability to do so will be seriously diminished.
The passing of this bill would distort politics yet more, further isolate the regular citizen from the political process, and alienate those who already have much to distrust and disagree with in politics. It will mean that only those who are professional politicians or lobbyists can influence politics at the only time we have to truly change things in our political system.
I, personally, don’t want my political fate and influence solely in their hands.
Sign the petition to add your support to stopping the passing of this bill into law.