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The gagging law: A summary

February 6th, 2014 by

This might be the last update about the gagging law for a while! After the final vote last week, here’s a quick summary of what it means and what happens next:

The gagging law kicks in from September 2014. At that point 38 Degrees will face big new restrictions on how we campaign. These will be lifted in May 2015, but then return a year before the next election.

That means we now have seven months to work out what to do when the gagging period starts. Every 38 Degrees member will get a say. We’ll also need to take advice from lawyers and other experts.

In the meantime, we can continue to campaign together as usual.

If you have thoughts on how the campaign went, and what 38 Degrees should do next, click here to complete this short survey.

In the next seven months, before the gagging law starts, we can achieve more together than we ever have before. The gagging law campaign showed just how determined 38 Degrees members are to stand up for principles like democracy and fairness.

One of the most exciting things about the campaign was how much happened “offline”, in local communities across the UK. Thousands of 38 Degrees members got involved in public meetings, petition hand-ins with MPs, and local protests. I hope we can do a lot more of that.

It was so exciting for 38 Degrees members to work with so many hundreds of charities, campaigners and community groups. Let’s make sure we keep these new friends. We’re all stronger when we stick together to stand up for democracy.

Suggestions have been flooding in for how 38 Degrees – and other campaign groups – can cope with the gagging law. Some are suggesting ways of getting around the law. Others are saying that campaign groups should simply refuse to obey it. And others are proposing ways of keeping campaigns going despite new restrictions.

One of the successes of the campaign was to get a delay in when the gagging law starts. We now have until September to look into all our options and decide together what we do. We will need to get expert advice. But the final decision will be up to all 38 Degrees members.

Please share your views on what we should do next by filling out this survey.

Here are what a few 38 Degrees members have said so far:

Micheline: Civil disobedience is the only rational response. Many laws have been found to be unenforceable in practice if they do not have the consent of the people.

Douglas: So this law doesn’t apply to political candidates… That in of itself is the get-out.

Mansukhlal: In the garb of democracy the coalition government’s steam rolling of gagging legislation is nothing less than breach of trust of the electorate, hook, line and sinker. At the forthcoming election vote for the party that gives cast iron guarantee that it will invalidate such a draconian measure within 4 weeks from success in the election.

Aiden: Just because the bill is now law, doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We should ignore the bill, and do all the campaigning we please.

Wendé: I am with you 38 Degrees people. We must keep on fighting this democracy- hating government. United we must stand and there must be lots of us. They can’t imprison everybody if we break such a stupid law.

Donald: Give them an election they will never ever forget…. GET OUT AND VOTE and encourage everyone else to as well. They want to hear our voice ? Let them hear it.

Please add your thoughts here.

It’s really hard when a big campaign is lost, especially one as important as this. But everyone is now refocusing on the future, and 38 Degrees members are determined to keep going. We can all feel very lucky to be working with such a large and principled group of people.

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  • tom

    It is very important to continue to campaign on the issues that matter. 38 degrees has a wider appeal as it is not a political party. This is due to the general disillusion with politics. It may be feasible to become a political party, but to do this could mean loosing to the opportunity to grow the movement. A nuanced approach may work for instance only standing in (one) small largely irrelevant election(s) and thereby being a political party by name only. Or could the party register outside the UK? Leaving the essence of the movement in tact.

    The use of lawyers to get around the ban is interesting and seems like it might be he most straight forward. I’m sure the unions and charities will be looking for any loopholes.

    I think that flouting the law should be an option to be reserved and is still potentially very powerful. It would be the best publicity, however if convicted plans should be made to very quickly morph the group sidestep any punitive action and continue to campaign and most importantly maintain the membership.

    This law is an existential risk for 38 degrees and all efforts should be put into finding a solution so we can make our voices heard.

  • Anonymous

    I wrote to my MP about the Lobbying Bill before the final vote and received a reply in which in he states:

    “I must continue to stress that that an organisation campaigning solely on policy issues will not be included in these changes. These new proposais are only for third party organisations which campaign for the electoral success of a particular political party or candidate. Limiting campaign spending during an election will help the UK avoid the situation we see in other countries, where unregulated spending by vested interests means that it might not always be the best candidate who wins an election, but the one with the richest supporters.”

    If this is true, 38 degrees shouldn’t have a problem as long as they continue to campaign on issues.

  • West wales voice

    I don’t really get it! Surely it is possible to still operate as an online presence to lobby govt. of the day for issue specific change. The beauty of 38 degrees is that it is internet based and not a specific group of people just a means to a collective voice in order to campaign. I think that the argument should be 38 degrees is not subject to this law! End of.. what can anyone do?

  • West wales voice

    I don’t really get it! Surely it is possible to still operate as an online presence to lobby govt. of the day for issue specific change. The beauty of 38 degrees is that it is internet based and not a specific group of people just a means to a collective voice in order to campaign. I think that the argument should be 38 degrees is not subject to this law! End of.. what can anyone do?

  • Iskender

    I’m struggling a bit to understand why this is such a big deal…. Unless 38 Degrees wants to spend more than:
    £319,8 00 in England • £55,400 in Scotland
    • £44,000 in Wales • £30,800 in Northern Ireland.

    http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0009/165177/npc-update-1.pdf

    Which are the limits, then why would campaigning be affected? What am I missing or is this all hype? I quite like the idea of big business being limited in this way. I can’t see 38 Degrees campaigning being affected at all unless it has far more lobbying money than I had assumed. Let’s keep it as a mass internet campaign not a big money operation?

  • Mason Cartwright

    The problem with this law as I understand it is related to it’s ambiguity. Ask yourself what constitutes “promoting a political candidate or party”. It’s quite subjective. If you find yourself backing a policy that happens to be in alignment with one of the main political parties can you be accused of supporting that party? In essence all campaigning can have the effect of making certain party’s more/less attractive even though your campaigning effort is entirely non party political. This law leaves a lot of room for the establishment to make the case of: “if your activities have impacted upon the electoral result in any way we may choose to come after you”

    This is why it is such a dangerous piece of legislation: the scope for extreme misuse has not been countered in the legal text itself.

  • Mason Cartwright

    Additionally the spending limits are actually quite draconian due to many costs not being excluded as they are for political parties. Every time 38 degrees reaches for legal assistance, as has been the case for several campaigns, the costs ratchet up quickly and will soon hit these narrow spending limits.

  • Alan

    I had exactly the same paragraph from my Tory MP.

    I replied:

    Thank you for your reply & also for emailing it rather than posting it.

    I would be grateful if you or your assistant could clarify this quote: ‘ I must continue to stress that that an organisation campaigning solely on policy issues will not be included in these changes. These new proposals are only for third party organisations which campaign for the electoral success of a particular political party or candidate.’

    Would that mean that an organisation, lets call them ‘180 Degrees’ could campaign for say the renationalisation of the railways or the privatisation of the Environment Agency, and not be prevented from doing so?

    I’m awaiting a reply!

  • Chancer

    Oh dear that’s dreadful news. It seems Jp Morgan and others are getting their own way for a fascist non democratic state!! Presumably 38 degrees can bring things to people’s attention and individuals can petition?

  • chris

    I see you did not read the post

    Micheline: Civil disobedience is the only rational response. Many laws have been found to be unenforceable in practice if they do not have the consent of the people.

    Douglas: So this law doesn’t apply to political candidates… That in of itself is the get-out.

    Mansukhlal: In the garb of democracy the coalition government’s steam rolling of gagging legislation is nothing less than breach of trust of the electorate, hook, line and sinker. At the forthcoming election vote for the party that gives cast iron guarantee that it will invalidate such a draconian measure within 4 weeks from success in the election.

    Aiden: Just because the bill is now law, doesn’t mean we have to accept it. We should ignore the bill, and do all the campaigning we please.

    Wendé: I am with you 38 Degrees people. We must keep on fighting this democracy- hating government. United we must stand and there must be lots of us. They can’t imprison everybody if we break such a stupid law.

    Donald: Give them an election they will never ever forget…. GET OUT AND VOTE and encourage everyone else to as well. They want to hear our voice ? Let them hear it.

  • Anonymous

    Put up some ‘white suit’ candidates if they run on a ticket of bringing mps under the control of their constituents I’d have thought they’d stand a reasonable chance of getting quite a few votes. Look at all of the issues that the government believes they can get away with simply brushing under the carpet: mp’s pay and expenses; their pensions; lobbying; diving off to be on TV shows; changing party; getting convicted of crimes but still keeping their jobs; representing the interests of foreign governments, companies etc.. People can probably think of a few more. I’m sure there must be any amount of people who don’t like any of the current political parties and who would never dream of voting UKIP.

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